Mint is a genus consisting of 25 species of herbs that belongs to the Lamiaceae family. It is characterized by its significant fragrance. The herb is native to North America, Euroasia, southern Africa, and Australia, and has been widely distributed all over the globe. Mint has also been naturalized in many places.
Many species belonging to the Mentha genus are used as a flavoring agent for foods, especially candies and chewing gum as well as various kinds of beverages such as liqueur or dentifrices. Its essential oils are commonly used in perfumery and some of the species are commonly used in herbal medicine.
The herb is characterized by its square-shaped stem with aromatic leaves that are borne in opposite positions. It mostly spreads vegetatively by stolons, making them a potentially aggressive, invasive plant in gardens. Mint produces tiny purplish flowers arranged in tight clusters that form whorls or crowded together, forming a terminal spike. Unlike many other flowers produced by the plants from this family, mint flowers have only four petals. The volatile oils responsible for its characteristic aroma are located in resinous dots in both stems and leaves.
The plant reaches up to 90 cm in height. The most commonly cultivated variety is peppermint, a hybrid between the water mint and spearmint. It has a strong heavy scent, stalked leaves, and densely packed reddish-purple flowers. Water mint commonly occurs in ditches and has hairy stems and rounded flower spikes. The largest species growing in wild is the Wild mint which is native to Euroasia and North America. It reaches up to 1 meter in height. It is known for its pungent odor and creeping habit. It is commonly used in folk medicine.
Only a few species of mint are cultivated on a large scale. The most commonly produced are the Japanese mint, Peppermint, Bergamot mint, and Spear mint. The leading producer of those four cultivars takes place in India, China, Brazil, the USA, France, and Thailand. It is an important crop for many sectors of the food, cosmetics, and medical industries.