Is there sugar in peppermint?

Peppermint is a popular flavoring and aromatic herb that is widely used in things like chewing gum, toothpaste, medicines, and candy. With its strong, refreshing minty taste, peppermint can add a nice flavor to both sweet and savory foods and beverages. But is there actually sugar in peppermint? Let’s take a closer look.

What is Peppermint?

Peppermint is a hybrid mint that is created by crossing watermint and spearmint. It has a high menthol content, which gives it its distinctive strong, cooling flavor. Peppermint contains menthol, menthyl acetate, menthone, cineole, limonene, pulegone, and other minor components that contribute to its taste and aroma.

The leaves and essential oil extracted from the peppermint plant are commonly used for flavoring. Peppermint oil can be added to things like toothpaste, mouthwash, chewing gum, and candies to give them that refreshing minty taste. The leaves are also used either fresh or dried for culinary purposes.

Some key facts about peppermint:

  • It is a hybrid cross between watermint and spearmint
  • Grows well in temperate climates and moist soil
  • Has a high menthol content compared to many other mint varieties
  • The oil and leaves are used for flavoring and fragrance
  • Has a strong, cooling minty taste and aroma

So in terms of its basic plant components, peppermint contains no sugar itself. The menthol, menthyl acetate, and other compounds that give peppermint its flavor are not sugars. However, sugar is very often added to peppermint products to sweeten them.

Sugar in Peppermint Candy and Chewing Gum

One of the most popular uses of peppermint is in candy and chewing gum. Peppermint candies like candy canes and peppermint patties contain both peppermint oil or extract along with large amounts of sugar. The sugar sweetens the strong minty flavor and gives the candies their sweet taste.

Here are some example ingredients lists from popular peppermint candies:

Candy Canes:
Sugar, corn syrup, peppermint oil, natural flavors, confectioner’s glaze, food color

York Peppermint Patties:
Sugar, corn syrup, palm oil, confectioner’s glaze, peppermint oil, soy lecithin

Junior Mints:
Sugar, corn syrup, confectioner’s glaze, peppermint oil, soy lecithin

As you can see, sugar in the form of sugar or corn syrup is the major ingredient in these peppermint candies, along with peppermint oil/extract to provide that minty flavor. The sugar sweetens the strong flavor of the mint and gives the candies their sweet taste and texture.

Similarly for peppermint chewing gum, the base contains gum base, corn syrup or sugar, and peppermint oil or powder. The sugar or corn syrup is once again added to sweeten the mint flavor in gum.

So with candies and gum containing peppermint, there definitely is added sugar to sweeten and balance the minty taste. Peppermint oil on its own does not contain sugar or have a sweet taste.

Sugar in Peppermint Tea

Peppermint tea is another popular way to enjoy the refreshing flavor of peppermint leaves. Pure peppermint tea contains no sugars – it is made by steeping dried peppermint leaves in hot water. However, many commercial peppermint teas contain added sugar or other sweeteners.

For example, common ingredients in sweetened peppermint teas include:

– Cane sugar
– Honey
– Brown sugar
– Cane juice solids
– Stevia
– Aspartame

So you have to read the label carefully to know if a peppermint tea contains added sugars or not. Pure unflavored peppermint tea made from only peppermint leaves contains no inherent sugars. The sweetened versions will have sugar added primarily to offset the strong menthol taste.

Peppermint Essential Oil

Peppermint essential oil that is extracted from the peppermint plant also does not contain any sugar. The oil is extracted via steam distillation of the leaves and stems. Peppermint oil contains the volatile aromatic compounds that give peppermint its minty flavor and smell, but no actual sugar molecules.

Some of the major chemical components found in peppermint oil include:

  • Menthol – Gives a cooling sensation
  • Menthone – Provides the minty aroma
  • 1,8-Cineole – Has an astringent flavor
  • Limonene – Adds a citrusy element
  • Carvone – Provides a spicy note

So the compounds that give peppermint essential oil its scent and flavor are not sugars or carbohydrates. Pure isolated peppermint oil contains no sugar itself. However, peppermint oil is sometimes combined with sugar or other sweeteners when used for flavoring candies or gum to balance the strong menthol taste.

Sugar in Peppermint Extract

Peppermint extract that is used for flavoring foods and beverages is made by dissolving peppermint oil into an alcohol solution. So like peppermint oil, pure peppermint extracts contain no inherent sugars. They are concentrated versions of the aromatic minty compounds found in peppermint leaves.

However, some peppermint extracts do contain added sugar or other sweeteners such as corn syrup or glycerin. This helps to round out the sharp flavor of the extract when used in foods and drinks. So you always need to check the ingredient list to see if a particular peppermint extract contains added sugars or not. Pure peppermint extract without any additives does not contain sugar.

Peppermint Used in Baking

Peppermint is sometimes used to add flavoring to baked goods like cookies, cakes, and breads. When used this way, the peppermint itself does not contain or add any sugar to the recipe. However, since most baked goods rely heavily on sugar, there will be large amounts of sugar present from ingredients like:

  • White granulated sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • Powdered sugar
  • Honey
  • Maple syrup
  • Molasses

So even though the peppermint does not directly add any sugar, baked goods contain lots of sugar for sweetness, texture, and fermentation. The tiny amount of peppermint oil or extract is not enough to make the item taste sweet on its own. It provides minty flavor while the sugar provides the sweetness needed in baked goods.

Sugar Content in Peppermint Plants

Looking beyond just extracts and flavoring, the leaves and stems of the peppermint plant itself contain very minimal inherent sugar compounds.

According to USDA data, 100g of raw peppermint leaves contains just 8g of total carbohydrates, which includes:

  • 3g of dietary fiber
  • 2g of sugars

So only 2g of the carbohydrates come from actual sugars naturally present in the leaves. This is a very small amount compared to the high sugar content found in fruits, candies, sodas, and many other foods.

Even when peppermint leaves are dried and concentrated, as they often are for making tea, the total sugars amount to less than 5g per 100g of dried leaves.

So the peppermint plant itself does not contain significant amounts of sugar like many other plants and food sources do. The minimal sugars present are not enough to make the peppermint taste sweet. Any strong sweetness comes from added sugar when peppermint is used as a flavoring.

Does Peppermint Taste Sweet?

Even though many peppermint-flavored products contain sugar, peppermint oil and leaves have a strong, minty, and slightly spicy flavor profile.

On its own, pure peppermint oil and extract would not taste sweet to most people. The powerful menthol overwhelms the taste buds with sensations of coolness and mintiness.

When tasting just a peppermint leaf, there is a mild astringent, almost bitter quality along with hints of spice and grassiness. The tiny amounts of natural sugars present do not register as a sweet taste.

However, the flavor experience changes once sugar is added to peppermint candies, gum, or tea. The sugar interacts with the minty flavor to produce a more balanced, slightly sweet and refreshing taste. The sugar rounds out the sharper edges of pure peppermint flavor.

So peppermint itself does not taste sweet – it provides a minty, cooling sensation. Sugar is added to make peppermint products taste sweeter and more palatable as candies and confections.

Peppermint Flavor Masks Sugar’s Sweetness

Interestingly, adding peppermint flavoring may actually make sugars taste less sweet than normal.

Studies have found that menthol, the primary component of peppermint flavor, can suppress the sweetness perception of sugars.

One study showed that menthol reduced the perceived sweetness of sucrose solutions by up to 30% compared to non-mentholated solutions. Subjects rated mentholated solutions containing sucrose as less sweet than their non-mentholated equivalents.

Researchers believe this effect is due to menthol’s cooling and irritating qualities interfering with the taste receptors normally responsible for sweetness detection on the tongue.

So the strong peppermint oils may overpower sugars’ sweet taste to an extent in candies and gum. This allows more sugar to be added to peppermint products without making them excessively sweet.

Nutrition Profile of Peppermint

Here is an overview of the key nutrients found in peppermint:

Nutrient Per 100g Peppermint Leaves
Water 82g
Carbohydrates 8g
Protein 3g
Fiber 3g
Calcium 243mg
Iron 9mg
Magnesium 80mg
Phosphorus 60mg
Potassium 469mg
Zinc 1mg
Vitamin A 534IU
Vitamin C 31mg

As you can see, peppermint leaves are low in calories and are a good source of vitamin C, calcium, iron, and several other micronutrients.

The carbs present are primarily from the small amounts of sugar and fiber, not starch. Peppermint’s nutritional profile does not provide significant calories or macronutrients, and the leaves are considered low glycemic.

Is Peppermint Keto-Friendly?

Given its low sugar and carb content, pure unflavored peppermint tea and leaves are generally considered keto-friendly ingredients. They can be enjoyed as a flavoring on the ketogenic diet without adding substantial calories or carbs.

However, many commercial peppermint products like candies and sweetened teas would not fit into a keto diet plan due to their added sugars. Sticking with unsweetened, pure forms of peppermint allows you to benefit from its refreshing flavor without impacting ketosis.

Peppermint Oil Supplements

There has been increasing interest in the use of peppermint oil capsules as dietary supplements. Peppermint oil capsules contain concentrated amounts of the volatile minty compounds found in peppermint leaves.

Studies show peppermint oil may have benefits for:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Bloating and gas
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Muscle and nerve pain
  • Mental focus and clarity

The peppermint oil in capsules is purely extracted from mint leaves and contains no added sugars. So peppermint oil capsules can be taken without worry by people with diabetes, those limiting sugar intake, and on low carb or ketogenic diets.

Risks and Side Effects

For most people, consuming peppermint and peppermint-flavored products is considered safe. However, there are some things to keep in mind:

– Allergic reactions may occur in those with sensitivities to mint plants. Discontinue use if any signs of allergic reaction develop.

– Consuming large amounts of pure peppermint oil can be toxic. Oil is much more concentrated than leaves or extract.

– Peppermint may trigger heartburn in those prone to reflux. It may also exacerbate gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

– Applying peppermint oils to the face can cause skin irritation and rashes in some individuals.

– Peppermint should be avoided in infants and young children due to risks of breathing problems and damage to the esophagus. Only dilute flavors should be given.

– Peppermint may interact with certain medications, including drugs for heart conditions and acid reflux. Check with your doctor.

So enjoy peppermint in moderation and consult your healthcare provider with any concerns or questions. Discontinue use if you experience any side effects or reactions.


In conclusion, pure peppermint oil, leaves, and extract do not contain sugar themselves. However, many popular peppermint products like candies and chewing gum contain large amounts of added sugar to balance the intense minty flavor.

To enjoy the benefits of peppermint’s refreshing taste without unwanted sugars, choose unsweetened options like:

  • Pure peppermint tea
  • Peppermint oil capsules
  • Unsweetened peppermint extract
  • Whole or crushed peppermint leaves

Always check labels for added sugars when consuming commercial peppermint-flavored foods and drinks. The small amounts of carbohydrates naturally present in peppermint are not substantial enough to provide a sweet taste without added sweeteners.

So while peppermint itself does not contain sugar, the answer to whether peppermint products contain sugar is: it depends! Read ingredient lists carefully and enjoy the refreshing flavor of pure peppermint without excess sugars weighing you down.

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