Herb: Spearmint

Latin name: Mentha spicata

Synonyms: Mentha viridis

Family: Labiatae

Medicinal use of Spearmint:

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. The herb is antiemetic, antispasmodic, carminative, diuretic, restorative, stimulant and stomachic. The leaves should be harvested when the plant is just coming into flower, and can be dried for later use. The stems are macerated and used as a poultice on bruises. The essential oil in the leaves is antiseptic, though it is toxic in large doses. Both the essential oil and the stems are used in folk remedies for cancer. A poultice prepared from the leaves is said to remedy tumours.

Description of the plant:


60 cm
(2 feet)

August to


Habitat of the herb:

Roadsides and waste places, usually in damp soils and sunny positions.

Edible parts of Spearmint:

Leaves - raw or cooked. A strong spearmint flavour, they are used as a flavouring in salads or cooked foods. The leaves are often used in "mint sauce", which is used as a flavouring in meals. A herb tea is made from the fresh or dried leaves. It has a very pleasant and refreshing taste of spearmint, leaving the mouth and digestive system feeling clean. An essential oil from the leaves and flowers is used as a flavouring in sweets, ice cream, drinks etc. A spearmint flavour.

Other uses of the herb:

An essential oil is obtained from the whole plant, the yield is about 4K of oil from 1 tonne of leaves. The oil is used commercially as a food flavouring and oral hygiene preparation. The plant repels insects and was formerly used as an strewing herb. 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.

Propagation of Spearmint:

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. 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.

Cultivation of the herb:

Roadsides and waste places, usually in damp soils and sunny positions.

Known hazards of Mentha spicata:

Although no records of toxicity have been seen for this species, large quantities of some members of this genus, especially when taken in the form of the extracted essential oil, can cause abortions so some caution is advised.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.