Why is mint the flavor that tastes “fresh,” and “clean”? Is there a scientific explanation for this? A cultural one?

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Why is mint the flavor that tastes “fresh,” and “clean”? Is there a scientific explanation for this? A cultural one?

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Menthol (found in mint) interacts with the cold receptors of toung, giving the illusion of cold. Something similar happens with capsaicin and the illusion of heat

The linings of all the tubes that go down into our lungs have nerves that sense “cold”, and they are also typically kept moist. When we breathe the air passes through those tubes and causes a natural chilling effect via the evaporation of the moisture. Our brains are tuned to link healthy breathing with feeling some coolness in those tubes, if we sense “cold” our brains just connect that to heathy, deep refreshing breathing.

The active chemical in mint *also* activates those cold sensors, although it does so chemically, it’s not literally creating cold. However our brains don’t know this, they just know the sensors are reporting “cold” so they assume we’re taking health, deep, refreshing breaths.

So when you are sick and those breathing tubes are coated in mucus and muck and grossness, you’re not getting those “cold” signals via evaporation (since there is gunk in the way, blocking the moisture from evaporating). So if you put mint on your nose or breathe menthol rub fumes or something, you can still get that chemical effect of coldness. So you brain processes this as relief! I’m breathing well again! Nice refreshing deep breathes. Turns out your breathing is still shit, you’re not actually, literally, clearing your breathing tubes and breathing better. It’s just a fake out due to our brains wiring.

Mint has always been a generally pleasing scent. So back in the days before toothpaste people would use roots and leaves of certain plants to clean their teeth. A common one was mint because of its palatable flavor and course leaves which helps remove material from your teeth.