Mentha longifolia
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Lamiales
Family: Lamiaceae
Tribe: Mentheae
Genus: Mentha
Type species
Mentha spicata

See text

Mentha (also known as Mint, from Greek míntha,[1] Linear B mi-ta)[2] is a genus of flowering plants in the family Lamiaceae (mint family).[3] The species are not clearly distinct and estimates of the number of species varies from 13 to 18.[4] Hybridization between some of the species occurs naturally. Many other hybrids as well as numerous cultivars are known in cultivation. The genus has a subcosmopolitan distribution across Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, and North America.[5]

Mints are aromatic, almost exclusively perennial, rarely annual, herbs. They have wide-spreading underground and overground stolons[6] and erect, square,[7] branched stems. The leaves are arranged in opposite pairs, from oblong to lanceolate, often downy, and with a serrate margin. Leaf colors range from dark green and gray-green to purple, blue, and sometimes pale yellow.[5] The flowers are white to purple and produced in false whorls called verticillasters. The corolla is two-lipped with four subequal lobes, the upper lobe usually the largest. The fruit is a small, dry capsule containing one to four seeds.

While the species that make up the Mentha genus are widely distributed and can be found in many environments, most Mentha grow best in wet environments and moist soils. Mints will grow 10–120 cm tall and can spread over an indeterminate area. Due to their tendency to spread unchecked, mints are considered invasive.[8]



The list below includes all of the taxa that have been recognized as species in recent works on Mentha. No author has recognized all of them. As with all biological classifications of plants, this list can go out of date at a moment's notice. Common names are also given for species that have them. Synonyms, along with cultivars and varieties are given in articles on the species.


Mentha is a member of the tribe Mentheae in the subfamily Nepetoideae. The tribe contains about 65 genera and relationships within it remain obscure. [3] Different authors have disagreed on the circumscription of Mentha. Some authors have excluded Mentha cervina from the genus. Mentha cunninghamii has also been excluded by some authors, even in some recent treatments of the genus.[10] In 2004, a molecular phylogenetic study indicated that both of these species should be included in Mentha. [4]

Selected hybrids

The mint family has a large grouping of recognized hybrids. Synonyms, along with cultivars and varieties where available, are included within the specific species.

  • Mentha × dalmatica (M. arvensis × M. longifolia)
  • Mentha × dumetorum (M. aquatica × M. longifolia)
  • Mentha × gracilis - Ginger Mint
  • Mentha × maximilianea (M. aquatica × M. suaveolens)
  • Mentha × piperitaPeppermint, Chocolate Mint
  • Mentha × rotundifolia (M. longifolia × M. suaveolens) - False Apple-mint
  • Mentha × smithiana (M. aquatica × M. arvensis × M. spicata) - Red Raripila Mint
  • Mentha × verticillata (M. aquatica × M. arvensis)
  • Mentha × villosa (M. spicata × M. suaveolens) - Also called Mentha nemorosa, large apple mint, foxtail mint, hairy mint, woolly mint, Cuban mint, mojito mint, and is known as Yerba Buena in Cuba.
  • Mentha × villosonervata (M. longifolia × M. spicata) - Sharp-toothed Mint


Mentha x gracilis and M. rotundifolia. The steel ring is to control the spread of the plant.

All mints prefer, and thrive in, cool, moist spots in partial shade.[11] In general, mints tolerate a wide range of conditions, and can also be grown in full sun.

They are fast growing, extending their reach along surfaces through a network of runners. Due to their speedy growth, one plant of each desired mint, along with a little care, will provide more than enough mint for home use. Some mint species are more invasive than others. Even with the less invasive mints, care should be taken when mixing any mint with any other plants, lest the mint take over. To control mints in an open environment, mints should be planted in deep, bottomless containers sunk in the ground, or planted above ground in tubs and barrels.[11]

Some mints can be propagated by seed. Growth from seed can be an unreliable method for raising mint for two reasons: mint seeds are highly variable - one might not end up with what one presupposed was planted;[11] and some mint varieties are sterile. It is more effective to take and plant cuttings from the runners of healthy mints.

The most common and popular mints for cultivation are peppermint (Mentha × piperita), spearmint (Mentha spicata), and (more recently) apple mint (Mentha suaveolens).

Mints are supposed to make good companion plants, repelling pest insects and attracting beneficial ones. Mints are susceptible to whitefly and aphids.

Harvesting of mint leaves can be done at any time. Fresh mint leaves should be used immediately or stored up to a couple of days in plastic bags within a refrigerator. Optionally, mint can be frozen in ice cube trays. Dried mint leaves should be stored in an airtight container placed in a cool, dark, dry area.[12]



A jar of mint jelly. Mint jelly is a traditional condiment served with lamb dishes.
Mint lemonade served in Syria

The leaf, fresh or dried, is the culinary source of mint. Fresh mint is usually preferred over dried mint when storage of the mint is not a problem. The leaves have a pleasant warm, fresh, aromatic, sweet flavor with a cool aftertaste. Mint leaves are used in teas, beverages, jellies, syrups, candies, and ice creams. In Middle Eastern cuisine, mint is used on lamb dishes, while in British cuisine and American cuisine, mint sauce and mint jelly are used, respectively.

Mint is a necessary ingredient in Touareg tea, a popular tea in northern African and Arab countries.

Alcoholic drinks sometimes feature mint for flavor or garnish, such as the Mint Julep and the Mojito. Crème de menthe is a mint-flavored liqueur used in drinks such as the grasshopper.

Mint essential oil and menthol are extensively used as flavorings in breath fresheners, drinks, antiseptic mouth rinses, toothpaste, chewing gum, desserts, and candies; see mint (candy) and mint chocolate. The substances that give the mints their characteristic aromas and flavors are menthol (the main aroma of Peppermint and Japanese Peppermint) and pulegone (in Pennyroyal and Corsican Mint). The compound primarily responsible for the aroma and flavor of spearmint is R-carvone.

Mints are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Buff Ermine.

Medicinal and cosmetic

Mint was originally used as a medicinal herb to treat stomach ache and chest pains, and it is commonly used in the form of tea as a home remedy to help alleviate stomach pain. In Rome, Pliny recommended that a wreath of mint was a good thing for students to wear since it was thought to "exhilarate their minds". During the Middle Ages, powdered mint leaves were used to whiten teeth. Mint tea is a strong diuretic.[citation needed] A common use is as an antipruritic, especially in insect bite treatments (often along with camphor).[citation needed] The strong, sharp flavor and scent of mint is sometimes used as a mild decongestant for illnesses such as the common cold.[citation needed] Mint is also used in some shampoo products.

Menthol from mint essential oil (40%–90%) is an ingredient of many cosmetics and some perfumes. Menthol and mint essential oil are also much used in medicine as a component of many drugs, and are very popular in aromatherapy. Menthol is also used in cigarettes as an additive, because it blocks out the bitter taste of tobacco and soothes the throat.


Mint oil is also used as an environmentally-friendly insecticide for its ability to kill some common pests like wasps, hornets, ants and cockroaches.[13]


Known in Greek Mythology as the herb of hospitality,[14] one of the first known uses for mint in Europe was as a room deodorizer.[15] The herb was strewn across floors to cover the smell of the hard-packed soil. Stepping on the mint helped to spread its scent through the room. Today, it is more commonly used for aromatherapy through the use of essential oils.


Etymology of "mint"

An example of mint leaves

Mint descends from the Latin word mentha, which is rooted in the Greek word minthe, personified in Greek mythology as Minthe, a nymph who was transformed into a mint plant. The word itself probably derives from a now extinct pre-Greek language (see Pre-Greek substrate).[16]

Mint leaves, without a qualifier like peppermint or apple mint, generally refers to spearmint leaves.

In Central and South America, mint is known as hierbabuena (literally, "good herb"). In Lusophone countries, especially in Portugal, mint species are popularly known as Hortelã. In many Indo-Aryan languages, it is called Pudīna.

The taxonomic family Lamiaceae is known as the mint family. It includes many other aromatic herbs, including most of the more common cooking herbs, including basil, rosemary, sage, oregano, and catnip.

As an English colloquial term, any small mint-flavored confectionery item can be called a mint.[17]

In common usage, other plants with fragrant leaves may be called "mint" although they are not in the Mint Family.


  1. ^ μίνθα. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A Greek–English Lexicon at Perseus Project
  2. ^ Palaeolexicon, Word study tool of ancient languages
  3. ^ a b Harley, Raymond M.; Atkins, Sandy; Budantsev, Andrey L.; Cantino, Philip D.; Conn, Barry J.; Grayer, Renée J.; Harley, Madeline M.; de Kok, Rogier P.J. et al. (2004). "Labiatae". In Kubitzki, Klaus; Kadereit, Joachim W.. The Families and Genera of Vascular Plants. VII. Berlin; Heidelberg, Germany: Springer-Verlag. pp. 167–275. ISBN 978-3-540-40593-1. 
  4. ^ a b Bunsawat, Jiranan; Elliott, Natalina E.; Hertweck, Kate L.; Sproles, Elizabeth; Alice, Lawrence A. (2004). "Phylogenetics of Mentha (Lamiaceae): Evidence from Chloroplast DNA Sequences". Systematic Botany 29 (4): 959–64. doi:10.1600/0363644042450973. JSTOR 25064024. 
  5. ^ a b Brickell, Christopher; Zuk, Judith D. (1997). The American Horticultural Society: A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants. New York, NY, USA: DK Publishing. p. 668. ISBN 0-7894-1943-2. 
  6. ^ Aflatuni, Abbas; J. Uusitalo, S. Ek, A. Hohtola (January/February 2005). "Variation in the Amount of Yield and in the Extract Composition Between Conventionally Produced and Micropropagated Peppermint and Spearmint". Journal of Essential Oil Research 17 (1): 66–70. ISSN 1041-2905. Retrieved 2005-05-10. 
  7. ^ Rose, Francis (1981). The Wild Flower Key. Frederick Warne & Co. p. 310. ISBN 0-7232-2419-6. 
  8. ^ Brickell, Christopher; Cole, Trevor (2002). The American Horticultural Society: Encyclopedia of Plants & Flowers. New York, NY, USA: DK Publishing. p. 605. ISBN 0-7894-8993-7. 
  9. ^ USDA GRIN: Mentha cordifolia Opiz ex Fresen.
  10. ^ Tucker, Arthur O.; Naczi, Robert F. C. (2007). "Mentha: An Overview of its Classification and Relationships". In Lawrence, Brian M.. Mint: The Genus Mentha. Boca Raton, FL, USA: CRC Press, Taylor and Francis Group. ISBN 978-0-8493-0779-9. [page needed]
  11. ^ a b c Bradley, Fern (1992). Rodale's All-new Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening. Emmaus, Pennsylvania, USA: Rodale Press. p. 390. ISBN 0-87857-999-0. 
  12. ^ Ortiz, Elisabeth (1992). The Encyclopedia of Herbs, Spices & Flavorings. London: Dorling Kindersley. pp. 36–7. ISBN 1-56458-065-2. 
  13. ^ BOUNDS, GWENDOLYN "Death by Mint Oil: Natural Pesticides", The Wall Street Journal, July 30, 2009, accessed December 6, 2010.
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ Quattrocchi, Umberto (1947-). CRC World dictionary of plant names: Common names, Scientific Names, Eponyms, Sonyonyms, and Etymology. III M-Q. CRC Press. p. 1658. 
  17. ^ Davidson, Alan (1999). The Oxford Companion to Food. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 508. ISBN 0-19-211579-0. 

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  • Mentha — Men tha, n. [L. See {Mint} the plant.] (Bot.) A widely distributed genus of fragrant herbs, including the peppermint, spearmint, etc. The plants have small flowers, usually arranged in dense axillary clusters. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Mentha — (M. L.), Pflanzengattung aus der Familie der Labiatae Mentholdeae Mentheae. Kelch fünfzähnig, Schlund offen, nicht mit Haaren geschlossen, Blumenkrone trichter rachenförmig, fast vierspaltig mit gleichen Lappen, nur der obere ausgerandet, in der… …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Mentha — L., Minze, Pflanzengattg. der Labiaten, Kräuter der nördl. gemäßigten Zone, enthalten aromatisch riechendes, ätherisches Öl. Die Blätter der häufig kultivierten Arten M. piperīta L. (Pfefferminze [Abb. 1166]) und M. crispa L. (Krauseminze) gelten …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

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  • Mentha — Menthe Menthe …   Wikipédia en Français

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