All About Mint: Spearmint vs Peppermint
Mint is an incredibly versatile herb bursting with flavor and smelling absolutely delectable.
Whether you want to grow mint indoors or sprinkle it around your garden, mint is a cinch to cultivate pretty much year-round.
Confusion often crops up between spearmint and peppermint, though. Today we will make things easy for you when it comes to spearmint vs peppermint by looking at eight key ways in which these herbs differ from each other.
Never confuse the two types of mint again!
Mint: A Snapshot
Due to the vitamins and nutrients it contains, peppermint has long been used for medicinal purposes. From runny noses and sore throats through to strained muscles, this handy herb has many uses. It can also be used as part of aromatherapy to reduce stress and tension.
Aside from the ubiquitous chewing gum, peppermint crops up in tea, ice cream and after-dinner mints. You’ll also find peppermint oil in a number of liqueurs where the subtle taste works wonders.
A combination of the appetizing scent and its cooling properties mean that peppermint is also a firm favorite for soaps, shampoos or body washes. It’s a staple for toothpaste and mouthwash too.
Health Benefits of Peppermint
Peppermint is often called the oldest medicine in the world and it has a wide array of proven medicinal benefits.
- Dental Health: Whether it’s kissing goodbye to bad breath or general dental hygiene you’re after, the antiseptic properties of peppermint oil work wonders
- Indigestion: A couple of drops of peppermint oil in some water is a wonderful way to aid digestion after eating. In some cases, it can help with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Headaches and Nausea: Popping some diluted peppermint oil on your forehead can assist with getting rid of nausea or motion sickness. Where it is both anti-inflammatory and cooling, peppermint oil can relieve headaches, even migraines
- Stress: Stimulating your mental activity, calming and refreshing, peppermint is a natural way to combat stress
- Breathing: With its menthol content, peppermint is an efficient expectorant that also clears the respiratory tract. It’s present in many cold balms and rubs
- Nail Care: Peppermint oil can help to ward off fungal nail infection
- Pain Relief: External use of peppermint oil can help to soothe certain pains. Its cooling nature means it can reduce fever. It’s termed a refrigerant for the intensely cold sensation it provides
- Immune System: Peppermint oil is commonly used to help people with weak immune systems. Its antifungal, antibacterial and antiviral properties and content of menthol, camphor and carvacrol means peppermint is popular in many alternative treatments to fight against lowered immune system
Spearmint is a highly aromatic herb that appears naturally.
The chief use for peppermint is culinary. As with peppermint, it’s also a common ingredient in chewing gum and toothpaste.
With a sweet and mild taste, spearmint is used widely in many medicines. Due to its relaxing effect, spearmint can also help you to relax and enjoy a good night’s sleep.
Health Benefits of Spearmint
As well as sharing the ability to help with digestion and respiratory issues, spearmint has several other key health benefits including the following…
- Antibacterial: Menthol, along with other compounds found in spearmint, is antimicrobial and antibacterial. It not only keeps your breath fresh but can also help protect you from mouth and throat infections
- Hormonal Balance: Spearmint can help manage this condition. The compounds in spearmint work with the endocrine system to optimize balance of hormones
- Circulation: With one serving of spearmint you hit your RDA of iron. This helps with the blood circulating to your extremities, enhances your energy levels and helps with the healing of wounds
- Heart: Spearmint is rich in potassium. As a vasodilator, potassium helps to stave off strokes and heart attacks
Spearmint vs Peppermint: How Do They Differ?
Species and Botanical Name
Both mints are from different species. Spearmint is from the species Spicata while peppermint is Piperita.
Their specific botanical names reflect this, Metha Spicata (spearmint) and Mentha x piperita (peppermint).
As mentioned, spearmint is a plant that occurs naturally whereas peppermint is a cross between species of spearmint and water mint.
The low and creeping peppermint is a real contrast with the straight and upright spearmint.
The way in which the herbs grow is also a point of difference. Spearmint will shoot up to around 3 feet in height. It will spread its way profusely and completely around the surrounding vegetation. Peppermint grows anywhere from 1 to 3 feet high. It does not spread widely, though.
While spearmint plants have pink or blue flowers, peppermint plants are crowned with purple blooms.
Spearmint plants have small leaves that grow on the branches themselves. The little leaves are slightly wrinkled.
The peppermint boasts slightly larger leaves. These grow on the stems rather than the branches. These leaves are jagged in appearance.
Menthol and Cooling Properties
It might surprise some people to know that spearmint does not contain menthol at all. It gets its cooling ability from carvone.
Peppermint, on the other hand, has plenty of menthol. This is where it derives its cooling properties from.
Spearmint has a far more delicate smell and taste than peppermint. It’s mild and somewhat sweet.
Peppermint tastes sharp and cooling while the aroma is much more intense.
The ways in which spearmint and peppermint are used is another area where they are quite different.
- Mosquito repellent
- Many therapeutic uses
- Cocktails (mojito, mint julep)
- Scented oils
- Medicinal and therapeutic properties
We hope you’ve enjoyed this examination of spearmint vs peppermint and are now clear on the differences between these two distinct types of mint.
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