The aromatic fragrance of spearmint is immediately recognized for its crispness, and it is used to flavor food, popular drinks like iced tea, alcoholic beverages and candy. Its aroma is often associated with cleanliness, making it popular for use in mouthwash, shaving creams, soaps and shampoos. Its properties appeal to humans, and its repellent qualities are noxious to insects.
The spearmint (Mentha spicata) plant is native to Europe, but it grows well in most temperate climates. Its common name is related to the pointed shape of its leaves that resemble a spear.
The main active ingredients in spearmint are Mint L-carvone and limonene. The leaves are the parts of the plant that are used for their essential oils that contain menthol and flavonoids.
Spearmint is very closely related to peppermint with regard to its active ingredients and ways in which it is used for health benefits.
Medicinal uses of both mint preparations aid in digestion and to reduce flatulence.
Spearmint is used for relief of nausea, cold symptoms, stomach distress, headaches and indigestion.
Spearmint oil and leaves are used in the preparation of medicines. Digestive disorders such as indigestion and diarrhea are sometimes relieved by spearmint, along other maladies that include irritable bowel syndrome and gall bladder problems. Use in relieving sore throats, toothaches and headaches is common, and some people find relief by using spearmint as a local pain killer or as an antispasmodic medication for cramps.
Excessive Hair Growth in Women
Experiments in modifying the amount of androgen levels in women who have an excessive amount of hair is reported by the USNLM at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17310494. Researchers in Turkey conducted controlled experiments on 21 hirsuit female patients by applying findings from previous tests on laboratory rats. The women drank Spearmint tea twice a day for five days as part of a specially designed program of treatment. The results showed that spearmint has potential as an alternative to other forms of antiandrogenic treatment when hirsuitism is in a mild form. The report indicates that further testing is required to validate the results of the study prior to recommending spearmint as a drug to reduce the incidence of hirsuitism (excessive hair growth in women).
Spearmint oil can cause irritation to the skin and eyes. Irritation in the eye can lead to damage to the cornea that is severe. Inhalation can irritate the respiratory tract, and ingestion of spearmint oil can lead to irritation in the gastrointestinal tract. Use of the oil may cause skin irritation as well as more significant outcomes. Common reactions to the oil on skin are a cooling or burning sensation, and some users experience muscle pain.