A mint is a candy (sweet in British English) characterized by the presence of mint flavoring or real mint oil, whether it be peppermint oil, spearmint oil, or another natural or artificial source; the sweets are often referred to as “peppermints”. It is possible to obtain these sweets in a sugar-free version. Wintergreen and other oils or flavors are also frequently used in mints; however, these are not of the mint (Mentha) family or botanical group.
Hard mints, often called “breath mints”, are popular as breath fresheners since the taste and smell of mint oil and its active components are quite strong and feels clean and cool to the mouth as well as soothing to the stomach. Examples of hard mints include Altoids and Tic Tacs. In addition to breath freshening, mints that actually contain peppermint oil or extract have been popular in helping with digestion after a meal. Peppermint has muscle relaxant properties and therefore may relax the smooth muscles of the GI tract, allowing for easier passage of food contents. However, since the lower esophageal sphincter may be relaxed, peppermint may aggravate “heartburn” or GERD. Peppermint also seems to be effective in relieving intestinal gas and indigestion. According to the German Commission E Monograph, real peppermint oil or extract has been used for cramp-like complaints in the gastrointestinal tract. This can help to explain why mints with real peppermint oil, in addition to peppermint tea, have been popular for and are frequently used after meals to help with digestion as well as to help freshen the breath.
Candy canes are traditionally peppermint flavored.
Soft mints, such as “dinner mints” and “butter mints”, are soft candies with a higher butter content, that dissolve more readily inside one’s mouth.
A “scotch mint” or “Pan Drop” is a white round candy with a hard shell but a fairly soft chewy middle, popular in Britain and other Commonwealth nations. The scotch mint and other candies were spheroid, more recently moving toward a larger, discoid shape. (The Van Melle company markets such scotch mints as Mentos candies.) The name “scotch mint” comes from the specific mint plant Mentha × gracilis.
Mint imperials are similar to scotch mints but their content is hard and crumbly rather than chewy. They may share a visual resemblance with scotch mints, but these two are not the same.