Spearmint: It Leaves Us in Wonder-Mint
For many of us, our knowledge of Spearmint extends, at best, to a polarizing flavor of Wrigley’s chewing gum; either you can’t get enough of that mild, minty flavor, or you avoid it passionately, opting instead for Peppermint, Big Red, or Juicy Fruit.
In today’s blog post, we’d like to expand your knowledge of this powerful and underappreciated herb beyond breath-freshening mastication. We’ll discuss Spearmint’s history in traditional cultures, and its potential uses today…and maybe we’ll even convert some of those Spearmint haters.
History & Background
Spearmint is an herb native to Europe and Asia that has been “naturalized” in North America and parts of Africa.1 Many cultures throughout the world have used Spearmint as both medicine and food for thousands of years. Perhaps the most notable appreciation for Spearmint can be seen in the Middle East, where many cultures have an affinity for the herb, and its inclusion in their cuisines has produced some of the world’s most tantalizing and healthful recipes. These include the famous Moroccan Mint Tea made with green tea and Spearmint leaves, Tabbouleh salads which feature a variety of herbs, one of which is usually Spearmint, and many other foods and beverages.
Traditional medicinal applications for Spearmint include the treatment of gastrointestinal upsets, flatulence, respiratory problems, bad breath, sleeplessness, and muscle spasms.2 Recent chemical analyses of the herb support many of these uses by finding that Spearmint may indeed have antibacterial, antifungal, and antioxidant effects, as well as possibly having liver-protective, blood-sugar regulating, and hormone-regulating effects.2 Wow, save some super powers for the other plants, Spearmint! Spearmint can do these amazing things because it is high in phenolic compounds, flavonoids, and lignans, which are classes of phytonutrients that have been shown to have hugely beneficial effects on human health.2
Today, this ubiquitous herb is used to make candies, breath mints, teas, syrups, flavoring additives, and of course, supplements. But, considering the very promising research into what this herb may be able to do in and for the human body, its modern uses could be much broader in the near future.
Why We Chose to Add it to Our Selection
In preparation for the upcoming launch of our new Spearmint supplement here at Wholesome Story, we’d like to share with you the reasons that piqued our interest in Spearmint and why we chose to add it to our selection of herbal supplements. So, let’s dive in!
- Possibly supports healthy androgen and testosterone levels in certain women.
This is an exciting possibility for a number of reasons, not least of which include healthier reproductive abilities and normal-pattern hair growth, since both of these things are closely tied to healthy androgen and testosterone levels.3 Preliminary studies have shown that Spearmint holds promise for helping certain women to produce healthy, normal levels of these hormones, which can help to keep a lot of other bodily processes healthy as well. After all, hormones are kind of the body’s bosses/supervisors, so keeping them in line is extremely important for good health.
Don’t take this the wrong way, we’re not saying that Spearmint can for sure fix your hormones or give you normal-pattern hair growth, we’re just saying that preliminary research in this area is looking bright. And, since Spearmint is a healthy, supportive herb that’s appropriate for almost everyone, there’s no harm in trying it to see what positive effects it could have on your hormonal health. Even if it doesn’t affect you in the way that you hope, it will at least provide you with some antioxidants and phytochemicals that your body will thank you for.
- Possibly supports healthy weight management.
To be clear, Spearmint is not a weight-loss herb. If that were definitively true, then Moroccan Mint Tea would be hugely popular everywhere! But, researchers have discovered that Spearmint possibly supports certain processes in the body that can lead to better weight management.4
You see, Spearmint is incredibly high in a phytochemical called carvone, which was found in one study to inhibit lipase secretions from the pancreas.4 English, please. The carvone in Spearmint may limit the amount of fat that your body absorbs from your foods. Again, we’re not saying that if you drink Spearmint tea with your dinner, you’ll be able to eat all the fat you want without absorbing it; your body will still absorb most of what you eat, but it might absorb a little less of it. At the very least, a warm cup of Spearmint tea will likely soothe your digestion and help you to feel better after a large meal.
- Possibly supports healthy immune function.
This potential benefit hardly comes as a surprise, since we associate better health with high-nutrient foods and herbs anyway, but we wanted to talk a bit about it. You see, the benefits Spearmint may give the immune system come from its potential ability to take a little work off the immune system’s plate, so to speak. Some of the plant compounds found in Spearmint have been shown in lab settings to be cytotoxic to certain foodborne, pathogenic bacteria and fungi.4 In other words, Spearmint might be able to help the immune system by killing toxic bacteria and mold in the digestive system before they can become a problem in other parts of the body. So cool right?
Disclaimer: Spearmint is not an antibiotic or an antifungal and should not replace proper care from medical professionals if you are dealing with an infection of any kind.
- Possibly supports cognitive abilities in certain populations.
If that’s not a vague statement, then what is right? Let us explain what this means. A recent study showed that daily supplementation with 900 mg of Spearmint extract improved working memory, ability to fall asleep, mood, and vigor in adults with age-related memory impairment, and another study showed that the same supplement improved the cognitive performance of younger, more active adults.5-6 While it’s important to remember that these are just two small studies and that much more research needs to be conducted to either confirm or refute these findings, the possibility of this kind of mental/cognitive support from something as benign as Spearmint is certainly exciting.
- Possibly soothes gastrointestinal spasms.
This is undoubtedly the least surprising and least controversial potential benefit of Spearmint. People have been using different species of mint, including Spearmint, to soothe digestive woes for as long as history goes back.
But how does it actually work?
As mentioned previously, Spearmint is exceptionally high in a natural chemical called carvone, and it appears that this may be the mechanism by which mint soothes gastrointestinal (GI) upsets. Researchers believe that carvone calms the muscles of the digestive tract and reduces spasming.7 Surprisingly though, the effects of Spearmint on the GI system aren’t well studied, so this benefit remains one that we cannot fully claim. Since Spearmint is so safe though, give it a try and see what it can do to soothe your tummy!*
So, Spearmint is safe for most people, it’s high in antioxidants, and it has a lot of really wonderful potential health benefits including hormone regulation, weight management, immune support, improved cognitive function, and GI relief. What’s not to love?
In parting, remember that eating healthy, whole foods, and lots of plants foods, is one of the simplest, safest, and most effective things we can do to promote good health in our bodies. As with every preventative/restorative measure though, sometimes these changes alone are not enough to help our bodies function the way we want or need them to. If you are struggling with health problems, please contact your doctor or other healthcare provider such a Naturopathic Doctor, Dietitian, or Mental Health Professional to see if they can offer appropriate guidance and care. We at Wholesome Story believe that healthy communities require community effort, so we advise you to keep your healthcare community aware and involved in your journey as you pursue better health.
*The purported safety of Spearmint only extends insofar as it is used in appropriate amounts such as those which would be found in foods, or manufacturer/physician-recommended supplemental amounts.
- The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. Spearmint. Encyclopædia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/plant/spearmint. Published May 2022. Accessed July 27, 2022.
- LU; MGVSKR. The traditional uses, phytochemistry and pharmacology of Spearmint (mentha spicata L.): A Review. Journal of ethnopharmacology. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34087400/. Published October 2021. Accessed July 27, 2022.
- P; G. Spearmint herbal tea has significant anti-androgen effects in polycystic ovarian syndrome. A randomized controlled trial. Phytotherapy research: PTR. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19585478/. Published 2009. Accessed December 31, 2021.
- Ali-Shtayeh MS, Jamous RM, Abu-Zaitoun SY, Khasati AI, Kalbouneh SR. Biological properties and bioactive components of mentha spicata essential oil: Focus on potential benefits in the treatment of obesity, alzheimer's disease, dermatophytosis, and drug-resistant infections. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6854165/. Published October 20, 2019. Accessed December 31, 2021.
- Herrlinger KA;Nieman KM;Sanoshy KD;Fonseca BA;Lasrado JA;Schild AL;Maki KC;Wesnes KA;Ceddia MA; Spearmint extract improves working memory in men and women with age-associated memory impairment. Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.). https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29314866/. Published January 2018. Accessed December 31, 2021.
- Falcone PH, Nieman KM, Tribby AC, et al. The attention-enhancing effects of spearmint extract supplementation in healthy men and women: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel trial. Nutrition Research. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0271531718308431?via%3Dihub. Published December 7, 2018. Accessed December 31, 2021.
- Souza FVM, Rocha MBda, Souza DPde, Marçal RM. (−)-carvone: Antispasmodic effect and mode of action. Fitoterapia. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0367326X12002882#:~:text=Carvone%20intestinal%20antispasmodic%20activity%20indicated,more%20suitable%20for%20therapeutic%20purposes. Published October 24, 2012. Accessed December 31, 2021. (GI)