Spearmint is a relative to well-known peppermint, but has a sweeter flavor. An easy to grow herb, it’s common in North and South America, Europe, Asia and Africa. It can be used medicinally, topically in creams, as a flavoring for gum and toothpaste; when cooking; and as a refreshing tea.
Sweet, subtle and minty, spearmint was described by 17th Century botanist John Gerarde as having a “smelle rejoyceth the heart of man.” What a welcome addition to any tea cup!
Benefits of Spearmint Tea
Spearmint tea is often touted as a cure-all for headaches, nausea, indigestion, insomnia and tension. Some of these purported benefits have not been clinically studied, but are based on the wisdom of traditional medicine. For example, Ancient Greeks and Romans used mint leaves to relieve pain and to alleviate indigestion and that tradition has carried on through time. Spearmint’s close cousin peppermint is often used to treat indigestion as well.
1. Spearmint tea eases arthritis-related pain.
A recent study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food investigated whether drinking spearmint tea is helpful for people with knee osteoarthritis. The study used specially-bred spearmint that was very high in rosmarinic acid (13% vs. the usual 0.5%) and results showed that people sipping this tea had less pain and an increased quality of life compared to those sipping regular spearmint tea. The specially-gown tea is not commercially available yet, but the study also showed that even drinking regular spearmint tea had some beneficial effects on osteoarthritis, including reduced stiffness.
2. Spearmint tea is helpful if you have seasonal allergies.
The rosmarinic acid in spearmint tea has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Rosmarinic acid may also be helpful if you have seasonal allergies. Studies suggest it suppresses the response to pollen and reduces nasal congestion. Antioxidant levels are often lower in those with asthma and several studies have associated low intake of antioxidant foods with worsening of asthma symptoms. In contrast, diets rich in antioxidants are associated with improved respiratory function and lower prevalence of asthma.
How to Make the Perfect Cup of Spearmint Tea
You can buy dried spearmint tea in two ways: loose leaf or in tea bags. You can also find fresh spearmint leaves at the grocery store, farmer’s market or garden center, and make your own fresh spearmint tea at home. It only requires two ingredients — spearmint and hot water. Spearmint tea can be served hot or cold.
Preparing Dried Spearmint Tea
Steep 1 teaspoon of tea leaves (or one tea bag) for every 8 ounce cup of tea. Pour boiling water over the leaves and allow them to steep 5-10 minutes, depending how strong you like it. Serve hot, or allow to cool and serve over ice.
Preparing Fresh Spearmint Tea
Wash and tear the spearmint leaves. In a French press or teapot with a strainer, add 1 tablespoon of leaves for every 8 ounce cup of water and pour boiling water over them. Steep 5-10 minutes, depending on how strong you like it. Using a spoon, gently bruise the spearmint leaves to release the oils, then remove the strainer while pressing on the leaves to extract as much liquid as possible. For a gentler tea, you can leave the mint leaves intact on the stem rather than tearing them, and can brew the whole stem/leaves in a mug or cup. You can also try Moroccan mint tea, which is a combination of spearmint and green tea leaves, and usually a hint of sugar.
Editor’s note: Spearmint tea is safe when eaten or sipped in the amount normally found in food and beverages. It can increase kidney damage and liver damage if consumed in large amounts.