Spearmint Essential Oil: History, Health Benefits and More
Whether it’s your favorite gum or toothpaste flavor, spearmint is well-known for its refreshing taste and smell.
But aside from a minty taste and aroma, this essential oil contains a wide variety of uses and benefits – and has made quite a name for itself in the wellness world.
With the ability to reduce inflammation and fight bacteria, spearmint is a common ingredient in medicinal products. It can be inhaled or applied topically to treat headaches, mouth soreness, nerve pain and more. It’s also used for culinary purpose - a common addition to sauces, soups, salads, teas and other beverages.
The History of Spearmint
Can you guess how spearmint got its name? It’s spear-shaped leaves! Native to Europe and Asia, spearmint (Mentha spicata) is a perennial plant.
There’s a fascinating ancient myth that explains the origin of spearmint. The name Mentha comes from the story of Persephone, a goddess who was envious of Minthe, a nymph who captured Pluto's heart. In a jealous rage, Persephone turned her into a plant. Pluto was unsuccessful in saving his sweetheart Minthe, but said her beautiful fragrance would live on, growing stronger with time. This explains spearmint’s potent scent.
In the 1500s, mints were strewing herbs, used for their scent and ability to repel rodents. For this reason, they were popular in storage sacks.
Dating back to the American Revolution, mint tea became extremely popular since tea was not taxed. Spearmint was considered an essential cash crop at the time. Today it remains one of the most popular tea flavors.
5 Health Benefits of Spearmint
- High in antioxidants
Mint leaves, peppermint and spearmint, have the unique ability to protect our cells from harmful toxins and environmental stressors. Specifically, spearmint is filled with flavanones menthol and rosmarinic acid – two powerful antioxidants.
Research confirms spearmint can help prevent and fight free radical damage. Free radicals are linked to oxidative stress, which can lead to heart disease, diabetes and cancer. In one study, spearmint extract helped block fat oxidation in meat, acting as a synthetic antioxidant, butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT).
- Supports digestive health
One of the most popular uses of this essential oil is alleviating upset stomach symptoms. These include bloating, indigestion, and nausea.
Spearmint contains the compound (-)-carvone, which is proven to help prevent muscle contractions in the digestive tract. which may explain how this herb helps relieve digestive upsets.
In one study of people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), the participants who were given spearmint supplement experienced less stomach pain, bloating and discomfort. In another study, spearmint essential oil that was applied to the skin reduced incidents of nausea and vomiting.
- Fights bacteria
Along with the refreshing taste, the antibacterial properties of spearmint make it a common ingredient in oral health products. It helps get rid of germs and keeps our mouths looking and feeling clean.
Spearmint not only freshens your breath, it attacks the source of the problem. Along with being an antibacterial, this essential oil is also an antimicrobial. In other words, it can stop the spread of bacteria, virus and fungi.
- Boosts memory
If you’re having trouble remembering and retaining information, studies confirm spearmint can help in the memory department.
Researchers found chewing mint-flavored gum can have a positive impact on memory.
Another study proved spearmint’s effectiveness with older adults experiencing cognitive decline and memory issues. After taking spearmint supplements, they reported a 15% improvement in memory.
- Relaxes the mind and body
The sedative effects of spearmint can help with reducing stress and insomnia.
How exactly does spearmint calm our overanxious brain? By stimulating GABA receptors found in the menthol. These neurotransmitters trigger a relaxation response - basically telling the brain and nervous system to chill out.
So, the next time you’re tossing and turning at night, make yourself a soothing cup of spearmint tea.
What’s your favorite way to enjoy spearmint? Toothpaste? Beverage? Lip balm? Share your thoughts in the comments below!