When we take a look at spearmint benefits we learn that many people only associate spearmint with the flavoring found in chewing gum. But spearmint has many benefits to offer to our health as well. Spearmint is in the same mint family as peppermint and other mints. Spearmint is different than peppermint in aroma, yet the actions of the constituents of the two oils are very similar. Let’s talk a little about where spearmint essential oil comes from, then we’ll look at the potential health benefits you can enjoy from using this sweet-smelling plant oil.
Where Does Spearmint Essential Oil Come From?
The botanical name for spearmint is Mentha spicata. The name comes from the spear-shaped leaves of the plant. It is native to Europe and Asian countries. It has been used in traditional medicine throughout history. It is a very prolific plant and will grow in sunny locations in your garden. If left unchecked though it can take over an area.
The essential oil of spearmint is extracted by steam distillation from the leaves and flowering tops. Spearmint essential oil is considered a food additive and is given GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) status by the US FDA.
Spearmint leaves when dried can be used to make tea. I use spearmint leaves fresh in iced tea. I let them steep in the pot before putting the tea into a pitcher and cooling it down in the refrigerator. It imparts a refreshing taste to the iced tea.
Spearmint essential oil is used in many commercial products. From chewing gum to bath products, spearmint essential oil is used in a variety of ways. It is the benefits of the essential oil that we are concerned with in this article.
Spearmint For Digestion
Spearmint contains a substance known as carvone. While this substance gives spearmint it’s sweet taste, it is also beneficial for digestion and calming the digestive tract. A study published in 2013 showed that carvone exhibits an antispasmodic effect in the intestines. Since spearmint is one of the few essential oils that can be taken by mouth in small quantities it can be used to calm spasms in the intestines. It is useful when you have an upset stomach or excessive gas in the digestive tract.
Spearmint benefits also include the ability to decrease nausea and vomiting. We all know how nausea and the vomiting that many times accompanies it makes us feel. This study published in 2013 looked at both spearmint and peppermint essential oils as a treatment for nausea and vomiting in chemotherapy patients. Both were effective in reducing the frequency of nausea and vomiting after chemotherapy. Next time you feel nauseous try adding 1 or 2 drops of spearmint essential oil to a glass of water or juice and drinking it.
As with many essential oils, spearmint essential oil has germ-fighting constituents that make it effective when used in products like mouthwash and toothpaste. I use it in my homemade mouthwash and the homemade tooth powder that I use daily. It kills bacteria in your mouth and leaves your mouth feeling fresh and clean. It can also kill some yeasts and viruses. It is also useful to apply to minor cuts and scrapes to prevent infection. Just be sure to mix it with a carrier oil and perform a patch test well before you attempt to use it on your skin. Some people can develop sensitivity so it’s best to do the patch test before you think you will need it. To perform a patch test simply mix a small amount of the oil with the carrier oil of your choice and place a small amount on the inside of the forearm. Leave this on for 24 hours. If there is no reaction you should be safe to use the oil topically at the recommended dilution.
Possible Sleep Aid
Spearmint has a natural calming effect that seems to help control anxiety and nervousness. It also may have sedative and hypnotic effects on some. This suggests that it may be useful for those with insomnia to help fall asleep. You could try diffusing spearmint essential oil next to your bed. However, since the calming effects of lavender are well known, I prefer to use it in the diffuser in my bedroom. Perhaps you may want to brew a cup of spearmint tea and consume it 30 minutes to 1 hour before bedtime and see if it helps.
Using spearmint essential oil may also have benefits for your memory. A study published in 2018 looked at the effects of an oral spearmint extract and its effect on memory in adults with age-associated memory impairment (AAMI). The study found that for older adults with AAMI spearmint extract was effective in improving memory vs. the placebo group. You may want to try spearmint essential oil and see it can improve your memory too.
Freshens the Air
One of my favorite uses for spearmint essential oil is to freshen the air. I add 5 drops to my diffuser and let the scent of spearmint permeate my home for a clean fresh scent that lasts. It will eliminate many odors and can also calm and relax you so that you can work or relax without anxiety.
While spearmint essential oil is generally considered safe it can interact with some drugs when taken in large quantities. Drugs that may affect the liver and cause damage should cause extra caution. Also, any supplements that put stress on the liver may have the effects increased if you use large amounts of spearmint. It should be avoided by women who are pregnant due to the possibility it could damage the lining of the uterus and cause a miscarriage. You should also avoid using it in large quantities if you are taking drugs that can affect or damage the kidneys.
While these precautions should be heeded, it should be noted that in the quantities most people will be using spearmint essential oil, the risk is low and spearmint is considered safe in those small quantities.