Spearmint or Mentha spicata is a plant of the mint family, that is widely found in Southwest Asia and Europe. It is a herbaceous perennial plant, and is characterized by a distinct aroma. The plant is basically cultivated to extract the essential oil, which is known as 'oil of spearmint'. This essential oil has several important medicinal uses, besides being a flavoring agent in a wide range of products.
The aromatic oil of the spearmint plant is extracted through steam distillation. To make this oil, the flowering tops of the plant are distilled. The active ingredients of spearmint oil is 'cavone'. The other important components are menthol, limonene, and dihydrocarveol. It is a pale yellow or greenish-colored oil, and its aroma is similar but slightly sweeter than that of peppermint oil. Peppermint oil has a strong aroma, as it contains a high concentration of menthol. Spearmint, on the other hand, does not contain such a high level of menthol.
Spearmint and its oil are mainly used as a flavoring agent. Spearmint is a culinary herb that is used in a number of cuisines across the world, while its oil is used in confectionery and also in candy making. It is an important ingredient in many toothpastes, mouth fresheners, chocolates, chewing gums, shampoos, and soaps.
Many pharmaceutical products, like balms, inhalers, and cough drops also contain this oil. It is used in aromatherapy as well. In addition to these, this oil has been known for a long time for its healing properties. It is used for treating minor gastrointestinal and respiratory problems. It can also be used as an insecticide to control mosquitoes, ants, and flies. It can help prevent moth infestations as well.
This essential oil is rich in vitamin A and C, and it has antiseptic, disinfecting, antispasmodic, cephalic, antifungal, and antibacterial properties. Due to its antiseptic and disinfecting properties, it can be used to heal minor wounds. It can be effective in healing ulcers, including the ulcers of the stomach and intestine. One of the active compounds found in this oil is menthol, which has antispasmodic properties. Menthol can provide relief in abdominal cramps, cough, muscle cramps, and nervous convulsions.
Spearmint oil can produce a soothing or calming effect on the brain, for which it is used in aromatherapy. This oil can help reduce stress and anxiety by inducing the mind to relax. Apart from this, some other conditions in which this oil can provide relief are, asthma, sinusitis, headaches, migraine, cold, congestion, bronchitis, flatulence, nausea, diarrhea, dermatitis, and fatigue.
For women, this oil has some additional benefits, as it can help alleviate certain common menstrual problems. It can resolve the problems of irregular menstruation, heavy periods, and early menopause. In short, the oil can promote normal menstruation, and help get relief from some common premenstrual symptoms like lower abdominal pain and nausea.
Spearmint oil can be added to tea, or it can be taken in a diluted form. It is mild enough to be taken by children as well. However, the oil should be heavily diluted before giving it to children. Moreover, it is important consult or inform a health care provider before giving this oil to your children.
Spearmint oil is usually considered safe, if it is taken in a diluted form. But still, some minor side effects can be experienced by certain individuals, particularly if they are allergic or sensitive to spearmint. Even pregnant women can experience some side effects, for which they are usually advised to avoid this oil. To sum up, one should always consult a physician or health care professional before taking spearmint supplements and oil for medicinal purposes.