Spearmint is a pleasantly minty, yet mild, herb frequently used as a flavoring in toothpaste, gum, etc. It's also a hidden gem in the world of herbalism, though it sometimes gets overshadowed by the stronger personality of peppermint.
One of the easiest ways to get the health benefits of spearmint by making a refreshing tea. It's soothing for an upset stomach, calming for stress, and mildly pain-relieving.
Here's more about the benefits of spearmint, how to make a simple tea, and other ways to use this delightful herb.
All About Spearmint
Spearmint (Mentha spicata) follows closely behind peppermint as one of the most popular and well-known mints. In fact, it's one of the parent plants of peppermint (the other is water mint) and thought to be the oldest of all mints. (Rosemary Gladstar. Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner's Guide, pg. 203)
Though milder than peppermint, spearmint is still a powerful herb. It grows and spreads easily in the garden just like many other mints. You can recognize it most easily by the spear-shaped (pointed) leaves, which is where its name comes from.
Native to Southwest Asia and Europe, spearmint has spread itself around the world and is one of the easiest plants you can grow in your garden. If you do want to grow it for fresh leaves, consider keeping it in a pot so that it stays contained.
The main components of spearmint are powerful essential oils and trace nutrients. Anyone can enjoy its refreshing nature, but spearmint as a tea or glycerite has special benefits for children who may find peppermint too powerful for their liking.
Top Benefits of Spearmint Tea & Herb
Soothes Upset Stomachs
Spearmint is a gentle digestive aid, helping with upset stomach, nausea, and gas. It has an antispasmodic effect that calms muscles and cramping in your digestive tract. A small study also found that it can help with symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). (1)(2)
Minty essential oils have been found to ease general nausea and morning sickness without the need for consuming anything. Both spearmint and peppermint essential oil have been shown to decrease nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy. (3)
Combining spearmint with other herbs can make it more effective. For example, using it with ginger is even more calming for a nauseous stomach. For children, try using this Tummy Tonic with spearmint and other herbs for occasional upsets.
Calms Nerves and Restless Energy
One of the biggest benefits of spearmint tea is the calming effect it has. Herbalist Rosemary Gladstar recommends blending it with an equal amount of lemon balm to make a tea for hyperactive or anxious children. (Gladstar. Medicinal Herbs, pg. 204)
In animal studies, its ability to calm anxiety have been confirmed. Spearmint can also help trouble sleeping due to its relaxing properties and menthol content. Menthol has been shown to interact with GABA receptors in the brain to calm the nervous system. (4)(5)
Making a cup of spearmint tea before bedtime may be what you need to relax and fall asleep. It can also help with headaches caused by tension and stress. The essential oil can be a good aid against stress as well when diffused or applied topically.
Gently Boosts Energy
You might be wondering how spearmint can boost energy if it's supposed to be a calming herb. It's important to remember that herbs are not like drugs and don't have one specific action that happens all the time.
Spearmint is thought of as an amphoteric herb, meaning it moves and acts in the body according to what's needed. (Gladstar. Medicinal Herbs, pg. 204) It relaxes but also has a stimulating effect, depending on what your nervous system needs at the time.
The essential oil has a similar effect when applied to your skin. It's both warming and cooling, stimulating blood flow and also relaxing muscles. If you drink it as a tea, an iced spearmint infusion will be more refreshing and energizing than a warm tea.
Gives Your Brain a Mild Boost
Because it's gently stimulating and energizing, spearmint can give your brain power and focus a boost. Any type of mint is helpful for clearing your head due to the invigorating effects of menthol.
Interestingly, some newer studies indicate that mint may also improve memory and cognitive function. One study conducted with older adults who were given a spearmint extract for 90 days found that they had better sleep, mood, and cognitive performance than the placebo group. (6)
Mint isn't usually the first herb thought of for brain function, but there may be more benefits to drinking spearmint tea than we knew about!
May Ease Headaches and Pain
The are many herbs that can ease pain and inflammation. Spearmint is not the strongest pain-relieving herb, but menthol does have recognized analgesic properties. The antispasmodic nature of spearmint is also helpful for easing cramps, spasms, and tense muscles. (7)
Drinking a cup of minty tea can be very soothing for a headache, especially one related to indigestion or stress. You can also use spearmint oil topically to soothe a sunburn or relax muscle tension.
Freshener and Repellant
Spearmint also has a few uses in the home. The clean scent of mint makes it a great choice for freshening a room (or your breath). You can simply diffuse spearmint essential oil to freshen the air or make a cleaning spray with white vinegar, water, and some essential oil drops.
Mints can also help to repel certain insects including ants, flies, and fleas. Combine the fresh herb with other strong repellents like wormwood and thyme to make sachets. Or you can try diluting and spraying the essential oil at entry points to your home.
Simple Spearmint Tea + Other Ways to Use
Making a cup of spearmint tea is easy to do:
- Put 1-3 teaspoons of dried spearmint (or double that amount fresh) into a mug or glass jar.
- Add 8-10 ounces of hot water and cover your container with a cloth or towel.
- Let it steep covered for at least 10-15 minutes or longer for a stronger infusion.
- Strain the herbs out and sweeten if desired before enjoying.
- Feel free to combine other herbs with spearmint to make a delicious combination. Lemon balm, chamomile, rose petals, cinnamon, and ginger all go well with spearmint.
If you want to use spearmint for your children and they don't like drinking tea, it can also be made into a sweet syrup or glycerite. The essential oil can be diffused or applied topically as needed. Just dilute it with a carrier oil before using on your skin.
Spearmint is well tolerated by most people and safe for children as well. It rarely has adverse effects, but an allergic reaction is always possible. If you experience any negative reactions or upset stomach, stop taking spearmint.
Peppermint may reduce breastmilk production if you are nursing. Spearmint isn't known to have this effect, but you may want to avoid taking it in large amounts if you notice your milk supply is decreasing.
The Wonderful Benefits of Spearmint Herb & Tea
Spearmint is sometimes overlooked in the herbal world, but you don't want to make this mistake! It's a very gentle herb that still has many powerful health benefits.
Consider having a cup of spearmint tea the next time you have an upset stomach or feel stressed, and you'll likely feel refreshed and relaxed afterwards!