What is the raw material of menthol?

Menthol is an ingredient used in a wide variety of products such as pain balm, toothpaste, cough syrup, and peppermint candies, etc.

The leaves found in about 25 varieties of plants that bear the genetic name “mentha” form the raw material we know as menthol. The mentha oil is extracted from the leaves of these plants and crystallized. The crystallized form of mentha is known as menthol. The country of India is the leading producer of mentha and menthol, and approximately 70% of the total menthol production of the world is exported there.

What is the “Mentha” genus?

Mentha is a genus of plants that belongs in the family Lamiaceae, which is commonly known as the mint family. Despite having more than 20 species with the “Mentha” name, there is currently no known study to distinguish the difference between the species. Its ambiguity means that the species of the plant is quite hard to determine with the naked eye, as the Mentha plants are similar in appearance.

The Mentha genus is commonly found in Asia, Africa, and Europe, although they are already being cultivated in North America and Australia. Most of the plants that belong to this genus strive in moist soil and wet environments. However, there are some mint plants that can thrive in non-natural environments, and once they do grow in those areas, they will become invasive and ruin the ecosystem.

There are some plants in the world that has the “mint” name but doesn’t actually belong to the Mentha genus and the family Lamiaceae, and these plants include the Vietnamese mint that belongs to the family Polygonaceae (pink weeds and smartweeds) and the Mexican mint marigold that is in the family Asteraceae (sunflower). To differentiate Vietnamese mint with the real mint plants, some people renamed it as Vietnamese coriander.

What are the uses of mint?

Mint serves a variety of uses in different fields. The most common use for mint is for culinary purposes, as they are said to add a spicy and fresh flavor to any dish. You would often find mint-flavored food items that are served as desserts in restaurants, which include mint ice cream, mint, chocolate, mint jelly, and even mint drinks. Speaking of drinks, mint is usually utilized as an ingredient for Touareg tea, a popular beverage in Africa and the Middle East. The most popular alcoholic beverage that uses mint is the mint julep, a drink that consists of bourbon, water, sugar, ice, and mint leaves. There is a famous mint-based alcoholic beverage called crème de menthe that is green in color and is often mixed as an ingredient for cocktails. One of the most popular cocktails where crème de menthe is used is the Grasshopper, a green-colored drink that contains mint and chocolate liqueur.

The essential oil of mint is also used to add flavor to mouthwashes and toothpaste. Although they don’t have any properties that help whiten the teeth, they do allow the user to have fresher breath. Besides menthol, the substance that also gives mint its distinct fresh aroma is pulegone, an organic compound that is found in essential oils. For spearmint, it is not pulegone but L-carvone that produces the sweet and slightly spicy flavor of the mint.

In medicine, mint is said to be effective in alleviating muscle pains, particularly in the chest and stomach. In addition, the ingredient is also used for aromatherapy that gives burnt oils or incense to have a relaxing and aromatic smell to them. Furthermore, mint is mixed with room scent products that allow rooms in the house to have a fresher and cleaner smell that can hide odors coming from kitchens or bathrooms.

Mint oil is utilized to formulate insecticides that are environmentally friendly and doesn’t contain any harmful chemicals. These mint-infused insecticides can kill certain pests that would usually live in the corners of a household, such as ants, hornets, cockroaches, bees, and wasps. The insecticides are also friendly to a person’s nose, which indicates that it won’t cause nasal allergies or irritations.

On the other hand, there are several people who are allergic to mint, and the ingredient is reported to cause headaches, muscle cramps, and diarrhea for those who are experiencing an allergic reaction from it.

Additional reading:

Menthol (Wikipedia)