Mentha spicata (spearmint or spear mint) is a species of mint native to much of Europe and southwest Asia, though its exact natural range is uncertain due to extensive early cultivation.
It is a herbaceous rhizomatous perennial plant growing 30–100 cm tall, with variably hairlehttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mentha_spicata
ss to hairy stems and foliage, and a wide-spreading fleshy underground rhizome. The leaves are 5–9 cm long and 1.5–3 cm broad, with a serrated margin. The stem is square-shaped, a trademark of the mint family of herbs. Spearmint produces flowers in slender spikes, each flower pink or white, 2.5–3 mm long and broad. Hybrids involving spearmint include Pineapple mint (M.suaveolens), Ginger mint (M. x gentilis), Japanese mint M. arvensis var.piperascens),Corn mint (M. arvensis), Bergamot or horsemint (M. Piperita var.citrata).
Spearmint grows well in nearly all temperate climates. Gardeners often grow it in pots or planters due to its invasive spreading roots. The plant prefers partial shade, but can flourish in full sun to mostly shade. Spearmint is best suited to loamy soils with plenty of organic material.
Spearmint is pleasantly aromatic herb packed with numerous health benefiting vitamins, antioxidants and phyto-nutrients.
The leaves and herb parts contain essential oil, menthol. Unlike in peppermint, spearmint leaves composes only small amounts of menthol, 0.5% compared to the 40% in peppermint. Less menthol content would make this herb least pungent and subtly fragrant herb in the mint family.
The herb has low calories (about 43 calories per 100 g) and contains zero cholesterol.
The chief essential oil in spearmint is menthol. Other important chemical components of spearmint are a-pinene, ß-pinene, carvone, cineole, linalool, limonene, myrcene and caryophyllene. These compounds in mint help relieve fatigue and stress.
The herb parts are also very good in minerals like potassium, calcium, manganese, iron (148% of RDA), and magnesium. Iron is required for enzymes in cellular metabolism and synthesis of hemoglobin. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps control heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase.
Further, the herb is also rich in many antioxidant vitamins, including vitamin A (provides 4054 IU or 135% of RDA), beta-carotene, vitamin C, folates (26% of RDA), vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), riboflavin and thiamin.
Almost all parts of spear mint herb found a place in various traditional as well in modern medicine.The herb decoction is an excellent remedy for minor ailments such as headaches, nervous strain, fatigue and stress, as well as for the respiratory problems; helping with asthma, bronchitis and catarrh.
It is very useful to deal with digestive problems, including nausea, flatulence and hiccups as it relaxes the stomach muscles.
The essential oil, menthol, has analgesic, local anaesthetic and counterirritant properties. Menthol also found application in the preparation of toothpaste and mouth refreshers.
On the skin, when used as cream or lotion, it may help relieve the itching of pruritis, dermatitis, and hives.
Spearmint oil is used as blended massage oil and in the aromatic therapy to help relieve headaches, stress, fatigue, and nervous conditions and to relieve itching.
Spearmint tea can be used safely in pregnancy. In women, it helps reduce unwanted hairs through its anti-androgenic properties.
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