Meet the Mint Family (+ Mint Sun Tea Recipe!) (2024)

I walk in my gardens on a July evening, admiring the lush green that abounds in midsummer. The bee balm is chest high and near blooming, the lavender, catnip, and oregano are in full flower; the sage, rosemary, thyme, and basil are growing tender new leaves almost daily; and the peppermint and lemon balm are spreading prodigiously. I check the progress of the bee balm buds as I’ve lately seen a hummingbird, stick my nose in the lavender for a deep inhale, pick a few sprigs of catnip for kitty, and pinch off some basil leaves for pesto, catching the scent of each plant as I go. These plants are all beloved and widely used for culinary, aromatherapy, and medicinal purposes, and they have another important unifying trait — they are all in the mint family, Lamiaceae, which has over 200 genera and 7000 species!

Other common mint family plants include spearmint, hyssop, motherwort, marjoram, skullcap, holy basil, self heal, hore-hound and savory; not to mention the many varieties of mints, such as apple mint, chocolate mint, and pineapple mint.

Meet the Mint Family (+ Mint Sun Tea Recipe!) (1)

Mint Family Plant Identification

Mint family plants are birds of a feather, and if you start to observe and compare them, you’ll notice they share the following characteristics:

  • Square (four-sided) stems (note that most, but not all mint have square stems, and a few non-mints have square stems but do not smell minty)
  • Pairs of opposite leaves that alternate direction and get progressively smaller towards the top of the stem
  • Tiny flowers with five united petals (two up, three down) to make upper and lower “lips” that form a tubule (perfect for hummingbirds and butterflies!)
  • Flowers arranged in whorls (clusters) at the base of the leaves or at the end of spikes
  • Strongly aromatic (almost all of the mint family plants have a strong aroma)
  • Likely sitting on your spice rack! (nearly half of common kitchen spices are in the mint family)

Meet the Mint Family (+ Mint Sun Tea Recipe!) (2)

Mint Family Herbal Medicine

The aromatic nature of the mint family plants come from their high levels of volatile oils, which also account for the rich flavors prized in cooking and many of their medicinal properties. While the medicinal actions of the mint family plants make quite a long list, many of them fit into four categories:

  • Nervine for nervous system complaints (anxiety, depression, headaches, insomnia, dementia)
  • Digestive for digestive system complaints: (indigestion, gas, cramps, nausea, colic)
  • Antimicrobial for infections: (bacterial, viral, fungal)
  • Clearing for respiratory system complaints (infection, congestion, asthma)

So how do they do it? The answer is in the volatile oils. These plants contain volatile oils such as menthol, thymol, citronellal, limonene, camphor, carvacrol, and linalool, to name a few. Anti-microbial actions aside (we’ll get to that), the primary action of volatile oils is to relax tension and spasm in our internal organs. Our powerful sense of smell is directly connected to the limbic system of the brain, which governs emotion and memory. When we catch the scent of an aromatic plant, nerve endings are stimulated to send impulses to the limbic system and to structures that manage stress in our internal organs; once the volatile oils enter our blood, they relax smooth muscles in the airways and circulatory tissues in the intestines, relieving tension and restoring balance (Masé, 2013). As for the nervine effects, the balanced state created in our internal organs is reflected in our emotional state by a feeling of “being in the flow” or feeling a sense of harmony. Masé (2013) postulates that this is most likely because new smells signify a changing environment and act as a wake up call of sorts, allowing us to move from a stressful state to a calmer state.

As for the antimicrobial action of mint family plants — in short, their volatile oils are great for killing microorganisms, from bacteria and viruses to fungi. In the Middle Ages, aromatics were used as strewing herbs in households during times of sickness and plague to combat ‘evil’, aka microorganisms. And then there’s the infamous legend of the Four Thieves, in which four brothers who set to work robbing graves during the Bubonic Plague purportedly used a blend of herbs(including lavender, rosemary, and peppermint) to protect themselves from infection. Modern day scientific research substantiates the antimicrobial action of plants in the mint family for such ailments as colds, influenza, upper respiratory infections, bronchitis, pneumonia, and herpes simplex (cold sores), just to name a few.

And what could be more heavenly than mint family aromatherapy as a sinus infection remedy? Whether it’s a cup of peppermint tea for nasal congestion, a thyme facial steam to calm coughs, or hyssop syrup to move lung congestion, the aromatic action of these mint family plants relaxes the tissue of the respiratory system and opens the airways, allowing congestion to move out and breath to flow freely.

Mint Family Herbal Remedies

There are so many easy ways to integrate the uplifting, soothing, and delicious nature of mints into your day — lemon balm glycerite to uplift the mood, a bowl of tabbouleh with spearmint for lunch, a cup of cold peppermint tea for a mid-afternoon pick-me-up, a whiff of lavender essential oil during rush hour traffic, a soothing cup of catnip tea after a meal, or an invigorating foot mas-sage with rosemary oil at day’s end. Here are a few simple recipes to try.

Meet the Mint Family (+ Mint Sun Tea Recipe!) (3)

Peppermint Sun Tea

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A wonderfully cooling pick-me-up for a hot summer’s day.


1/2 cup dried or 1 cup fresh peppermint leaves
1/2 gallon tap water


  • Place peppermint and water in a 1/2 gallon glass jar.
  • Set in a sunny place for 2-8 hours.
  • Refrigerate and enjoy as a cold drink.

Tummy Tea

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The nervine and digestive actions of these plants make a soothing blend for tummy aches, colds, and restlessness at bedtime. This is an especially nice blend for children.



  • Mix equal parts catnip, lemon balm, and chamomile thoroughly in a jar, cap and label.
  • To brew tea, steep 1 tbsp of tea blend in 8 ounces of boiled water and let steep for 3-4 minutes.
  • Sweeten to taste (or not) and enjoy.
  • Note that the chamomile will become bitter if steeped for too long.

Meet the Mint Family (+ Mint Sun Tea Recipe!) (4)

Lavender Honey

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Delicious on toast, tea, or yogurt; and a soothing anti-infective for burns and wounds.


Dried or fresh lavender flower buds
Local raw honey


  • Fill a jar 1/4-1/2 full with flower buds, and then fill with honey.
  • Poke with a knife or chopstick to mix and remove any air bubbles.
  • Let mixture infuse for a week to a month, depending on preferred strength, tasting occasionally until it is perfectly suited to your taste buds.

Ready For More?

Are you interested in learning more about the medicinal and therapeutic possibilities of the mint family plants? Our online herbal courses delve into the use of these plants for nervous system, digestive system, and respiratory system complaints and returning the mind and body to balance. If you are brand new to herbal medicine, join us at the beginner level in the Online Introductory Herbal Course; if you have prior experience, hop in to the Online Intermediate Herbal Course. Here’s to calm minds, open airways, and easy digestion!


Masé, Guido. (2013). The Wild Medicine Solution. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.

Meet the Mint Family (+ Mint Sun Tea Recipe!) (2024)


Does mint tea have any health benefits? ›

Sipping on mint tea may offer digestive benefits, in part because of its menthol. This organic compound may have antispasmodic effects, meaning that it helps relax the muscles of the GI tract and facilitates a smoother and faster transit of food through your digestive system.

How to make mint tea from dried mint leaves? ›

  1. Clean mint leaves in water, and leave on paper towel to dry off. (Leaving a few smaller stems is ok).
  2. After mint dries off, spread it on a table cloth and leave in a dry, dark place to dry completely. Leave to dry for up to a week. ...
  3. Serving: seep 3-4 tablespoons of dry mint per one cup of hot water.
Jul 11, 2016

What tea is best for sun tea? ›

Sun tea is traditionally made using black tea such as Lipton or Luzianne. For your homemade sun tea, you can use any black tea you like or opt for herbal teas instead. The tea is often sweetened using sugar cane or brightened up with the addition of fruit.

How long should you steep mint tea? ›

For herbal mint tea like peppermint or spearmint, a steeping time of 3 to 5 minutes is recommended. If you're brewing green mint tea, aim for a shorter steep of 2 to 3 minutes. For black mint tea, a slightly longer steeping period of 3 to 5 minutes is ideal.

Who should not drink mint tea? ›

DO NOT take peppermint or drink peppermint tea if you have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD -- a condition where stomach acids back up into the esophagus), or hiatal hernia. Peppermint can relax the sphincter between the stomach and esophagus, allowing stomach acids to flow back into the esophagus.

Is it OK to drink mint tea everyday? ›

Risks and considerations. Peppermint tea is generally very safe for people of all ages to consume. However, some people find that drinking peppermint tea can trigger or worsen symptoms of heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Is fresh mint tea better than dried? ›

While dried mint and mint tea are both “minty,” their flavors are not the same. With most delicate herbs, including basil and parsley, we'd never opt for the dried kind over fresh, as drying removes many of their volatile flavor components.

Is it OK to boil mint leaves? ›

For a quicker infusion, you can also boil your mint water for 3–5 minutes before letting it cool. Also, you can enjoy it as a hot mint tea. Making mint water at home is as simple as covering a few sprigs of fresh mint with water and allowing time for its flavor to be absorbed.

Is mint tea better with fresh or dried leaves? ›

Once you've tried a cup of fresh mint tea you'll never go back to the dried mint tea you get in a box. There's just no comparing the flavor of brewing from fresh leaves vs. dried.

Why don t people make sun tea anymore? ›

The Risk of Sun Tea

Bacteria thrive in warmth. Anywhere between 40 degrees F and 140 degrees F is their sweet spot (also known as the temperature danger zone). Sun tea rarely gets hotter than 130 degrees F, giving bacteria a chance to grow while it steeps for hours in the sun.

Why should you not squeeze a tea bag? ›

Bitterness. The liquid that remains trapped inside the tea bag has even higher instances of tannic acid than what is able to steep out of the bag on it's own. By squeezing the tea bag, you inadvertently release these tannic acids into your tea and in turn create a far more bitter, sour and acidic cup of tea.

Does sun tea need to be refrigerated? ›

Refrigerate the tea as soon as it is ready and keep it refrigerated. Add sweeteners and garnish AFTER the tea is brewed. Waiting makes no difference flavor-wise and can prevent further bacterial growth. Do not use the tea if it appears thick, syrupy, or has a foul odor.

Can you oversteep mint tea? ›

You can steep them longer than real tea, but not forever as you end up getting an "overcooked" flavor. Mint is a good example, you steep it for 10 minutes, but after 20 you start to get murkier flavors.

How do you make mint tea taste better? ›

Honey and agave are great options if you're making organic peppermint tea. You can also steep one stevia leaf with the peppermint leaves for a subtly sweet and all natural flavor.

Can you drink too much mint tea? ›

The menthol in peppermint can cause adverse side effects in large amounts. While it's difficult to consume too much menthol by drinking peppermint tea, it's not recommended for people with certain health conditions. Peppermint can help with digestion and stomach pain but can worsen acid reflux.

What are the 10 benefits of mint? ›

Health benefits of mint
  • Filled with nutrients.
  • Improved digestive health.
  • Boost your immune system.
  • Better brain function.
  • Support your pregnancy.
  • Reduce cold symptoms.
  • Keep your mouth healthy.
  • Help manage stress.
Sep 14, 2022

Is mint tea the same as peppermint tea? ›

Mint tea is a herbal tea made by infusing mint leaves in hot water. Mint tea made with peppermint leaves is called peppermint tea, and mint tea made with spearmint is called spearmint tea. There also exist teas that infuse peppermint and spearmint leaves.

Is mint tea good for liver? ›

Peppermint Tea

These help in the digestive process, especially if you have a hefty meal at night. Food stagnation may be a sign of overeating, which can cause disturbed sleep. Peppermint helps overcome that. As a tea, it aids the digestive process by helping your liver with its detoxification and digestive functions.

What does mint leaves do to the body? ›

Mint's health benefits range from improving brain function and digestive symptoms to relieving breastfeeding pain, cold symptoms and even bad breath. You really can't go wrong adding some mint to your diet.


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