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Mint: A Revolution in Condiments

  Chili peppers don’t really raise our skin temperature, neither does the cooling sensation of mint, it’s just a little trick played by chemicals and our human senses.
  While common, mint is anything but ordinary. Because mint is different from most plants, in addition to its attractive aroma, it can also give people a “cool” feeling.
  The existence of mint has subverted human understanding of hot and cold. Whether the mint leaves themselves are cold or hot, we can experience a cooling sensation after eating them. Until we figured out how peppermint provided a cooling sensation, it was like magic.
  In ancient Greek mythology, mint was described as a plant transformed by goblins by the river. In the most proud bathroom culture of ancient Rome, the cool feeling brought by mint is also an indispensable and important element.
  Corresponding to the cooling sensation of mint is the burning sensation brought by pepper. The ancients have long noticed that spicy and hot are similar feelings. In English, spicy and hot are often expressed with the same word, that is, “hot”. The burning sensation of chili peppers is actually caused by capsaicin activating the temperature-sensing vanilloid receptor subtype 1 (VR1) in neurons, and chili peppers do not actually increase our skin temperature. The same is true for the cooling sensation of peppermint, which is just a little trick played by chemicals and our human senses.
  Whether it’s sensing the heat of chili peppers or the coldness of peppermint, it’s all done through a class of proteins called ion channel proteins. In 2002, scientists first discovered the structure of the human body’s low temperature receptor, TRPM8. These receptors are so sensitive that they can sense as long as the ambient temperature is below 25°C.
  It is the menthol in mint leaves that makes the TRPM8 receptor work. When menthol comes into contact with the skin and mucous membranes of the human body, it will bind to the receptors, making people feel cold. In our human epidermis, the most concentrated location of TRPM8 is the trigeminal nerve area of ​​the face, which is the location of our mouth and nose, so when we eat and smell mint, we will feel particularly refreshing. Although a little mint is added to many foods, the major users of mint are chewing gum, mint and toothpaste. The cool feeling will give us the illusion that the mouth is very clean.
  In addition to menthol, the leaves of mint can also volatilize dozens of different aromatic substances such as menthone, menthyl acetate, camphene, and limonene. Now, there are at least 200 different scented mints on the horticultural market. The biggest difference between these mints is that they have different scents. Among these varieties are lemon mint, apple mint, orange mint, and peppermint.
  Mint is one of the easiest plants to feed. They grow quickly and hybridize easily. In the eyes of breeders, mint is simply a chemical plant for the production of aromatic substances. They can mix different proportions of aromatic substances to produce a variety of complex aroma sensations. What controls the ratio of these spices behind is the mint gene.
  Breeders breed mint through a large number of crosses, select the plants that best meet the requirements, and then cultivate them from generation to generation, and finally let the mint show the taste you want.
  Not only humans are fascinated by fascinating scents, but many animals are too. If you have ever owned a cat, you must have heard of catnip. The big name of catnip is Fake Nepeta, which belongs to the Lamiaceae family with mint, and is also a distant relative of mint. The substance in this plant that fascinates kittens, called nepetalactone, stimulates neurons in the feline’s brain, giving kittens a sense of excitement. Catnip is not the only plant that can fascinate kittens. There is a plant called Polygonum serrata that is more attractive to kittens than catnip.
  The Tianmu Polygonum we see are generally bundles of twigs, which smell with a fragrance. Polygonum ternata comes from the Actiniaceae family and is a close relative of those kiwis in fruit stores. In addition to the nepetalactone that kittens like, the branches of Polygonum ternata also contain another substance called actinidin. The experiment found that about 60% of kittens would be interested in catnip, while as many as 75% of kittens were interested in Polygonum vulgaris. This is most likely the result of a combination of the two scents.