Spearmint or spear mint (Mentha spicata) is a species of mint native to much of Europe and Asia (Middle East, Himalayas, China etc.), and naturalized in parts of northern and western Africa, North and South America, as well as various oceanic islands.
- Mentha spicata subsp. condensata (Briq.) Greuter & Burdet - Mediterranean region; naturalized in New Zealand
- Mentha spicata subsp. spicata - most of species range
It is a herbaceous, rhizomatous, perennial plant growing 30–100 cm tall, with variably hairless 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 Mentha × piperita (peppermint; hybrid with Mentha aquatica), Mentha × gracilis (ginger mint, syn. M. cardiaca; hybrid with Mentha arvensis), and Mentha × villosa (large apple mint, hybrid with Mentha suaveolens).
The name 'spear' mint derives from the pointed leaf tips.
Cultivation and uses
Spearmint grows well in nearly all temperate climates. Gardeners often grow it in pots or planters due to its invasive, spreading rhizomes. The plant prefers partial shade, but can flourish in full sun to mostly shade. Spearmint is best suited to loamy soils with abundant organic material.
Spearmint leaves can be used fresh, dried, or frozen. They can also be preserved in salt, sugar, sugar syrup, alcohol, or oil. The leaves lose their aromatic appeal after the plant flowers. It can be dried by cutting just before, or right (at peak) as the flowers open, about one-half to three-quarters the way down the stalk (leaving smaller shoots room to grow). Some dispute exists as to what drying method works best; some prefer different materials (such as plastic or cloth) and different lighting conditions (such as darkness or sunlight).
Spearmint is often cultivated for its aromatic and carminative oil, referred to as oil of spearmint. The most abundant compound in spearmint oil is R-(–)-carvone, which gives spearmint its distinctive smell. Spearmint oil also contains significant amounts of limonene, dihydrocarvone, and 1,8-cineol. Unlike peppermint oil, oil of spearmint contains minimal amounts of menthol and menthone. It is used as a flavoring for toothpaste and confectionery, and is sometimes added to shampoos and soaps.
Spearmint is an ingredient in several mixed drinks, such as the mojito and mint julep. Sweet tea, iced and flavored with spearmint, is a summer tradition in the Southern United States. As a medicinal plant, spearmint is steeped as tea for the treatment of stomach ache.
Spearmint has been studied for antifungal activity; its essential oil was found to have some antifungal activity, although less than oregano. Its essential oil did not show any evidence of mutagenicity in the Ames test. It can have a calming effect when used for insomnia or massages.
- "Mentha L.". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 2004-09-10. Retrieved 2010-01-30.
- "World Checklist of Selected Plant Families: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew". kew.org.
- Flora of China Vol. 17 Page 238 留兰香 liu lan xiang Mentha spicata Linnaeus, Sp. Pl. 2: 576. 1753.
- Altervista Flora Italiana, Menta romana, Mentha spicata L. includes photos + distribution maps for Europe + North America
- Biota of North America Program, 2013 county distribution map
- Huxley, A., ed. (1992). New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. Macmillan ISBN 0-333-47494-5.[page needed]
- Turner, W. (1568). Herbal. Cited in the Oxford English Dictionary.
- Hussain, Abdullah I; Anwar, Farooq; Nigam, Poonam S; Ashraf, Muhammad; Gilani, Anwarul H (2010). "Seasonal variation in content, chemical composition and antimicrobial and cytotoxic activities of essential oils from four Mentha species". Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture 90 (11): 1827–36. doi:10.1002/jsfa.4021. PMID 20602517.
- , Chemical composition of essential oils from several species of mint (Mentha).
- Adam, Konstantia; Sivropoulou, Afroditi; Kokkini, Stella; Lanaras, Thomas; Arsenakis, Minas (1998). "Antifungal Activities of Origanum vulgare subsp. hirtum, Mentha spicata, Lavandula angustifolia, and Salvia fruticosa Essential Oils against Human Pathogenic Fungi". Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 46 (5): 1739–45. doi:10.1021/jf9708296.
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Grown in Malaysia