Spearmint, which has the generic name mentha spicata and is also known as garden mint and common mint, is a species of mint that is native to Asia and Europe. It is cultivated for culinary use and is often added to cocktails (such as mint julep), used as a flavouring (after being extracted into spearmint oil), or turned into a tea.
In this guide, we’ll focus on the health benefits of spearmint and the reasons why you might want to consume this particular herbal tea.
Health Benefits of Spearmint Tea
Spearmint possesses a number of compounds that could provide some health benefits. These compounds are at their most potent in spearmint oil and other extractions, but they are still present in the whole leaf, which means you’ll still consume them if you drink spearmint tea.
1. Helps with Digestive Issues (Including IBS)
Spearmint, like peppermint, relaxes the sphincters in the digestive tract and reduces the pain and discomfort of contractions. If you’re suffering from indigestion, diarrhoea, or inflammatory conditions like IBS, then it could help to relieve the symptoms. One study found that spearmint was particularly effective when used alongside lemon balm, a herb you can read more about here, and either psyllium husk (a bulk-forming fibre sold as FyboGel in the UK) or Loperamide (used to treat diarrhoea and sold as Imodium), suggesting that it could be a useful complementary therapy in the treatment of digestive issues.
However, the opposite is true for anyone suffering from acid reflux disease. In this case, the effects of spearmint can lead to increased acid flow from the stomach to the oesophagus, causing more heartburn and more prolonged issues.
2. May Reduce Male Hormones in Women
Spearmint tea is becoming increasingly popular for its apparent ability to reduce body hair growth in women. One of the most commonly cited studies for this apparent health benefit took a small group of women with hirsutism, a condition where “excessive” amounts of hair grows all over the body, and gave them two cups of spearmint tea a day.
Despite the relatively small dose, researchers noted a decrease in levels of free testosterone and an increase in estradiol, suggesting that it could be used to treat mild cases of hirsutism.
This study seems to have led to a surge in consumption, and it’s said to be a popular remedy throughout the Middle East. But while the results are promising and could lead to further research and a complementary therapy, no definitive connections have been made between spearmint tea consumption and actual reduced hair growth.
3. May Reduce Risk of Chronic Disease
Spearmint, like the majority of teas we have covered here on Shelgo Tea (with the exception of super-sweet bubble tea) is healthy and loaded with antioxidants. When consumed as part of a healthy diet and in their natural form, these can help reduce the risk of chronic disease, fighting free radicals that could lead to the development of many cancers, among other things.
We stress “natural form” because the opposite seems to be true for isolated antioxidants consumed in supplement form, as best evidenced by green tea, which is incredibly healthy on its own, but in rare cases can lead to liver toxicity when consumed as an extract. (1) It’s a similar story with vitamins—plenty of research shows they are heathy in their natural form, but unless you’re deficient, the same can’t be said for synthetic supplements.
4. Can Fight Bacteria
Spearmint doesn’t just make your breath fresh; it also kills bacteria, and this double whammy is the reason spearmint oil is added to chewing gum, mouthwash, and toothpaste. It’s debatable whether you would get the same benefits from drinking a cup of spearmint tea, but those antibacterial compounds are still there, and providing you don’t load your tea with sugar or honey, then it wouldn’t be an unreasonable suggestion.
Those antibacterial compounds are very potent as well, with lab tests showing they are effective against many common types of bacteria, including e.coli.
Other Benefits of Spearmint Tea
Many other purported benefits of this herb include a reduction in anxiety and restlessness. One study found it could actually reduce anxiety levels in rats during an Elevated Plus-Maze test (a test used to determine the efficiency of anti-anxiety and sedative drugs) and also noted that it was consumed for this reason in parts of Colombia.
It could also impact stress levels, although the exact method of action is not known. Menthol is thought to produce such interactions, as noted in our guide to peppermint, but there isn’t a lot of menthol in spearmint. It may also reduce inflammation, which in turn means it could be used for the treatment of chronic inflammatory diseases like arthritis.
The research behind these claims varies. As far as we can tell, no extensive, conclusive human studies on its effects on anxiety have been completed, and while there have been some promising studies on joint pain and stiffness, it doesn’t come close to other herbal remedies like nettle.
Still, there are plenty of other health benefits, as discussed above, and when you combine this with the fact that spearmint is well tolerated and widely available, it’s very promising.
Side Effects of Spearmint
Spearmint, like all herbs, should be consumed in moderation. If taken to excess, it can lead to some unpleasant side effects, although in most cases you would really need to overdo it to experience these. Some research has suggested that excessive consumption can worsen kidney disease and liver disease, so you should avoid it altogether if you have any of these issues.
It should not be consumed to excess during pregnancy, and if you are allergic to spearmint or any plants related to mint (there are a lot of them, including herbs like oregano) you should also avoid it.
Where to Buy Spearmint Tea
We don’t sell this tea here on Shelgo Tea, and it likely won’t be featured in our range in the future, but it is widely available. You’ll find it much easier to get hold of peppermint tea, but spearmint tea is still sold by many reputable brands. We would recommend buying it in loose-leaf form if you can, but providing they use a good-quality product and teabag, it should be fine in a teabag. This is not like green or black tea, and buying spearmint in a teabag won’t necessarily mean that you’re getting the lowest possible quality “dust” tea.