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Mentha Oil
 
General Characteristics
  • Mentha oil is obtained by steam distillation of Mentha arvensis leaves.
  • Mentha oil and its constituents and derivatives are used in food, pharmaceutical and perfumery and flavouring industry.
  • Menthol is the main constituent of mentha oil and slow cooling through refrigeration, crystallization, centrifugation and drying is done to obtain it. It is used in the manufacture of lozenges, toothpastes, pain balms, cold balms etc.
  • Mentha is widely cultivated in India and its leaves are used in making sauces/chatni in most households.
 
Supply Demand Scenario
  • India is the largest producer and exporter of menthe oil in the world. At present the major producers of mint oil in the world are India, China, Brazil and the US.
  • Mentha arvensis is cultivated in India in the semi- temperate regions in the foothills of Himalayas in Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The all-India area under mentha in the country is estimated at about 1,25,000 hectares.
  • India at present produces about 15,000 tonnes of mint oil and exports 3,000 tonnes which earns it foreign exchange worth Rs. 100 crores annually.
  • India exports different types of mint oils to a number of countries including Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany, Japan, UK, USA, etc. these varieties include the Japanese mint oil (derived from Mentha Arvensis), peppermint oil (Mentha Piperita), dementholised Japanese mint oil, spear mint oil (Mentha Spicata), water mint oil (Mentha Aquatic), horsemint oil (Mentha Sylvestries), Bergamont oil (Mentha Citrate) and still others.
  • In the first 9months of 2002-03, India's exports of mint oil were 3,000 tonnes valued at Rs.102.95 crores against 2,850 tonnes valued at Rs. 97,91 crores in the same period in 2001-02.
  • India cultivates about eight species of mentha however three species are approved / recognized by the purpose of quality standards and international marketing.
    The country's annual requirement of peppermint oil is about 10ton, which can be met by growing the crop, over 10,000 acres.
  • The mint crop gives maximum oil content when it has just reached the flowering stage, after which the oil content begins to decline, but in cases where there is delayed flowering, as at Delhi, yellowing of the lower leaves is an indication for cutting in time. 2-3 cutting are done during the season.
  • Freshly cut herb is left in the field for 2-4 hours during the sunny weather. This partially dried herb is further dried in small bundles by hanging over wires in shade till it is reduced to 1/3 or ¼ of its original weight, taking care that the leaves do not get crisp. The crop should not be heaped for drying in the sun as it is reported to result in reduction of oil by about 20-25%.
  • Distillation of dried leaves is cheaper than that of fresh leaves. By steam distillation and filtration, a golden yellow volatile oil is obtained. Leaves and flowering tops give the highest yield. About 50% of menthol can be separated out in crystalline form on cooling the oil. The remaining (dementholised) oil is used as peppermint oil. Manufacture of menthol from dementholised oil has been taken up on commercial scale by three or four firms in Bombay, West Bengal and Gujarat. There are several small distilleries in U.P also for the distillation of oil.
  • The peppermint oil is stored in coloured bottles, air-tight aluminium or galvanized containers in cool dry place. Presence of moisture in the oil may rancidify the oil. Since it is acidic in nature, it should not be stored in tin containers.
  • The natural oil yields on an average 40-50% menthol and 50-60% dementholised oil, which can be used both in confectionery and medicine in place of imported peppermint oil. Japanese mint oil is not distinguished from the peppermint oil in the Indian trade. The dementholised oil has been found to contain menthyl acetate (24.4%), free menthol (44.8%), menthone (24.6%) and hydrocarbons (6.2%). Among the hydrocarbons, alpha-pinene, a-1-limonene, carophyllene and cademene are present.
 
Fortnightly Price Volatility in Mentha Oil at Delhi from 2002-04
Volatility < 2 2 - 5 5 - 8 > 8
No. of times 29 11 4 4
% of times 60.4 22.9 8.3 8.3
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