Spearmint essential oil may not be your first choice when it comes to the mint family, but it should be! In this spearmint essential oils spotlight I hope to help you understand a little more about the plant, its distinct differences from peppermint, and how to use it.
Botanical Information & Identification
Spearmint (Mentha spicata) as an herb is easily confused with other mints like peppermint as an herb but is distinctly different. Spearmint and peppermint are often confused because peppermint (Mentha x piperita) is a hybrid of spearmint and water mint. Spearmint has a square stem with opposing leaves that are serrated. When it blooms, the flower petals are typically white clusters that somewhat taper. The easiest way I have learned to differentiate them if they are not in bloom is to check the underside of the leaves for tiny “hairs” or taste the leaves side by side. Spearmint will be slightly sweeter and milder in taste where peppermint leaves will be much more pungent in flavor due to the menthol.
Spearmint is an amazing herb often blended in teas for respiratory support. Spearmint is harvested between June and August in the US when the herb is flowering. The plant material is then steam distilled while it is fresh to semi-dried.
Many commercial distillers tend to harvest grow and harvest spearmint a couple times a year. If you are looking for an artisan spearmint, ask your retailer if the spearmint is grown and harvested once a year. Be Kind Botanicals offers an artisan spearmint essential oil that is only grown and harvested once from a Certified Non-GMO and Certified Organic cultivator.
Over the recent years it has become frequently adulterated due to the demand. It is now imperative for retailers that sell any mint essential oil have them tested by a true third-party lab. There was one year I was out for about six months while testing three different batches from different suppliers and distillers because of adulteration issues!
The chemistry of the oil is quite different from that of peppermint thankfully, so it is very easy to identify by aroma! It will have anywhere from 50 – 70% (-) carvone depending on the region and subspecies of spearmint grown. The (-) carvone is what gives the spearmint its aroma.
The aroma of Spearmint essential oil is quite unique, yet beautiful even for those like me who do not prefer mint aromas. Burfield describes it as “fresh, penetrating, smooth, creamy, minty, with a somewhat green herby odour (Burfield, 2016).” I would add in some cases, a hint of floral can be detected in the top note.
An Oil to Support You
Spearmint is a wonderful oil to work with that has a lot to offer. Physiologically it is great for supporting the nervous, respiratory, and urinary systems (Holmes, 2016). I personally love using it with eucalyptus in my Stress Relief blend to soothe the nervous system while also supporting the respiratory system when I have colds. The carvone in Spearmint is very helpful as an expectorant and anti-inflammatory during colds.
Its chemistry also lends for it to support antibacterial actions. It can be used in cold compresses during colds and fevers or diffuser blends.
With Thanksgiving around the corner, it is a great oil to keep in mind as it can help soothe bloating and indigestion. It is so good for that I have it in my Tummy Rub blend and swear by it for car sickness, too!
What about when you are feeling a little lethargic? Yup – it can be used as a mild pick me up and can help with concentration, too. It really helps to get you “unstuck” emotionally when you are feeling this way.
Another interesting tidbit is that it can be used in acneic blends and is very “refreshing to skin” (Sheppard-Hanger,1994).
Spearmint essential oil is also a wonderful choice to use for young children and the elderly. It is gentler in its actions making it a perfect choice for those age groups. Seems like a pretty amazing essential oil that can be versatile, right?
Photo courtesy from our distiller: Mike S.
What does it blend well with?
You might be asking yourself now, “But what does it blend well with?” I’ll make that easy and just give you a list to try below. But first, a few hints to help you blend!
Try smelling the aromas of the sweet orange essential oil with each oil as a pair from the caps. So, holding the sweet orange and the bergamot cap side by side, inhale sweeping both from side to side under each nostril so you can identify if you like the to blended together. Also, you might consider whether each oil you are using is a top note, middle note or base note (I consider Sweet Orange a middle note).
I know you will love it like I do, so below are a few recipes for you to try.
Diffuser Blend for Soothing Respiratory Support:
Topical Blend for Digestive Support:
Holmes, P. (2016). Aromatica: A clinical guide to essential oil therapeutics(Vol. 1). London, UK: Singing Dragon, an imprint of Jessica Kingsley.
Sheppard-Hanger, S. (1995). The aromatherapy practitioner reference manual: A complete reference book of over 350 aromatic plant extracts, index of biologically active phytochemicals, clinical index and taxonomical index(Vol. 2). Tampa: Atlantic Institute of aromatherapy.
Burfield, T. (2016). Natural Aromatic Materials: Odours & Origins(2nd ed., Vol. 2). Tampa, FL: The Atlantic Institute of Aromatherapy.