I used to tell people the simple truth:  that I just don’t like mint.  The ensuing conversation was never simple.

“What?  Wait—you mean, like, mint, like the leaf?”


“How can you not like mint?”

“I don’t know.  I just don’t like it in food.  It always tastes wrong.”

“Now, wait a minute here.  You’re saying that…”

Inevitably, they would work their way to toothpaste, and they’d have me there.  Of course I like mint in toothpaste.  I’m not a caveman.  But toothpaste is not food.  I’m not arguing with the flavor.  It’s very refreshing.  I wouldn’t have my gum/Altoids/menthols/toothpaste any other way.  I just don’t want it mixed in with my chicken.  Chicken shouldn’t ever refresh me.

Conversations like this usually spring from the classic Thursday-night-let’s-get-dinner-out discussion, where Thai food is apparently now a must for consideration in any cosmopolitan setting.  I say, “No thanks. I don’t really like it,” to blank, confused faces. I explain it is mostly because of the mint. They are baffled and actually upset with me.  They want to spend ten minutes trying to unearth some tragic memory locked deep in my psyche, some wretched beginning to my hatred of their fair leaf.  Was it an accident in the mint factory, Tommy?  Did you have an uncle with especially fresh breath?

I imagine it’s the same way I react when I learn someone doesn’t like avocado.  It’s like they just told me they don’t much care for pillows.  It’s not that it’s bad or that I feel sorry for them.  It just isn’t possible.  If Human, then love of pillows and avocado…ergo….”What the shit is your problem?”

Saying I’m allergic to something implies everything that isn’t true, but should be, with regards to things I don’t particularly like.  First off, it might kill me.  So right off the bat, it gets rid of the whole “Well, maybe you just haven’t had it done right…because I know this perfect little place on 16th…”  Sorry buddy: death.  Nobody can say a thing.  It’s unarguable.  Allergic says, “Fuck you, I’m handicapped, and I’ll thank you never to bring it up again.”

Which brings up the second thing it does: it disallows curiosity. A person can’t ask too many questions about an allergy; it’s not polite.  All they can do is lower their eyes, shift on their feet, and smile the biggest smile of definitely-not-pitying-you they can muster while thinking, Poor bastard.  Part of his body just doesn’t work. You might be thinking that pity is harder to ingest than mint but, believe me, I’ve tried both, and I take pity every time.

Besides pity, there is an air of strength in having an alleged allergy.  “Look how brave he is, Barbara,” is just the sort of conversation I imagine my friends having after I tell them about my allergy (assuming anyone I know in this day and age is named Barbara).  It says: I’ve overcome my burdens.  I am surviving, despite my sad, sheltered, Thai-less existence.

Then the days come when I just don’t mind and I give up on all the protesting, on the whole allergy farce.  I concede the mint. I just go for it, because: why should I always get my way?  It’s important to try things again, even things you know you really don’t like, if for no other reason than to practice tolerance. We sit happily in the restaurant, my friends and I, and it really is a pleasure seeing how excited they are for the food.  The last course arrives, and I’m really proud of myself for letting down my guard.  The meal is actually quite lovely.  Then I see it:

“Wait a second.  Is this fucking fruit in my salad?”

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THOMAS WOOD grew up in the nearly quaint, upscale town of Newport Beach, California, and left at nineteen when his father passed away. After traveling for a few years, he settled in San Francisco and got a degree in Philosophy from UC Berkeley. He lives with his beautiful girlfriend in San Francisco, works in medicine as a logistical coordinator for organ donation, and writes in his spare time, hoping to some day feel comfortable with the moniker, 'writer.' His personal blog is ModernSophist.com. You can follow him on the Twitter at Modern_Sophist

16 responses to “Why I’m Allergic to Mint”

  1. Michelle C says:

    I agree about mint in food- horrible. And fruit in salad? Even worse.
    Generally, sweet should never invade non-sweet. I’m a firm believer in food segregation.

  2. Thomas Wood says:

    Generally, oh goodness, yes: keep the sweet away from the rest. I almost died one day when the sister-in-law put apples in the guacamole. Everyone just loved it. For me, it was a sin.

  3. Carl D'Agostino says:

    So you don’t like mint, eh? I bet I can convert you like yesterday fast. See, they have “mint” in Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco. They store a lot of this mint in a place called Ft. Knox. I’ll rent a van and you drive and lordy. lordy, lordy you will be just orgasmic with the taste of mint the rest of your days. Guaranteed.

    • Breanna says:

      I can not stand mint. At first mint hits my tongue, I start to gag my body try get rid it. If I somehow is able swallow my stomach will try to vomit. It is torture to brush my teeth with mint toothpaste.

  4. Charlie says:

    You’re wrong about what people are thinking. There are so many fakers around now that it’s hard for those who honestly do have allergies to foods to get taken seriously.

    • CH says:

      I’m allergic to mint leaves — presumably a chemical in the leaves specifically. Which sucks, because I like mint in my food. I don’t have an allergic reaction to menthol. Only a few people take me seriously because apparently 1) mint is too awesome, so it’s impossible to be allergic to it, 2) people only say they have food allergies just to avoid eating certain foods. I’m calling Thomas out here. You’re only making worse for others like me by playing with peoples’ sympathies like that.

      • CH says:

        I realize I should also add that people should be more accepting of others’ likes and dislikes when it comes to food, which why people lie about their allergies in the first place. But pretending to have an allergy is really not the way to go about it.

      • I too am allergic to mint. Although I’m allergic to menthol as a whole. It’s a pain. I’ve gotten pretty use to it though, but I understand what you mean about how people react to it. Everyone always reacts the same, “whaaaat?! How can you be allergic to mint!?”
        It’s not as bad as it sounds… I just miss thin mint girl scout cookies.
        I never knew it was in Thai food and stuff? Never had a problem with that, but I don’t ever get Thai food. It would suck to eat some chicken only to find out it had mint in it.

        I’ve had some bad reactions to mint. I’ve probably had like 50 epipen shots, and been to the hospital because of how severe of a reaction I had. It’s not fun. Thankfully I haven’t had any mint in years.

  5. Cat says:

    Actual mint allergy sufferer here. I love mint. I miss mint. Cold and flu season is horrible as every single OTC remedy includes mint or menthol. Innocent things like bactine can cause severe rashes in an already injured area. (And do you think it is on the label)

    I respect that some folks don’t like it and might even appreciate having mint free options without the allergy.

    But this is not an allwegy to be messed with.

    It’s rare. The stuff is everywhere. S well alone can trigger severe reaction. ( I got a migraine and nauseous because I was in an Uber with someone who popped in a stick of gum).

    The. Good thing is your blog has provided a place to make some awareness of it.

  6. Pitati says:

    ….so you are the reason waiters get orders wrong on purpose and end up killing people with actual allergies.
    And as someone who know how allergies work…noy only are you a prick, but when someone says that i go into the whole depth of question pertaining to their allergy. If they cant understand what im saying… i know for damn sure they are not allergic.
    And no… i dont go “you just havent had it right” when you say you dont like. Unless its chocolate. Then screw you. Your tastebuds are weak.
    I usually ask “what about “insert food” makes you dislike it?”
    The texture. Strength?
    And you most certainly have not been eating thai food.
    I have never had one with mint in it. Thats pretty rare. That sounds more like fake thai some americans try to pass off.. or a substitute of some asian herb thats too expensive to get.
    Thai food is more about peanuts, peanut laden sauces and everything coconut.
    If theres any mint, then its a single decoration leaf you can pluck off yourself you lazy shite. And that is also never cooked in.
    Theres a type of veggie dip that has mint in it but you cant see it or taste it. Its pretty common. If someone saw you eat that and homemade it… they would know you are a lying ass.

  7. ym says:

    Hi, I have a menthol allergy. Listerine gives me severe reactions. I have never eaten copious mint leaves but I am on an elimination diet to remove low-grade inflammation by other herbs in the mint family.

    My question to others here is are you allergic to the other mint family herbs too? Like basil, oregano, and lavender? Thank you!

    • Sarah says:

      @ym @Thomas Wood and all,

      I came for what I thought was an essay on life with mint allergy, stayed for the delightful writing, then stayed even longer for the comments and commiseration with other mint allergy sufferers.

      @ym – I seem to have developed a sudden onset mint allergy which may or may not also extend to basil. I’m still trying to figure out if I’m reacting to basil because it was in contact with my mint plants or if I’m sensitive to basil itself..

      I’m devastated either way! All of this has unfolded in, like, the past two weeks. A future without mint and possibly without basil?!

      How does your allergy manifest and did it jump out at you all of a sudden?

      • Isha says:

        I was trying to find common compounds between mint and basil when I stumbled across this…I, too, stayed for the good writing!

        I assume in the last year you’ve settled the matter on Basil with a good, strong, homemade pesto?

        Were you thrown out of grown-up toothpaste, too?

  8. Isha says:

    I’m allergic to mint. Basil came first and they’re related: bye bye pesto – and yes. Toothpaste.

    I’m 40 years old and newly on Crest Strawberry!

    If anyone ever gets nosey on your end: it causes copious nausea and vomiting. “Death” unnecessary: toss THAT one into a restaurant! 😉

    Your bio puts you in SF: have you tried jhanthong banbua in Sonoma County for mint-free Thai food? Because I’ve never noticed any, but also never disliked the flavor so could have missed it if not jarring. Mint only recently exploded for me. 🙂

    Oh! And my mother just hates mint in everything, so I kinda get it: ‘I’ wouldn’t even stop asking her if she was sure she really… even in this? Even in this??! I can’t imagine how bad that might get in casual relationships.

  9. CMCM says:

    I’m allergic to mint, specifically fresh mint. I’ve never had a (noticeable) reaction to artificial mint, or small amounts in things like toothpaste or menthol products. I’m also not allergic to other plants related to mint, like basil, thyme, and rosemary (Thank goodness!!!)

    It’s literally only fresh mint leaves that cause a problem. I discovered the allergy when I was in my 20s and LOVED to drink mojitos. I’d go out with friends, have some mojitos, and often I would feel my throat become clammy for the next day or two as if I was getting a cold. But it would just go away and I never thought more about it.

    UNTIL… one day I had a mojito and the bartender PACKED it with fresh mint – so much so that the drink was actually gross. But since I was a poor college student and didn’t want to waste money, I drank it anyway. Well, cut to a few hours later when I got home and my face started swelling and my throat started to close up. Now – this was bad, but not so bad that I needed to go to the doctor. I could still breath and I was nervous but (again being a poor student) decided to just see if it would pass. And it did.

    It was only then I realized that mint was the culprit in the reactions. And I’ve (sadly) never had a mojito since.

    That was about 20 years ago and I’ve stayed away from fresh mint. But recently, I had a cocktail that was garnished with fresh mint (no mint muddled in the drink) and I took the mint out and drank the drink thinking I’d be fine. Well after about 1/4 of the drink, I noticed my face started to tingle. And I realized whatever amount of mint was in there was too much. Luckily I’m not poor anymore and didn’t need to down the drink regardless lol.

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