Spearmint (Mentha viridis or Mentha spicata) is a species of mint plant native to Europe and Asia that grows well in nearly all temperate climates. The name is derived from the plant's spear-like pointed leaf tips. It is an invasive species in the Great Lakes region of the United States.
Spearmint is grown for its aromatic and carminative essential oil, called oil of spearmint. Spearmint leaves can be used whole; chopped; dried; dried and ground; frozen; or preserved in salt, sugar, sugar syrup, alcohol, or oil.
Spearmint is an ingredient in several alcoholic drinks, such as the mojito and mint julep. Sweet tea, iced and flavored with spearmint, is a summer tradition in the southern United States. It is used as a flavoring for toothpaste and confectionery, and it is sometimes added to shampoos and soaps. The cultivar Mentha spicata 'Nana', the Nana mint of Morocco, possesses a clear and pungent, but mild, aroma and is an essential ingredient of Touareg tea.
Spearmint-based sprays have been used to control pests, such as weevils, mites, greenhouse whiteflies, sciarid flies, roundworms, and nematodes.
In folk medicine, spearmint has been used for gastrointestinal distress, respiratory problems, stomachache, dandruff, bad breath, and chronic bronchitis. It has also been used as a sedative, abortifacient, and menstruation stimulant (emmenagogue).
Some human research suggests that drinking spearmint tea may help reduce excessive hair growth (called hirsutism) in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Early evidence suggests that an herbal combination product containing spearmint may help treat irritable bowel syndrome. It is unclear if chewing spearmint-flavored gum improves memory; evidence is mixed.
At this time, high-quality human trials do not support the use of spearmint for any indication. Better-designed clinical trials are needed before conclusions can be made regarding taking this agent for any condition.
Spearmint, spearmint extract, and spearmint oil are listed on the FDA Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) list.
Caution is warranted, as spearmint has been found to dose-dependently cause liver and kidney damage. Allergic reactions to spearmint and spearmint oil have been reported.
Although it is commonly recommended that patients with gastrointestinal reflux disease avoid spearmint and peppermint, research in healthy individuals suggests that spearmint may not affect esophageal sphincter function and acid reflux.
Brook mint, bush mint, Clinopodium douglasii, curly leaf mint, English mint, garden mint, green mint, Kentucky colonel spearmint, Indian mint, lamb mint, Lamiaceae (family), menta verde, Mentha picata, Mentha spicata, Menthaspicata L. var. longifolia L., Menthaspicata L. var. spicata, mentha verde, Mentha veridis, Mentha viridis, menthe de Notre Dame, mint, Moroccan green mint, nana mint, our lady's mint, Ovcon®, pudina (India), sage of Bethlehem, Scotch spearmint, spear mint, spire mint, Touareg tea, yerba buena.
Combination product examples: Carmint (Melissa officinalis, Mentha spicata, and Coriandrum sativum); Zahraa (Alcea damascena, Aloysia triphylla, Astragalus cf. amalecitanus, Cercis siliquastrum, Colutea cilicica, Crataegus aronia, Cytisopsis pseudocytisus, Eleagnus angustifolia, Equisetum telmateia, Helichrysum stoechas, Matricaria recutita, Mentha longifolia, Mentha spicata, Micromeria myrtifolia, Paronychia argentea, Phlomis syriaca, Rosa damascena, Salvia fruticosa, Sambucus nigra, Spartium junceum, and Zea mays).
These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Hair growth (hirsutism)
Excessive hair growth (called hirsutism) is typically a sign of increased androgen levels and is a common symptom of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Early evidence suggests that spearmint tea may help reduce hirsutism in women with PCOS. More research is needed to confirm these findings.
Irritable bowel syndrome
The herbal remedy carmint (made from spearmint, lemon balm, and coriander extracts) plus loperamide or psyllium has shown promise as a treatment for irritable bowel syndrome. However, additional studies testing spearmint alone are needed.
It is unclear if chewing spearmint-flavored gum improves memory. Research results are conflicting.
Gastrointestinal reflux disease (acid reflux)
Patients with heartburn or gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD) are often discouraged from consuming mint-flavored products. It has been suggested that spearmint may impair muscles in the throat. However, in available human research, spearmint had no effect on lower esophageal sphincter function and acid reflux in healthy volunteers.