Spearmint is a perennial plant with hairy, spear-shaped leaves and stems, a fleshy underground rhizome, and flowers that are either white or pink. This species of mint is native to the Middle East, China, and the Himalayas but are now widely cultivated with plenty of different hybrids. Spearmint is popular for its pungent and cool scent, and aside from the numerous health benefits that can be derived from it, this herb has also been utilized for plenty of uses in many industries such as food and beverage, personal care products, and agriculture.
History of Spearmint
The history of spearmint can be traced back to the Greek mythology, when Persephone caught his husband Hades, the god of the underworld, about to seduce a nymph named Minthe. In her rage, she transformed the nymph into a lowly mint plant who was meant to be stepped upon and trampled by the people. Hades saw this and felt pity for the plant, so he bestowed upon it a pleasant scent to let the people remember Minthe’s beauty every time the plant was trampled.
In biblical history, spearmint was also of great value to the Pharisees. It was used as a tithe (a tenth of the annual produce or earnings given as a tax payment) along with cumin and anise, as stated in the book of Matthew, chapter 23, verse 23. The herbalist Nicholas Culpeper suggested during the 16th century that mint should not be given to a wounded man as it will prevent the wound from healing properly. However, it is now known that the opposite of his statement is actually true. Culpeper also used spearmint to treat 40 other illnesses during his time.
Today, spearmint is a popular flavoring for confectioneries (gums and candies) and oral hygiene products (toothpaste and mouthwashes). It is also a chief component in herbal soaps and shampoos that target dandruff and fungi. Its essential oil is used in aromatherapy and in agriculture as an insecticide against moths.
Spearmint Nutrition Facts
For every 28 grams (1 ounce) of fresh spearmint leaves, you will get the following nutrients:
- 3 Calories (1% Daily Value)
- 1.7 From Fat
- 2.2 From Protein
- 4 grams Total Carbohydrates (1% Daily Value)
- grams Dietary Fiber (8% Daily Value)
- 2 grams Total Fat (0% Daily Value)
- 0.1 grams Saturated Fat (0% Daily Value)
- 0.0 grams Monounsaturated Fat
- 0.1 grams Polyunsaturated Fat
- 94.6 milligrams Total Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- 15.1 milligrams Total Omega-6 Fatty Acids
- 9 grams Protein (2% Daily Value)
- 1135 IU Vitamin A (23% Daily Value)
- 7 milligrams Vitamin C (6% Daily Value)
- 0 milligrams Thiamin (1% Daily Value)
- 0 milligrams Riboflavin (3% Daily Value)
- 3 milligrams Niacin (1% Daily Value)
- 0 milligrams Vitamin B6 (2% Daily Value)
- 4 micrograms Folate (7% Daily Value)
- 0 micrograms Vitamin B12 (0% Daily Value)
- 1 milligrams Pantothenic Acid (1% Daily Value)
- 7 milligrams Calcium (6% Daily Value)
- 3 milligrams Iron (18% Daily Value)
- 6 milligrams Magnesium (4% Daily Value)
- 8 milligrams Phosphorous (2% Daily Value)
- 128 milligrams Potassium (4% Daily Value)
- 4 milligrams Sodium (0% Daily Value)
- 3 milligrams Zinc (2% Daily Value)
- 1 milligrams Copper (3% Daily Value)
- 8 milligrams Phytosterols
- 0 grams Water
Top 10 Health Benefits of Spearmint
Kills infectious bacteria
Menthol, the volatile compound that is responsible for the coolness of spearmint, possesses antibacterial properties that kill harmful microbes such as Staphylococcus aureus and coli. It also freshens the breath while disinfecting the mouth, which is why spearmint is the main ingredient in toothpaste and mouthwash.
Treats fungal infections
Aside from its antibacterial benefits, menthol also treats fungal infections by inhibiting the growth of yeast-like and filamentous fungi. Applying spearmint oil on the affected area will treat the infection and prevent it from recurring.
Relieves stress and anxiety
The coolness of menthol provides a calming, soothing effect that relaxes the tensed muscles all over the body. Drinking spearmint tea can help relieve stress and anxiety while inducing a restful sleep.
Improves the baby’s neurodevelopment
Omega-3 fatty acids cannot be synthesized within our body so it must be obtained through the food we eat. Aside from seafood, spearmint is also a source of Omega-3 fatty acids that are critical building blocks of a baby’s brain and retina. It also prevents depressive symptoms for pregnant women during their pregnancy and postpartum.
Spearmint is an excellent source of potassium – an ounce of fresh spearmint leaves contain 128 milligrams of this essential mineral. Potassium prevents the lack of oxygen flow to the brain that leads to stroke by ensuring that the cerebral arteries are unobstructed.
Maintains optimal iron levels
This herb is also a rich source of iron which is an important mineral needed by the body to produce red blood cells. Optimal iron levels increase blood circulation, speeds up wound healing, boosts energy levels, and prevents iron deficiency diseases like anemia.
Eases digestive disorders
Gastrointestinal disorders, such as constipation, bloating, abdominal pain, and diarrhea can be eased by drinking spearmint tea. The healing properties and the cooling effect of menthol provide fast relief of digestive problems.
Relieves respiratory illnesses
Colds and cough can become an ordeal especially if the nasal airways are congested or if phlegm is present. Spearmint tea is an excellent remedy for these kinds of respiratory illnesses since the menthol provides relief by triggering the cold receptors in the airways.
Repairs the skin
Limonene, another compound found in spearmint, has shown anti-inflammatory and wound-healing properties to the skin. It hastens the tissue-repair process of the skin while fighting microbes that can infect the wound.
Fortifies the bones and teeth
This herb is a good source of calcium, a mineral that is needed in the formation of strong bones and teeth. It also plays a role in vascular contraction, muscle function, nerve transmission, and hormonal secretion.
Potential Side Effects of Spearmint
- Spearmint leaves and spearmint oil are safe when consumed in amounts that are normally used in food. It is also safe when taken orally or applied topically as a medicine.
- For pregnant women, avoid consuming spearmint excessively as it can damage the uterus. There is insufficient information regarding the safety of spearmint for breastfeeding women. Consult your physician before attempting to consume it in large amounts.
- For people with kidney disorders, avoid drinking spearmint tea since it can worsen the disorder.
- For people with liver disease, avoid drinking spearmint tea as it can increase the damage to the organ.
Spearmint Fun Facts
- The name ‘spearmint’ was derived from the words ‘speremynte’ during the 16th The words are used to describe its spear-shaped leaves and to distinguish it from other mint plants.
- The Mexicans call spearmint Yerba Bueno which means ‘good herb’.
- In ancient Athens, spearmint was used to give the body a pleasant scent but was often applied to the underarms as a deodorant.
- During the Middle Ages, the people used spearmint to remove the stinky odors on the floors and were used to mask the strong odor of tobacco later on.
- The ancient Hebrews also scattered spearmint on synagogue floors to give it a pleasant scent.
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