Spearmint (Mentha spicata) is a fragrant herb that belongs to the mint family (Lamiaceae). It is native to Europe and Asia but is now cultivated worldwide for its culinary and medicinal uses. Spearmint contains various bioactive compounds, including; menthol, rosmarinic acid, flavonoids and volatile oils, which contribute to its health benefits.

Habitat of Spearmint

The spearmint plant is native to Europe, but it grows well in most temperate climates. Its common name, spearmint, is related to the pointed shape of its leaves that resemble a spear.

Uses of Spearmint

The aromatic fragrance of Spearmint (Mentha spicata) is immediately recognised for its crispness, and it is used to flavor food, popular drinks like iced tea, alcoholic beverages and candy. Its aroma is often associated with cleanliness, making it popular for use in mouthwash, shaving creams, soaps and shampoos. Its properties appeal to humans, and its repellent qualities are noxious to insects.

See also the closely related species known as Peppermint and Mint.

Active Ingredients in Spearmint

Spearmint is very closely related to peppermint with regard to its active ingredients and ways in which it is used for health benefits. Spearmint oil and leaves are used in the preparation of medicines.

Spearmint contains a variety of bioactive compounds that contribute to its aroma, flavor and health benefits.

Some of the key active ingredients found in spearmint include:

Menthol: Menthol is a monocyclic terpene alcohol that gives spearmint its characteristic cooling sensation and minty aroma. Menthol has analgesic (pain-relieving) properties and is often used in topical products for its soothing effects on the skin and mucous membranes.

Carvone: Carvone is a monoterpene ketone responsible for the distinct aroma and flavor of spearmint. It has been studied for its potential antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties. Carvone may also have carminative effects, helping to alleviate gas and bloating.

Limonene: Limonene is a cyclic monoterpene that contributes to the citrusy aroma of spearmint. It has been investigated for its potential anticancer, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties. Limonene may also have mood-enhancing effects and is commonly used in aromatherapy.

Rosmarinic Acid: Rosmarinic acid is a polyphenolic compound found in various herbs, including spearmint. It exhibits antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties. Rosmarinic acid may help protect cells from oxidative damage and reduce inflammation in the body.

Flavonoids: Spearmint contains various flavonoids, including luteolin, hesperidin, and apigenin, among others. Flavonoids are plant pigments with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. They may help protect against chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and neurodegenerative disorders.

Volatile Oils: Spearmint contains volatile oils, including menthone and pulegone, which contribute to its aroma and flavor. These volatile oils may have antimicrobial and insecticidal properties.

Tannins: Tannins are polyphenolic compounds found in many plant foods, including spearmint. They have astringent properties and may help reduce inflammation and provide relief from minor skin irritations.

Health Benefits of Spearmint

These active ingredients in spearmint contribute to the range of health benefits that Spearmint can offer. Incorporating spearmint into your diet or using it in herbal preparations may support overall health and well-being.

Spearmint can help with the following; promoting digestion, soothing stomach disgress, relief from nausea, reducing flatulence, controlling diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome, respiratory support, antioxidant effects, and mood enhancement, relieving menstrual discomfort, reducing stress, gall bladder problems, relieving sore throats, colds, toothaches, headaches, as a local pain killer, as an antispasmodic medication for cramps.

Below we will explore some of the health benefits associated with spearmint in more detail:

Spearmint as a Digestive Aid

Spearmint is known for its carminative properties, which can help alleviate symptoms of indigestion, gas, bloating, and stomach discomfort. Drinking spearmint tea or consuming spearmint leaves may promote digestion by stimulating the production of digestive enzymes and reducing gastrointestinal spasms.

Spearmint to Relieve Nausea

Spearmint has been traditionally used to relieve nausea and vomiting. The aroma of spearmint essential oil, or the consumption of spearmint tea, may help soothe an upset stomach and reduce feelings of nausea.

Spearmint for Respiratory Support

Spearmint contains menthol, which has a cooling and decongestant effect on the respiratory tract. Inhaling the vapor of spearmint essential oil or drinking spearmint tea may help clear nasal congestion, relieve coughing, and promote easier breathing during respiratory infections or allergies.

Spearmint for Oral Health

The antibacterial properties of spearmint may help promote oral health and prevent dental issues such as cavities, gum disease, and bad breath. Chewing spearmint leaves or using spearmint mouthwash may help inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria in the mouth and reduce plaque formation.

Spearmint for Menstrual Relief

Spearmint tea has been studied for its potential to alleviate symptoms of menstrual cramps and hormonal imbalances, particularly in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Drinking spearmint tea regularly may help reduce testosterone levels and excess hair growth associated with PCOS.

Spearmint for Excessive Hair Growth in Women

Experiments in modifying the amount of androgen levels in women who have an excessive amount of hair is reported by the USNLM at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17310494. Researchers in Turkey conducted controlled experiments on 21 hirsute female patients by applying findings from previous tests on laboratory rats. The women drank Spearmint tea twice a day for five days as part of a specially designed program of treatment.

The results showed that spearmint has potential as an alternative to other forms of antiandrogenic treatment when hirsutism (excessive hair growth in women) is in a mild form. The report indicates that further testing is required to validate the results of the study prior to recommending spearmint as a drug to reduce the incidence of hirsutism.

Spearmint for Stress Reduction

The aroma of spearmint essential oil has been shown to have calming and stress-relieving effects. Inhaling spearmint vapor or using spearmint oil in aromatherapy may help reduce feelings of anxiety, promote relaxation and improve mood.

Antioxidant Properties of Spearmint

Spearmint contains flavonoids and phenolic compounds that exhibit antioxidant activity. Antioxidants help protect cells from oxidative damage caused by free radicals and may reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer and neurodegenerative disorders.

Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Spearmint

Spearmint contains rosmarinic acid, a compound with anti-inflammatory properties. Consuming spearmint tea or extract may help reduce inflammation in the body and alleviate symptoms of inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, asthma and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

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Spearmint Notes / Side Effects

While spearmint is generally safe when consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet, it’s important to be aware of potential side effects, especially if you have underlying health conditions or are taking medications.

Spearmint is generally considered safe for most people when consumed in moderate amounts as part of a balanced diet. However, excessive consumption or use of spearmint supplements may lead to certain side effects in some individuals.

Here are some potential side effects of spearmint:

Gastrointestinal Upset: Consuming large amounts of spearmint tea or supplements may cause gastrointestinal discomfort in some people. This may include symptoms such as stomach pain, bloating, gas, and diarrhea. If you experience gastrointestinal upset after consuming spearmint, reducing the amount consumed or discontinuing use may help alleviate symptoms.

Heartburn or Acid Reflux: Spearmint has a relaxing effect on the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which can lead to the reflux of stomach acid into the esophagus. In individuals prone to heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), consuming spearmint tea or supplements may exacerbate symptoms of acid reflux. If you have GERD or frequent heartburn, it’s advisable to limit your intake of spearmint.

Allergic Reactions: Some individuals may be allergic to spearmint or other members of the mint family (Lamiaceae). Allergic reactions to spearmint can range from mild skin irritation to more severe symptoms such as itching, swelling, hives or difficulty breathing. Inhalation can irritate the respiratory tract. Spearmint oil can cause irritation to the skin and eyes. Irritation in the eye can lead to damage to the cornea that is severe. Use of the oil may also cause skin irritation if not diluted in a carrier oil. Common reactions to the oil on skin are a cooling or burning sensation, and some users experience muscle pain.

Hormonal Effects: Spearmint contains compounds that may have hormonal effects, particularly in women. There is some evidence to suggest that spearmint tea may reduce testosterone levels in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which can help alleviate symptoms such as hirsutism (excess hair growth). However, excessive consumption of spearmint may lead to hormonal imbalances or other adverse effects in some individuals.

Drug Interactions: Spearmint supplements or extracts may interact with certain medications or affect their metabolism. For example, spearmint may interfere with the activity of cytochrome P450 enzymes in the liver, which could affect the metabolism of drugs metabolized by these enzymes. If you are taking medications, especially those with narrow therapeutic windows, consult with a healthcare professional before using spearmint supplements.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding: While spearmint is generally considered safe for consumption in moderate amounts, pregnant and breastfeeding women should exercise caution and consult with a healthcare professional before using spearmint supplements or consuming large amounts of spearmint tea. High doses of spearmint may have uterine-stimulating effects and could potentially affect hormone levels during pregnancy or lactation.

If you experience any adverse reactions after consuming spearmint, discontinue use and consult with a healthcare professional for further evaluation and guidance.

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