Spearmint has been valued since ancient times to promote digestion, heal wounds and relieve colds and congestion. When the lance-shaped, serrated leaves are crushed or boiled, they release carvone, a chemical similar to but milder than the menthol found in peppermint, a close relative. Modern herbalists suggest using spearmint externally for itching and inflammation, and internally for digestive ailments, colds and insomnia.
This perennial, fast-spreading plant, which has distinctive whorls of small white, pink or lilac flowers, is praised in an Egyptian papyrus deemed the world's oldest surviving medical text. Spearmint was used by the Greeks and Romans for ailments from hiccups to leprosy. Chinese and Ayurvedic (Hindu) physicians have used it for centuries to treat indigestion, colds, coughs and fever. Many herbalists prescribe spearmint and peppermint interchangeably as medicines, although the latter is considered more potent.
Taken internally for:
Taked internally and applied externally for:
Over the counter:
Available as capsules, prepared tea, fresh or dried leaves, tinctures and oil.
Tea: 1 to 2 tsp. dried herb or several fresh leaves per cup of water boiled, then steeped for 10 minutes.
Tincture: 1/4 to 1 tsp. added to an 8-oz. glass of water.
Herbal bath: A cloth bag filled with a few handfuls of dried or fresh spearmint leaves and added to running bathwater.