Image of the Week: Mint | Wellcome Trust Blog

This minty fresh image is an extreme close-up of the surface of a mint leaf, taken using a scanning electron microscope.

The blue circles are oil glands that are responsible for giving this plant its characteristic aroma, which is commonly used to flavour food, drinks and dental products. The spike in the lower left hand corner is actually a small hair (trichome) on the leaf.

Peppermint oil has been used for thousands of years to soothe stomach cramps, and is even mentioned in ancient Egyptian medical texts written on papyrus. There is a wide variety of ailments that people claim that mint can help, although the evidence for these claims is not robust. There is some evidence peppermint oil could help with heartburn, irritable bowel syndrome and tension headaches.

Have you ever tried holding your nose and eating a mint leaf? You’ll barely taste a thing until you let go of your nose. Give it a try next time you’re making a mint sauce or mixing a mojito!

Image credit: Annie Cavanagh, Wellcome Images