Orange mint is a cultivar of Mentha piperita citrata, making it a relative of peppermint. Mint herbs are native to the Mediterranean region but have been nativized first throughout Europe and then the world. Mint has been prized for much of recorded human history with the Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. The Egyptians used the herb as a digestive aid while the Greeks and Romans used it for flavoring in sauces and wines. People from Iceland chewed it for whitening teeth around the 13th century, which is the origin of the mint flavor being used to freshen breath.
Mint’s function as food and medicine continued through the Middle Ages. One of the ways that it was used during this period was as a water purifier. Sailors used it to make water potable after long ocean voyages.
Watermint (Mentha aquatica) is one of the parent plants of orange mint, the other being spearmint. Watermint was used as a strewing herb — it was strewn in banquet halls as an air freshener because of its pungency. Orange mint has a similar reputation for being intensely fragrant.
Orange mint flavor profile
Orange mint gets its name from its pungent citrus flavor and fragrance and is sometimes likened to bergamot. The two herbs are similar enough that orange mint is sometimes called bergamot mint. It is known for being far more aromatic than other mints though it does have a lower concentration of menthol when compared to some of its relatives. Along with the eponymous orange and mint flavors, orange mint gives you a hint of lavender so that there is a noticeable floral quality to the overall profile.
Health benefits of orange mint
Like other mints, orange mint provides nutrients. Its nutritional value is why it has been used as a medicine for much of human history. Orange mint contains:
- Vitamins: Orange mint provides significant amounts of vitamins A and C along with B vitamins like riboflavin and folic acid.
- Minerals: Calcium, potassium, and iron are among the many minerals in orange mint.
- Fiber: If you plan to consume whole leaves instead of an infusion, orange mint can provide you with a considerable amount of dietary fiber.
You can use orange mint to treat or prevent health issues like:
- Poor digestion: Like other mint varieties, orange mint helps to ease symptoms of digestive ailments including severe gastrointestinal issues like irritable bowel syndrome.
- Cancer: The vitamin C and other antioxidants in orange mint make the herb beneficial for fighting free radicals that can cause cancer.
- Cold symptoms: Menthol gives mint its cooling effect. It is also helpful for breaking up mucus congestion, which makes it easier to breathe.
Use orange mint as a tea herb — it gives you a different twist on the mint flavor. It also works in any other preparation that would otherwise require peppermint. It is a great addition to fruit and savory salads and works well in cream-based desserts. Add it to tarts, ice cream as well as to cocktails and lemonades. Try it in pestos as an alternative to basil.
It also adds a great flavor to Middle Eastern and South Asian recipes that normally require mint or Thai basil. Many believe that orange mint is an ingredient in the liqueur made by Carthusian monks known as Chartreuse, which contains more than 100 different herbs and flowers.