Spearmint is an herb most known for its refreshing flavor. Learn about the many medicinal and health boosting properties of spearmint as well!
By Sandi Schwartz, Contributing Writer
Spearmint is one of the most refreshing and soothing natural remedies available. From clearing our sinuses to easing an upset stomach to helping us relax, this herb offers so many wonderful ways to help our family feel better.
Spearmint herb (also called garden mint or common mint) is a branching perennial herb that grows in at least 20 different species. Originally from the Mediterranean region, it is now widely used across the world in a variety of ways including for cooking, massage oils, essential oils, and personal hygiene products.
The many active ingredients of the plant are found in the leaves where there is a high concentration of its scent and flavor. What makes spearmint so important to our health? It is filled with numerous vitamins, antioxidants, and phyto-nutrients.
It contains the cooling, soothing menthol that is so commonly known to calm us and relieve our discomfort. Unlike peppermint, spearmint leaves contain only a small amount of menthol–0.5% compared to 40% in peppermint.
It is also rich in minerals like potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, and magnesium. Additionally, it contains many antioxidant vitamins, including vitamin A, beta-carotene, vitamin C, folates, vitamin B-6, riboflavin, and thiamin.
How to Use Spearmint
You can use this herb in several creative ways. Add either whole, chopped, or ground leaves to flavored drinks, salads, sauces, dips, jellies and jams, baked goods, main courses, or as a garnish to recipes. It is probably most commonly enjoyed in tea. It is also an ingredient in personal hygiene products like toothpaste, mouthwash, soap, and body scrub.
You can purchase the leaves and stems either fresh or dried in the store. When you are shopping for spearmint, look for bright green leaves with a refreshing scent. Avoid wilted, yellow, and floral leaves.
Once at home, wash the leaves in clean running water, pat them dry with absorbent paper, and store in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator to keep it fresh. You can dry your own leaves by spreading them on a plastic sheet and allowing them to dry in a shady area. Then store the dried herb in an airtight container in cool place away from sunlight.
Medicinal Benefits of Spearmint
Spearmint is known for its many medicinal benefits. You can enjoy it in a variety of forms including teas, essential oils, or even chewing the leaves directly. Health benefits include:
Provides Antibacterial Protection
The first thing that typically comes to mind when we think of spearmint is fresh breath. However, it is not just used to keep our breath smelling good. The menthol in it acts like a natural antibacterial and antimicrobial element to protect our mouth and throat from infections.
Improves Respiratory Health
Spearmint tea can naturally soothe our respiratory system because of its anti-inflammatory qualities. It can help relieve sore throats and tightness in the chest, alleviating congestion and irritation. Spearmint’s powerful aroma can also clear our stuffed sinuses.
Manages Digestion Distress
This refreshing herb is also commonly used to soothe our digestion system, as it is known to relax stomach muscles. It can calm an upset stomach to reduce gastrointestinal issues like flatulence, nausea, cramping, or bloating. Those suffering from IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) find that drinking spearmint tea or chewing on spearmint leaves can ease their discomfort. Finally, this herb is commonly used to treat morning sickness during pregnancy.
Spearmint is used in creams and lotions to relieve itchy skin, dermatitis, and hives. The menthol in spearmint triggers the cold-sensitive receptors in the skin to naturally cool and heal skin exposed to sunburn or heat rash.
Reduces Stress and Anxiety
Menthol has a soothing, almost sedative effect on our body. Spearmint is used as an ingredient for massage oils to help relieve headaches, stress, anxiety, and fatigue. Experts recommend a cup of spearmint tea to ease our mind and reduce negative effects of chronic stress hormones on our body.
Maximizes Heart Health
The high potassium levels found in spearmint play a part in helping us to maintain a healthy blood pressure. Potassium relieves the stress on blood vessels and arteries, helping to prevent atherosclerosis, strokes, and heart attacks.
How To Grow It Yourself
If you prefer, you can easily grow spearmint yourself. Able to thrive all year long, spearmint is grown in a similar way that peppermint, basil, and oregano are grown. You can grow it in pots or in your garden. Spearmint does best in fertile, moist, and loose soil conditions. The plants can reach about 75 cm in height. In general, its leaves are harvested just before the flowering stage for culinary purposes; however, the whole plant can be gathered in full bloom to be used for essential oils.
Spearmint is safe for occasional use in children and is considered the child-friendly alternative to Peppermint. Also, it is safer for pregnant women than other options. However, some people can have an allergic reaction from touching or consuming mint herbs, so just be aware of this for both you and your children. It can cause a skin rash, throat irritation, headache, or dizziness. To avoid an allergic reaction while handling mint, try using protective gloves.