The scent of peppermint helps boost focus and concentration

Does Mint Help You Focus?

By: Sonali Ruder, DO

Scientifically Reviewed By: Michael A. Smith, MD

Mint is a versatile herb that has been around for centuries, bringing its unique flavor and invigorating aroma to everything from candy canes to toothpaste. But it isn't just a tasty treat. Mint also boasts some impressive health benefits, from digestive and oral support to cognitive health, and it can help sharpen your mental game. If your attention is waning, peppermint may be just what you need to perk up your mind and boost your focus and concentration.

What is mint?

Peppermint is a popular herb that is commonly used for its refreshing scent, cooling sensation and health benefits. Also known as Mentha piperita, peppermint is a hybrid of the water mint and spearmint plants. It is native to Europe and the Middle East, although it is now widely cultivated all over the world.

Peppermint has been used for centuries in both health and culinary applications. Mint is a popular flavoring in many foods and beverages around the world, including peppermint candy, ice cream and tea. Peppermint is also commonly used as a scent in soaps, candles, lotions and other cosmetics.

Both peppermint leaves and essential oil from the peppermint plant have been used to support wellness. The leaves are often used to make peppermint tea, which can help support digestive health and comfort. Peppermint essential oil, harvested from the flowering parts and leaves of the peppermint plant, includes menthol, which is responsible for its distinctive flavor and scent. The compounds in menthol have been shown to have a variety of health benefits, such as helping to relieve occasional head and muscle discomfort, support comfortable breathing and more.

Does mint help you concentrate?

Can peppermint help with concentration and focus? Although it is a myth that peppermint makes you smarter, some evidence suggests that mint may have some cognitive benefits.

Past research has indicated that peppermint oil, in particular, may increase alertness and performance, decrease fatigue and stimulate the central nervous system. However, despite promising in vitro studies, the cognitive and mood effects of peppermint in humans remain largely unexplored.

Some studies have shown that the aroma of peppermint may have the potential to enhance a general state of alertness, thus helping with concentration on specific tasks and improving performance.

One 2008 study involving 144 participants found that the aroma of peppermint essential oil improved cognitive performance and increased alertness in study participants. Those in the peppermint aroma group had enhanced memory and reported feeling more alert than the other two groups, who were assigned to either ylang-ylang (another popular essential oil) aroma or no aroma.

Another study looked at the effects of peppermint on driving alertness and found that when drivers were exposed to peppermint scent, they were more alert and had decreased frustration and fatigue.

A 2018 study investigated the cognitive and mood effects of peppermint essential oil and its volatile terpenes, which are naturally occurring chemicals found in the plant that give it its characteristic scent and flavor. Taking peppermint essential oil orally was reported to support cognitive performance, particularly in tasks related to attention, and have a positive effect on mood.

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How does mint affect brain function?

Mint's scent, particularly the menthol component, stimulates the hippocampus, the part of the brain that controls memory and learning. The scent basically triggers you to wake up and pay attention. In mice prone to learning and memory impairment, sniffing peppermint essential oil supported cognitive function by encouraging the learning and memory ability of the animals.

Overall, these findings suggest that peppermint is a promising candidate for cognitive support. It is important to note, however, that studies on peppermint have focused mainly on the essential oils it contains. More research is needed to determine if consuming mint leaves or peppermint tea can have similar cognitive benefits.

More health benefits of mint

In addition to its cognitive benefits, mint has other health-promoting properties.

  • Digestive health—Mint is renowned for its ability to support digestive health. Peppermint essential oils support digestive comfort and may help alleviate bloating and discomfort.
  • Oral health—There's a reason why mint is a common flavoring in toothpaste, mouthwash and chewing gum. Not only does it have a refreshing taste, but mint can also help inhibit several types of bacteria commonly found in your mouth and support oral health.
  • Head comfort—Mint's cooling properties and ability to support muscle relaxation may help relieve occasional head discomfort.

How can you add more mint into your diet?

You can get peppermint through supplements, essential oils, or by consuming mint leaves in drinks like tea, smoothies and mocktails. However, research on the health benefits of mint has focused mainly on peppermint oil and peppermint extract, while research on peppermint tea is limited.

The most reliable way to reap the brain health benefits of peppermint is in the form of a supplement. Peppermint supplements in capsule form provide a concentrated dose of mint's active compounds. When considering a supplement, it is essential to choose a high-quality product with peppermint oil extract that has been standardized to provide a steady amount of monoterpenes.

The best supplements combine mint with other clinically studied nutrients, like polyphenol-rich mango leaf extract, to provide an even more powerful cognitive boost. Mango leaf extract adds to the benefits of mint by supporting focus and concentration, enhancing brain activity and fighting mental fatigue without caffeine.

Looking for more recommendations? Life Extension's brain health quiz can help identify nutrients you may need for optimal cognitive health.

About the Author: Sonali Ruder, DO, is a board-certified emergency medicine doctor, classically trained chef, cookbook author and founder of the popular website, Dr. Ruder is a contributing writer, recipe developer, spokesperson, and health and wellness expert for several national magazines, websites, and organizations. Her passion is giving people the tools to take control of their health, starting in the kitchen!


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