Description : It is a herbaceous, rhizomatous, perennial plant growing 30–100 cm tall, with variably hairless to hairy stems and foliage, and a wide-spreading fleshy underground rhizome. The leaves are 5–9 cm long and 1.5–3 cm broad, with a serrated margin. The stem is square-shaped, a trademark of the mint family of herbs. Spearmint produces flowers in slender spikes, each flower pink or white, 2.5–3 mm long, and broad.
Hybrids involving spearmint include Mentha × piperita (peppermint; hybrid with Mentha aquatica), Mentha × gracilis (ginger mint, syn. M. cardiaca; hybrid with Mentha arvensis), and Mentha × villosa (large apple mint, hybrid with Mentha suaveolens).
The name ‘spear’ mint derives from the pointed leaf tips
Health Benefits :
Spearmint is pleasantly aromatic herb, packed with numerous health benefiting vitamins, antioxidants and phyto-nutrients.
Its leaves and herb parts carry essential oil, menthol. Unlike in peppermint, spearmint leaves compose only small amounts of menthol, 0.5% compared to that 40% in peppermint. Less menthol content would make this herb least pungent and subtly fragrant herb in the mint family.
The herb has low calories (about 43 calories per 100 g), and contains zero cholesterol.
The chief essential oil in spearmint is menthol. Other important chemical components of spearmint are a-pinene, ß-pinene, carvone, cineole, linalool, limonene, myrcene and caryophyllene. These compounds in mint help relieve fatigue and stress.
The herb parts are also very good in minerals like potassium, calcium, manganese, iron (148% of RDA), and magnesium. Iron is required for enzymes in cellular metabolism and synthesis of hemoglobin. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps control heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese is utilized by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase.
Further, the herb is also rich in many antioxidant vitamins, including vitamin A (provides 4054 IU or 135% of RDA), beta-carotene, vitamin C, folates (26% of RDA), vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), riboflavin and thiamin.
Medicinal Uses :
The herb decoction is an excellent remedy for minor ailments such as headaches, nervous strain, fatigue and stress, as well as for the respiratory problems; help relieving asthma, bronchitis and catarrh.
- It is very useful to deal with digestive problems, including nausea, flatulence and hiccups as it relaxes the stomach muscles.
- The essential oil, menthol, has analgesic, local anaesthetic and counterirritant properties. Menthol also found application in the preparation of toothpaste and mouth refresheners.
- On the skin, when used as cream or lotion, it may help relieve itching of pruritis, dermatitis, and hives.
- Spearmint oil is used as blended massage oil and in the aromatic therapy to help relieve headaches, stress, fatigue, and nervous conditions and to relieve itching.
When take in limits, spearmint tea can be used safely in pregnancy. In women, it helps reduce unwanted hairs through its anti-androgenic properties