Why Mints Stand The Test Of Time: A Brief History of Mints

UPDATED ON AUGUST 17, 2021
BY NEAL ROTHSTEIN

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When you think of candy, many people assume there are only two options. Do you like chocolate candy, or fruity candy? This logic is inherently flawed and I’ll tell you why. You’re completely leaving out mints!

From breath mints to combat your bad breath, to chocolate mint candy like Andes crème de menthe chocolate mints, there are plenty of unique, minty flavors to choose from! Some of these products have been around for centuries, so let’s talk about why mints will withstand the test of time.

Besides being intensely flavorful, the mint leaf also has a variety of health benefits, as listed below.

The health benefits of mint

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Mint has many health benefits, which can make you feel good!

Digestive Health As we mentioned earlier, mint has been used for centuries to help with digestive health. As an anti-inflammatory, mint can help ease stomach pains by reducing inflammation in the digestive system.

Mint is packed with nutrients Mint is rich in nutrients like vitamin A, C, D and E, which are good for your immune system. Also containing iron, manganese, folate and antioxidants, the herb could be a great addition to your diet.

Mint might be good for your memory One study of 144 students showed that the aromas of peppermint and ylang-ylang helped increase in brain function. It could also help reduce levels of anxiety, fatigue and frustration. While some studies point to these potential mental health benefits, other studies have not directly linked the aroma of mint to enhanced brain function. More research is definitely warranted.

Mint can help ease symptoms of the common cold Many over the counter cold remedies contain menthol, the active ingredient in peppermint oil. While the compound is not considered an effective nasal decongestant, it can help some people feel like they can breathe through their nose a little easier. And when you’re suffering from a cold or the flu, anything helps!

The history of spearmint and peppermint plants and their use in human civilizations.

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Greek Mythology: The massive health benefits may explain why plants from the Mentha genus have been used by humans - dating all the way back to the ancient Greeks. As mythic legend has it, a girl named Minthe fell in love with the god of war: Hades. Hades’ wife, Persephone caught wind of this beautiful girl’s love and turned her into a plain-looking plant, so that people would step on her for all of eternity. Talk about jealousy! Hades felt sorry for Minthe’s fate, so he gave the plant a pleasing scent, so people would at least appreciate the plant for its delightful, sweet fragrance.

Ancient Egypt: The ancient Egyptians had many uses for the mint leaf, not just for its pleasant aroma, but also for the plant’s medicinal properties. One of the oldest surviving medical texts in the world today, the Egyptian Ebers Papyrus from 1550 BC cites that the mint leaf could be used as a digestive aid and a way to soothe stomach pains caused by flatulence.

The ancient Egyptians also invented the first breath mint - though this early recipe didn’t call for the mint leaf itself. Their combination of cinnamon, frankincense and myrrh, which were boiled with honey created small pellets that got rid of unpleasant odors, like bad breath and it helped prevent dry mouth.

Medieval Times: Mint was widely used in medieval Europe as a way to achieve fresh breath. People would mix mint leaves with vinegar to use as a mouth wash, or they would just chew on the raw leaf itself. The plant would be widely used in this time, again as a way to cure indigestion and to freshen the air.

*Where did the term “Green Room” come from? *

As the green mint leaf was commonly used to “spruce up the air” and interesting urban legend is the origin of the term “green room”. This refers to the area back stage at a theatre or venue where performers wait until they go on stage.

In the old days of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, the area beneath the stage was where performers would wait in between scenes. This was long before sewers were invented, and the bottom of the theatre would accumulate an awful smell from the surrounding area. The Globe used to lay mint leaves below the stage to cover up the smell, “leafing” the room’s floor green (see what I did there?) – thus lending to the origin of the term “Green Room”.

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The modern breath mint was created in 1781

Curiously, the first breath mint was not actually invented with the purpose of curing people’s bad breath. Altoids – (you know, “the curiously strong mint”?) was designed by Smith Kendon in 1781 as a product to help relieve stomach aches and alleviate digestive discomfort. In the mid-1800’s the recipe was taken over by a popular confectionary company, Callard and Bowser. They ended up marketing the product as a way to get rid of poisons in the digestive tract for quite some time.

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Once these peppermint oil-laden lozenges were brought to the United States in 1918, consumers quickly began turning to Altoids as breath mints, rather than a digestive aid. These mints were sold in metal tins, which only added to their novelty and popularity to this day.

What types of mint are used in candy manufacturing?

Of all the 25 different species of mint plants, today spearmint and peppermint are the most widely used. Spearmint is a naturally-occurring plant and peppermint is a hybrid of the spearmint and water mint plants. Peppermint is most commonly used with sweets, like chocolate mint candy, fresh breath mints and candy canes. Spearmint is used for primarily for breath freshening products, like gum, breath savers and even oral hygiene products like mouthwash and toothpaste.

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Spearmint also pairs well with savory food dishes, like lamb and poultry and even cocktails, like the mojito. We’ve even seen some awesome recipes for lime-mint freezer pickles. Yum!

For the most part, when we talk about mint candy dishes, peppermint oil extract is the most widely used flavoring agent. But don’t get us wrong, there are still plenty of hard candies, chewing gum and taffy that are flavored with spearmint. While a lot of mints are flavored naturally, many products may contain both natural and artificial flavors.

At Redstone Foods, we have a huge selection of mint candies! From chocolate mint candy, like York Peppermint Patties, to breath fresheners, novelty items, sugar free mints, peppermint bark, candy canes and peppermint mocha-flavored cotton candy, we surely have something to satisfy your customer’s minty cravings. We even feature a Christmas Mint Soda, by Rocket Fizz Sodas that is out of this world!

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To learn more about our minty lineup, visit us at redstonefoods.com.