|Alternative names||Peppermints, spearmints|
|Main ingredients||Mint flavoring or mint oil or other oil (such as wintergreen)|
|Variations||Hard mints, soft mints, Scotch mints, Mint Imperials|
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (September 2011)|
A mint is a food item characterized by the presence of mint flavoring or real mint oil, whether it be peppermint oil, spearmint oil, or another natural or artificial source; the sweets are often referred to as "peppermints." They are usually used to freshen breath. It is possible to obtain these sweets in a sugar-free version. Wintergreen and other oils or flavors are also frequently used in mints; however, these are not of the mint (Mentha) family or botanical group.
Although historically consumed as any other type of candy, mints are especially popular worldwide as after-meal refreshment candies since the taste and smell of mint oil and its active components are quite strong and feel clean and cool to the mouth as well as soothing to the stomach.
Types of mint
Hard mints are hard candies or boiled sweets flavored with mint. Examples of hard mints include starlight mints, also known as pinwheel mints, white, circular, with red rays emitting from the middle; candy canes; humbugs; and brand name mints such as Altoids.
In addition to breath freshening, mints that actually contain peppermint oil or extract have been popular in helping with digestion after a meal. Peppermint has muscle relaxant properties and therefore may relax the smooth muscles of the GI tract, allowing for easier passage of food contents. However, since the lower esophageal sphincter may be relaxed, peppermint may aggravate "heartburn" or GERD.
Peppermint also seems to be effective in relieving intestinal gas and indigestion. According to the German Commission E Monograph, real peppermint oil or extract has been used for cramp-like complaints in the gastrointestinal tract. This can help to explain why mints with real peppermint oil, in addition to peppermint tea, have been popular for and are frequently used after meals to help with digestion as well as to help freshen the breath.
Soft mints, such as "dinner mints" and "butter mints", are soft candies, often with a higher butter content, that dissolve more readily inside one's mouth.
A "scotch mint" or "pan drop" is a white round candy with a hard shell but fairly soft chewy middle, popular in Great Britain and other Commonwealth nations and in Europe. Scotch mints were traditionally spheroids, more recently moving toward a larger, discoid shape. The name "scotch mint" comes from the specific mint plant Mentha × gracilis. The company Perfetti Van Melle markets scotch mints in a variety of flavors as Mentos candies.
Mint imperials are similar to scotch mints but their content is hard and crumbly rather than chewy. They may share a visual resemblance with scotch mints, but are not the same.
Breath mints are a subclass of mints consumed for non-nutritive purposes, primarily to freshen the smell of one's breath. Breath mints work by masking offensive odors with the scent of mint or other flavoring, and by stimulating the flow of saliva to help remove food and bacterial debris from the mouth.
Like chewing gums and throat lozenges, many breath mints are artificially sweetened so as not to encourage the growth of dental caries. An increasing number are sweetened with xylitol in order to promote good oral hygiene and dental remineralization.
- Blumenthal, et al. The Complete German Commission E Monographs First Edition 1998 American Botanical Council, USA.
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