Mint (Mentha) Essential Oil
Source: Essential oil can be produced from the leaves of many species of mint. The most common sources of mint essential oil are Peppermint (Mentha piperita) and Spearmint (Mentha spicata).
How it Works: Mint essential oil contains antibacterial compounds that may help control the growth of acne-causing bacteria. Mint essential oil also has anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, which may help improve the tone and comfort of the skin.
Mints are among of the most commonly used herbs in the world. They were used in several ancient cultures around the world. Mints were frequently used in ceremonies and rituals, and mint has been found in Egyptian burial tombs dating back to 1000 BC. Mint was also popular as a medicine, perfume and spice. By the 18th century, mint was being cultivated industrially throughout Europe and Asia.
Mint essential oil, and other extracts of mint, have a long history of medicinal use. The ancient Greeks used mint both as an aphrodisiac, and as a cure for sexually transmitted diseases. Spearmint paste was widely used as a dental cleaner (it still is one of the most common flavorings for toothpaste).
Mint tea was a common treatment for upset stomach and diarrhea. The vapors produced by adding mint to boiling water can be inhaled to numb throat pain and suppress coughing. Mint-based salves can also be used as a topical pain killer. Menthol, a primary component of Peppermint essential oil, is still commonly used as a topical analgesic in medications like Ben-Gay and Icy Hot.
Mint is also used to flavor a wide spectrum of foods and beverages. It is frequently used to flavor many candies and deserts. Mint is also central to many mixed drinks, such as Mojitos and Mint Juleps.
Mints are a group of flowering aromatic plants that are in the Lamiaceae family. Most mints are perennials, and will continue to regrow every year, once they are established. Some species of mint are very hardy and are considered invasive plants in areas where they are not native. There are over 10 species of mint (and even more hybrids) and most species have medicinal and culinary uses. The most widely used species of mint are Peppermint (Mentha piperita), Spearmint (Garden Mint, Mentha spicata), Pennyroyal (Pudding Grass, Mentha pulegium), Round-Leaved Mint (Apple mint, Mentha rotundifolia), Horsemint (Mentha longifolia), Bergamont Mint (Mentha piperata var. citrata) and Japanese Mint (Corn Mint, Mentha arvensis var. piperascens).
Composition of Mint Essential Oil
The composition of mint essential oil varies greatly depending on the species that was used as the source. The two most common mint essential oils are made from Peppermint (Mentha piperita) and Spearmint (Mentha spicata), respectively.
The primary compounds in Peppermint are menthol, menthofuran and menthone. The primary compound in Spearmint, and some wild mints, is carvone. Almost all kinds of mint essential oil contain significant quantities of 1,8-cineol and limonene. Limonene is the primary component of citrus essential oil, and gives some types of mint a distinct citrus smell.
Mint Essential Oil in Acne Treatment
Mint essential oil contains a variety of closely related molecules that are moderately toxic to bacteria. Generally speaking however, mint essential oils are less effective at preventing bacterial growth than other options (eg. tea tree oil), especially with respect to the bacteria primarily responsible for acne vulgaris, Propionibacterium acnes.
There are significant differences between the two most common mint essential oils – Peppermint and Spearmint. Most notably, peppermint essential oil has much higher levels of menthone and menthol, which are largely responsible for the cooling sensation of mint extracts.
Undiluted mint essential oils can be uncomfortable when applied topically and can cause irritation. Mint oils are usually diluted into a suitable carrier oil and blended with other essential oils of interest. Mint essential oils are also used as additives in skin toning products and may help to temporarily relieve some minor pain and redness associated with acne symptoms.
References and Sources
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- Bremness. 1994. The Complete Book of Herbs: A Practical Guide to Growing and Using Herbs.
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- Kokkini, et al. 1995. Essential Oils of Spearmint (Carvone-rich) Plants from the Island of Crete (Greece).
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- Mkaddem, et al. 2009. Chemical Composition and Antimicrobial and Antioxidant Activities of Mentha (longifolia L. and viridis) Essential Oils.
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- Mahmoud, et al. 2001. Metabolic engineering of essential oil yield and composition in mint by altering expression of deoxyxylulose phosphate reductoisomerase and menthofuran synthase.
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- Burt. 2004. Essential oils: their antibacterial properties and potential applications in foods—a review.
- Franzios, et al. 1997. Insecticidal and Genotoxic Activities of Mint Essential Oils.
- Gulluce, et al. 2007. Antimicrobial and antioxidant properties of the essential oils and methanol extract from Mentha longifolia L. ssp. longifolia.
- Wei, et al. 2007. Antioxidant Activities and Volatile Constituents of Various Essential Oils.