025# TCF: The Mysterious Mint


Photo by Wesual Click


I love having a tea garden. It's so relaxing to go out in the afternoon, pick a few fresh herbs, and steep them in a cup of hot water. I especially love mint. It's such a versatile herb, and it has so many different culinary and medicinal properties.

I've always thought of mint as a cooling herb. It's often used in teas and other beverages to help cool down on a hot day. But when I started studying Ayurveda, I learned that mint is actually considered to have both a heating and cooling effect. Wait what?!

In Ayurveda, the energetics of a plant (cooling, heating, or both) is known as its virya. It's believed that the virya of a plant determines how it will interact with the body and how it will affect the body's doshas (vata, pitta, and kapha).

I was skeptical at first.

How could something be both cooling and heating?

But as I researched more about this phenomenon, I started to realize the ancient sages had it right. 

It turns out that the cooling and heating effects of mint are due to different compounds in the herb. Menthol, one of the active compounds in mint, activates a group of proteins called the TRP channels. TRP channels act as temperature sensors, with some being tuned to hot temperatures and others to cold ones.

Menthol activates the cold sensor TRPM8, which tricks the brain into thinking that the skin is cooler than it actually is. This produces a cooling sensation, even though the body temperature hasn't actually changed.

But mint also contains other compounds that have a heating effect. For example, rosmarinic acid is a compound found in mint that has been shown to increase metabolism and promote sweating. This can actually lead to a rise in body temperature.

The exact effect of mint on the body will depend on the dose and the individual's constitution. 

In Ayurveda the rule goes like this:

  • lower doses, such as in tea, will reduce vata and provide a sense of calm and relaxation
  • high doses reduce kapha and are used to break up and move out congestion, think Vic's Vapor Rub
  • moderate doses are used to reduce pitta and have an anti-inflammatory effect, especially good for acid indigestion

I love when the ancient wisdom from Ayurveda becomes validated by modern science. It's fascinating to see how the two systems of medicine continue to complement each other.

If you're looking for a versatile herb with a wide range of benefits, I highly recommend adding mint to your garden. It's super easy to grow. It's a great addition to any tea, and it can also be used in cooking, skin care, and aromatherapy.

Here are a few recipes to try: