Mint has been used for both therapeutic and culinary purposes for thousands of years. The ancient Roman author and naturalist Pliny the Elder said, “As for the garden of mint, the very smell of it alone recovers and refreshes our spirits.” Today, we still use this potent herb to recover and refresh our spirits. Mint has a distinct flavor and aroma, and it also has unique physiological effects on our bodies; one of which is the improvement of our breathing.
You may notice that after eating or drinking something that contains mint, the tissues in your nose and throat start to expand and relax. You may even experience a sort of tingling sensation in your sinuses. This is due to the high levels of natural menthol contained within the mint plant. Menthol has a soothing effect on your respiratory tract which improves your breathing by helping swollen membranes become less inflamed.
In a recent study from a McGill University biologist, student athletes were given water bottles containing drops of peppermint oil prior to exercising. The results showed that the herbal supplement improved lung function, brain function, heart health, and physical performance. Peppermint was even found to reduce muscle spasms in athletes. The conclusion section of the research paper stated that, “The results of the experiment support the effectiveness of peppermint essential oil on the exercise performance, gas analysis, spirometry parameters, blood pressure, and respiratory rate in the young male students. Relaxation of bronchial smooth muscles, increase in the ventilation and brain oxygen concentration, and decrease in the blood lactate level are the most plausible explanations.”
In addition to its anti-inflammatory properties, mint also acts as a natural decongestant. It loosens all of the obstructive mucus that has accumulated in your lungs and nasal passages and creates a clearer path for oxygen to flow in and out of your body. When more oxygen is allowed into your lungs, your heart and your brain operate at a higher level. You may have heard a teammate or a coworker say before going for a walk outside, “I need to get some oxygen to my brain.” This is not some hollow idiom, increasing the amount of oxygen flowing to your brain is a great way to improve focus and creativity. An article from Stanford found there is a clear link between walking and creativity, partly due to increased brain oxygen.
Mint has a litany of health benefits, a notable one being increased lung function. If you find yourself congested or tight-chested, consider drinking a cup of mint tea.
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