Spearmint - Mentha spicata

Family: Mint - Lamiaceae Family

Mentha spicata is a PERENNIAL growing to 0.6 m (2ft) by 1 m (3ft 3in).
It is hardy to zone (UK) 3 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from Aug to September, and the seeds ripen from Sep to October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees.It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and can grow in heavy clay soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil. [PFAF]

Origin Status: Exotic
General: Perennial herb from a creeping rhizome; stems erect, branched, 30-100 cm tall, glabrous, 4-angled; pungent (spearmint) smell.
Leaves: Opposite, egg-shaped to lanceolate, 2-7 cm long, 1-2.5 cm wide, toothed, tips pointed, bases rounded, glabrous but often hairy along the main veins beneath, margins toothed; unstalked or nearly so, stalks less than 3 mm long.
Flowers: Inflorescence of flower clusters crowded into terminal spikes 3-12 cm long and 0.5-1 cm wide (sometimes interrupted below) subtended by linear-lanceolate bracts; corollas tubular, 2-4 mm long, pale lavender to sometimes white, glabrous, 4-lobed, the lobes nearly equal; calyces 1.5-2 mm long, glabrous but often glandular, teeth margins usually stiff-hairy.
Fruits: Nutlets, 4 clustered together, egg-shaped. [IFBC-E-flora]

Habitat / Range
Moist to wet disturbed areas, ditches and meadows in the lowland and montane zones; scattered throughout BC, more common southward; introduced from Europe. [IFBC-E-flora]
"Roadsides and waste places, usually in damp soils and sunny positions[4, 16, 17, 37]." C. Europe. Naturalized in Britain. [PFAF]


Edible Uses

Other Uses

Insect Repellent: "The plant repels insects and was formerly used as an strewing herb[14, 18, 20]. Rats and mice intensely dislike the smell of mint. The plant was therefore used in homes as a strewing herb and has also been spread in granaries to keep the rodents off the grain[244]." [PFAF]

Medicinal Uses
" Spearmint is a commonly used domestic herbal remedy. A tea made from the leaves has traditionally been used in the treatment of fevers, headaches, digestive disorders and various minor ailments[222]. The herb is antiemetic, antispasmodic, carminative, diuretic, restorative, stimulant and stomachic[4, 21, 46, 218]. The leaves should be harvested when the plant is just coming into flower, and can be dried for later use[4]. The stems are macerated and used as a poultice on bruises[218]. The essential oil in the leaves is antiseptic, though it is toxic in large doses[222]. Both the essential oil and the stems are used in folk remedies for cancer[218]. A poultice prepared from the leaves is said to remedy tumours[218]." [PFAF]

"Medicinal Parts: The medicinal parts are the steamed distillation of the fresh, flowering, aerial parts, and the leaves collected during the flowering season and dried." [PDR]
"Production: Spearmint is the aerial pan of Mentha spicata. Spearmint oil is the essential oil extracted from the plant." [PDR]

"The oil produced contains a high proportion of carvon, which produces the spearmint smell. It has antispasmodic, carminative and stimulant effects." [PDR]
"In vitro, an antimicrobial effect was observed. The drug is insecticidal and shows a neurodepressive effect in animal experiments (increased duration of sleep)." [PDR]

Indications and Usage
"Unproven Uses: Spearmint is used for digestive disorders and as a remedy for flatulence. The essential oil is used as an aromatic preparation. Spearmint leaves are used as carminative." [PDR]

"Mode of Administration: Spearmint is mainly used internally in the form of an oil or concentrate." [PDR]

SPEARMINT (Mentha spicata L.)
"Activities (Spearmint) - Allergenic (1; APA); Analgesic (1; DEM; EFS); Antipyretic (f; DEM; FEL); Antiseptic (1; FAD; PH2); Antispasmodic (1; FAD; JFM; PHR; PH2); Carminative (1; APA; FAD; JFM; PHR; PH2); Decongestant (1; APA); Deodorant (f; JFM); Dermatitigenic (1; FAD); Diaphoretic (f; JFM); Digestive (1; APA; PH2); Diuretic (f; CEB; FEL); Emetic (f; DEM); Expectorant (f; DEP); Insecticide (f; PH2); Neurodepressant (1; PH2); Sedative (1; DEM; PH2); Stimulant (1; PHR; PH2); Stomachic (1; FAD); Vermifuge (f; DEM; JFM)."
Select Indications (Spearmint) - Cancer (f; FAD; JLH); Cancer, breast (f; JLH); Cancer, liver (f; JLH); Cancer, spleen (f; JLH); Cancer, stomach (f; JLH); Cramp (1; DEM; FAD; JFM; PHR; PH2); Diarrhea (f; DEM; FAD; JFM); Dyspepsia (1; APA); Dysuria (f; CEB; FEL); Enterosis (1; APA; DEM; JFM); Fever (f; DEM; DEP; FAD; FEL; JFM); Gas (1; APA; DEM; FAD; JFM; PHR; PH2); Gastrosis (1; APA; JLH; JFM); Gravel (f; DEM; FEL); Headache (1; DEM; FAD; JFM); Hemorrhoid (f; DEM; FEL); Insomnia (1; DEM; PH2); Nausea (f; APA; JFM); Nervousness (1; DEM; PH2); Pain (1; DEM; EFS); Rheumatism (f; FEL; JFM); Stomachache (1; DEM; FAD; JFM); Water Retention (f; CEB; DEM; FEL); Worm (f; CEB; DEM; JFM).
"Dosages (Spearmint) — 1–2 tbsp herb (0.7–1.5 g)/cup water several ×/day(APA); 0.3–1 ml concentrated spearmint water (PNC); 1 wineglass gin tincture 3–4 ×/day as diuretic (CEB); 0.5–2 ml EO (PNC)."
"Contraindications, Interactions, and Side Effects (Spearmint) — Class 1 (AHP). None reported at proper dosing (PH2). Estimated lethal dose for menthol in humans may be as low as 2 g. Survival after doses of 8–9 g have been reported. Menthol reactions include reported cases of urticaria, allergic cheilitis, stomatosis, and rarely, shaking chills from use of topical menthol products. GI complaints due to use of peppermint preparations include stomatosis, severe esophagitis, gastrosis, unexplained diarrhea, and pancreatitis. Menthol in nasal preparations may cause spasm of the glottis in young children (AEH1). APA kindly says it does not contain menthol, but I’ll bet that many spearmint clones do contain menthol. PH2 says that spearmint oil possesses a weak potential for sensitization, due to its menthol and l-carvone (PH2). I suppose the many species with more of these ingredients would have stronger potential for sensitization. See my database for menthol- and l-carvone-containing plants. Nitpickologists will no doubt say that children should avoid all plants, not just EOs, containing menthol." [HMH Duke]



Figures in grams (g) or miligrams (mg) per 100g of food. Leaves (Fresh weight)

"Seed - sow spring in a cold frame. Germination is usually fairly quick. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and plant them out in the summer. Mentha species are very prone to hybridisation and so the seed cannot be relied on to breed true. Even without hybridisation, seedlings will not be uniform and so the content of medicinal oils etc will vary. When growing plants with a particular aroma it is best to propagate them by division[K]. Division can be easily carried out at almost any time of the year, though it is probably best done in the spring or autumn to allow the plant to establish more quickly. Virtually any part of the root is capable of growing into a new plant. Larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. However, for maximum increase it is possible to divide the roots up into sections no more than 3cm long and pot these up in light shade in a cold frame. They will quickly become established and can be planted out in the summer." [PFAF]

"A very easily grown plant, it succeeds in most soils and situations so long as the soil is not too dry[200]. Grows well in heavy clay soils. A sunny position is best for production of essential oils, but it also succeeds in partial shade[4]. Prefers partial shade and a slightly acid soil[4, 16]. Often grown as a culinary herb in the herb garden, spearmint is also commercially cultivated for its essential oil, the yields are about 3.5 to 4.5 kilos per tonne of leaves. There are some named varieties[200, 238]. Most mints have fairly aggressive spreading roots and, unless you have the space to let them roam, they need to be restrained by some means such as planting them in containers that are buried in the soil[K]. Hybridizes freely with other members of this genus. The whole plant has a strong spearmint smell. The flowers are very attractive to bees and butterflies[24]. A good companion plant for growing near cabbages and tomatoes, helping to keep them free of insect pests[14, 20]. Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer[233]." [PFAF]



  1. [E-flora] - http://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/Atlas/Atlas.aspx?sciname=Mentha%20spicata&redblue=Both&lifeform=7 Accessed Dec 9, 2014
  2. [Ellis&Stevenson] Domestic Production of the Essential Oils of Peppermint and Spearmint, N. K. ELLIS A~D E. C. STEVENSON Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana
  3. [PFAF] - http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Mentha+spicata Accessed Dec 9, 2014
  4. [Antifungal] Antifungal Plants of Iran: An Insight into Ecology, Chemistry, and Molecular Biology, Mehdi Razzaghi-Abyaneh, Masoomeh Shams-Ghahfarokhi and Mahendra Rai, Antifungal Metabolites from Plants, 2013

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