Genus Mentha and family Lamiaceae
The Mentha genus plants are frequently used in the dermato-cosmetic industry for their pleasant fragrance and therapeutic effects. The Mentha genus includes approximately 25 species and belongs to the Lamiaceae family, the largest and richest family of therapeutic plants. Among these, Mentha aquatica is a widespread naturally occurring plant in Romania that presents a highly complex chemical composition.
Medically speaking it is used in the treatment of nausea, pulmonary diseases, gut flora imbalances or flatulence. The Mentha aquatica oil has anti-inflammatory, anti-emetic, sudorific, antispasmodic and slightly analgesic effects. From the dermato-cosmetic point of view, its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial benefits as well as its pleasant fragrance are highly appreciated. [A. de Sousa Barros et al., Industrial Crops and Products, 2015, 76, pp. 557 – 564].
At Careless Beauty Romania, in my family’s lab, we use it under various forms in our dermato-cosmetic formulations that are dedicated to regenerating the skin. Naturally occurring mint is quite a special plant from many points of view: its leaves, flowers, scent, biologically active chemical composition, they all add up to a list of benefits for the health of the human body.
Advantages of wild mint essential oil
Our clinical, physical and chemical studies of naturally occurring mint essential oil (in our case Mentha aquatica that grows at the edge of Romanian forests) indicated the following:
- when applied topically (on the wrists and/or the nose or temple area), it relaxes, decongests, improves breathing and softens the skin;
- when included in dermato-cosmetic formulations, it brings bioactive compounds carrying antioxidant and collagen fiber reorganization properties. The main organic compounds identified by means of GS-MS (Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry – an advanced analytic method identifying specific substances within a test sample) are the alfa-pinene; sabinene; beta-pinene; myrcene; 1-limonene; 1,8-eucalyptol; 1-menthol; linalyl acetate; neryl acetate; piperitenone oxide; trans-beta-caryophyllene; elemol; aliphatic alcohols; monoterpene hydrocarbon; oxygenated monoterpenes; sesquiterpene hydrocarbons; oxygenated sesquiterpenes; it provides a specific, natural and pleasant fragrance without the need of a synthetic perfume;
- when properly applied in its pure form on the skin, there is no toxicity or irritability: for example, 1 drop/on the wrist. To be noted that skin irritation may occur when using large amounts of pure oil on dry and/or sensitive skin or in case of allergies to menthol or eucalyptol; it is preferable to be avoided during pregnancy and breastfeeding because of its slightly emmenagogue effect (stimulating and/or regulating the menstrual function);
- 1-2 drops added in a plant infusion will relax the respiratory system and decongest where necessary.
July to August are the most appropriate months for the harvesting of mint flowers and leaves. We chose to work with naturally occurring mint (and not with other mint species) because of the unique fragrance and therapeutic properties of this plant. We felt that it worked best with our dermato-cosmetic formulations. So, during these pandemic times, we once again set off to harvest plants, this time wild mint!
We reached the Subcarpati de Curbură area in the Buzău county and harvested mint by hand from our pastures located next to the forest. Since we use fresh plants in order to extract essential oils, we had to chop them as soon as we arrived to the cabin. Next we prepared the hydrodistillation equipment.
Wild mint hydrodistillation
The hydrodistillation of plant material has been carried out with a Neoclevenger type apparatus equipped with a 5-liter extraction flask we own in our mountain cabin. The Neoclevenger system is based on the hydrodistillation of heat sensitive compounds by heating plant material based on Raoult’s law that states that the vapor pressure of a compound of the mixture is equal to a fraction of the vapor pressure of the pure compound [A. Badea, A. Leca et.al., Heat and mass transfer in industrial installations, Editura Tehnică, 1982]. The vapor mixture is cooled down and usually condensed into a layer of water and another of oil, collected through d (see picture below). The preparation of the hydrodistillation installation is also detailed in the photos.
The success or failure of any distillation process depend on the amount of plant material and solvent, as well as on the temperature. In my case, I added the following into the extraction flask: 300 g of wild mint (chopped), 600 g de of chopped pine branches and cones and 4000 mL of plant-based solvent. The solvent I used for the extraction (meaning the fluid you can notice in the extraction bowl together with the plant material) is an authentic mixture of spring water and mint decoction. I was aiming for this extremely interesting combination of mint and pine. The fragrance is simply divine!
Dermato-cosmetic formulation using wild mint essential oil (Mentha aquatica)
If you are curious to read more about the Careless Beauty’s star dermato-cosmetic formulation using wild mint essential oil, here is a link for you: