The mints provide a unique flavor and aroma, which has delighted people for centuries. Mint may be used fresh, dried, as an extract, or as an essential oil (oil of peppermint, oil of spearmint) (Herbst 2001). Menthol is an organic compound extracted from peppermint or other mint oils (and also made synthetically). Offering an aromatic, sweet flavor, with a cool aftertaste, mints are used in both sweet and savory dishes, such as teas, beverages, jellies, syrups, candies, and ice creams. In Middle Eastern and British cuisine, mint is used on lamb dishes. Mint essential oil and menthol are extensively used as flavorings in breath fresheners, drinks, antiseptic mouth rinses, toothpaste, chewing gum, desserts, and candies. Furthermore, mint has been used extensively as a medicinal herb and is the ingredient of many non-prescription products. Menthol from mint essential oil (40-90 percent) is an ingredient of many cosmetics and some perfumes.
Many elements of the mint plant, which are so essential to the plant's reproduction and survival, also provide a larger value for the ecosystem and humans. Menthol in the essential oil, for example, helps repel pest insects from the plant, while also helping to remove mites from pollinating bees and offering many values for humans, noted above. Mint flowers provide bees a nectar source. Like menthol, L-carvone acts as an insect repellent, while being the main compound responsible for the aroma and flavor of spearmint. This reflects the principle of dual purposes, whereby entities not only advance an individual purpose, but also a purpose for the whole.