Minty, cooling, and refreshingly sweet, spearmint has been used for centuries to freshen breath and liven up our favorite foods and beverages. (Mojito, anyone?)
Besides keeping your breath smelling clean and fresh, this aromatic herb offers some surprising health benefits — from aiding digestion to soothing aches and pains to supporting seasonal immunity — that make it well worth adding to your diet. So grab a cup of spearmint tea and read on to learn about the many ways this leafy green wonder supports your overall wellness!
Spearmint, or Mentha spicata, is a member of the Lamiaceae family — a culinary herb in the same plant family as basil, oregano, and rosemary. It’s similar to peppermint (Mentha piperita) in taste; however, spearmint contains a fraction of the menthol that gives peppermint its “pepper,” making it much more pleasant to chew raw or sip as a tea. A hardy, flowering plant, spearmint (so named for its spear-like leaves) is a staple of backyard gardens everywhere. But do you know why it works so well in so many ways?
Thanks to its antimicrobial properties and minty flavor, spearmint is perhaps best known for its ability to banish bad breath. But it has been renowned for its broader healing properties since the days of the Persian Empire. Mentha spicata is used in traditional medicine to aid digestion and help manage symptoms of stomach upset, such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, and gas. It’s also used as a traditional remedy for sinus headaches, cold and flu symptoms, hormonal imbalances, and even controlling dandruff.1
Spearmint is packed with antioxidants, phenolic acids, flavonoids, and essential volatile oils – phytochemicals that have been shown to benefit health in a number of ways. Rosmarinic, caffeic, and chlorogenic acids are examples of the phenolic compounds found in spearmint that may relieve upset stomach, nausea, and intestinal gas or cramping.2 Spearmint is also considered a carminative herb that helps expel gas, while its cooling, soothing actions can ease digestion. Try a mug of spearmint tea after heavy meals and see if this traditional remedy can lessen your discomfort.
Spearmint’s antioxidant activities help fight the adverse effects of free radicals and protect your immune cells from oxidative stress. This can allow your immune system to function more effectively, ultimately supporting healthy inflammatory balance throughout the body.3 Additionally, research suggests that spearmint may counter unwanted microbes, reducing the burden on your immune cells.4 And regularly sipping spearmint tea may also help ward off colds and flu this season – something it’s been used for historically.
The fresh, minty fragrance and flavor of spearmint make it a top choice for improving bad breath AKA halitosis. Chewing on spearmint leaves or spearmint gum can act on unfavorable oral bacteria that contribute to halitosis.
Balm for Aches
Research indicates spearmint may ease the aches that come with age or an injury.5 This effect of Mentha spicata could be related to the main components of spearmint essential oil, such as carvone, limonene, and menthol, which may act on peripheral nerves. Many may be familiar with that cooling, soothing effect of a topical muscle lotion or salve, which often contains menthol or spearmint extracts.
Easy to Enjoy
One of the easiest ways to incorporate spearmint into your diet is by drinking it as an herbal tea. Add fresh or dried leaves to hot water and steep for 5 minutes. You can also add fresh spearmint to homemade salad dressings, beverages like mocktails or smoothies, and even dishes like stewed meats and roasted vegetables. With so many health benefits, spearmint is an easy mint to enjoy.