Mint Tea WarningJuly 14, 2009 Written by JP [Font too small?]
It seems as if so much of the information out there about natural medicine either glorifies or vilifies this long held tradition. The truth about holistic health care is difficult to come by because it’s often influenced by the prejudices of those interpreting the data. This same observation applies to me. I have a tendency to accentuate the positive aspects of natural healing techniques. I do this because there is science that supports my view, but also because most media outlets and the modern medical establishment tend to dismiss the validity of many alternative and traditional health practices. Having said that, I do try to present a balanced account of things. In doing so, I will occasionally bring to light certain precautions that I believe are warranted, even when using 100% natural remedies.
Mint tea is among the most popular herbal teas consumed throughout the world. It’s most common application is to help soothe digestive upset. Herbalists believe this benefit may result from the naturally occurring menthol which appears to relax the smooth muscles in the intestines. Modern science has also validated the usefulness of the essential oil of peppermint for the management of indigestion and irritable bowel syndrome. (1) But the efficacy and safety of peppermint and spearmint tea has not been extensively studied yet in a scientific manner. Today I’m going to share what we do know about the healthful effects of mint and issues that may be cause for alarm.
An interesting area of mint research has emerged in the past several years. Of late, scientists have been exploring how mint tea impacts androgens (sex hormones) in both males and females. The most recent example of this is a just published study that examined the role that spearmint tea can play in a condition called polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). PCOS is an endocrinological disorder that affects women during their child bearing years. Common symptoms include abnormal menstruation, acne, depression, hirsutism (masculine patterns of hair growth) and other masculinizing symptoms (such as vocal changes), infertility and obesity. This condition is also generally marked by blood sugar abnormalities and insulin resistance.
In the trial, 42 women with PCOS related hirsutism were assigned to drink spearmint tea or a placebo herbal tea twice daily for 30 days. Blood tests measuring hormone levels were taken at the beginning, the mid way point and at the end of the experiment. The results indicate that the women receiving the spearmint demonstrated significant reductions in free and total testosterone levels and increases in luteinizing hormone and follicle stimulating hormone concentrations. These alterations are consistent with an improvement in PCOS. (2) A reduction in hair distribution wasn’t detected, but the researchers believe that the relatively short duration of the study was the reason why. Another shorter study from 2007 found almost identical results. (3)
It certainly appears that spearmint has a strong association with the hormones involved in PCOS. But it’s also possible that some of the improvements are the result of specific antioxidant activity that may help reduce blood sugar levels in diabetics and perhaps in others with insulin irregularities. (4,5)
The previous findings are generally thought to be positive. But a few other studies raise the possibility of unexpected complications that may arise from chronic mint tea consumption. One example can be found in a 2006 study presented in the journal Toxicology and Industrial Health. That research uncovered a possible adverse effect in the uterus of rats that were provided with peppermint tea for 30 consecutive days. (6)
It’s interesting to note that a study in male rats found the exact same hormonal shifts that were exhibited in the women with PCOS, namely, a reduction in testosterone. Potentially negative effects on the testicles of the rats were also detected. This testicular disturbance could possibly be important with regard to fertility. (7)
Other experiments have raised red flags with regard to large dosages of mint tea and possible harm to the kidneys and liver (in a rat model). (8,9) Concerns have also been raised about peppermint teas ability to interact with the liver in such a way that it may negatively affect the metabolism of medications. (10) These concerns need to be taken seriously, especially since peppermint tea is one of the most widely consumed herbal beverages among pregnant women. (11,12)
Finally, a rather potent mineral “blocking” effect has been reported in studies conducted on mint tea. Most, but not all, of the trials have found that peppermint and spearmint teas inhibit the absorption of dietary minerals such as iron. (13,14,15) This could actually be either a good thing or an unwanted consequence. For those who need extra iron, it’s obviously a harmful interaction. But most men and post menopausal women do not need additional iron and in fact, reducing iron levels may be advantageous. (16,17,18)
On the other side of the coin, a preliminary study from 2004 associated spearmint with substantial anti-cancer properties. (19) In addition, two recent medical reviews generally gave a cautious “thumbs up” to the safety of mint based preparations. (20,21)
My point in writing this column is not to scare you away from drinking mint tea. I personally will continue to do so when the mood strikes me. But if you consume it on a regular basis, you may want to weigh both the pros and cons. If you believe that something is completely benign, you’re unlikely to even consider the possibility that it may be doing you some kind of harm. My view is that natural remedies are capable of tremendous amounts of good. But they should be used with all the facts in hand and in the most judicious manner possible.
Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!
Tags: Liver, Tea, Testosterone
Posted in Alternative Therapies, Food and Drink, Women's Health
January 6th, 2016 at 9:52 pm
Hi folks , i understand all those theories presented , i just recently started drinking peppermint tea and i have been having m****** b***** (edited: erections) during my sleep, do u think this coincidental ? i mean according to these theories its supposed to reduce my testosterone etc , so far pepperment tea has done good for me , my hair looks and feel great as well.
April 22nd, 2016 at 10:00 am
I’m a 34 year old east-Indian woman battling pcos since 17, but diagnosed only at 22 and have been on meteor in ever since. I’m assuming I developed this in-utero coming from a genetic make-up of diabetes and heart conditions. I was never too concerned about that line of research but only recently have I begun digging up on in-utero hormonal conditions that could trigger insulin resistance in the fetus, simply because I have a beautiful 5 year old daughter that I gave birth to naturally, who was conceived naturally. ( http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3732450/pdf/nihms487905.pdf) Clearly, now my fears lie in the fact that she has a more than usual chance of already having her hormonal make-up decided for her. I recently began trying out spearmint, and here’s what changed for me – my usually irregular blood bath of a period became more or less consistent without progesterone or prescription pills; my menstruation flow became normal and I have begun having painless periods. And here’s the best part – I’ve begun noticing body hair shedding with more ease, painlessly, which is clearly an indication of something good.
I’m just worrying and obsessing about what I can do to give my daughter a better chance and fighting odds. I know all about what to eat and what to avoid. I’m concerned that no matter what precautionary measure I take, she’s going to end up with this at some point. I’ve been debating the idea of starting her on mint tea and wondering if maybe she began having mild doses of it, it would help? How can it affect or effect children that young with a genetic predisposition against them? I landed up here at your page by googling mint tea and children.
April 22nd, 2016 at 10:01 am
I meant, I’ve been on metformin. DYAC!
April 22nd, 2016 at 10:48 pm
Personally, this is the first (positive) report I’ve come across relating to peppermint tea and erectile function. You may want to ask your doctor to prescribe a hormone panel to see where you stand. If that comes back in good order and the symptoms aren’t bothersome, then it could be that the peppermint tea is actually doing something positive for you – as an individual.
April 22nd, 2016 at 10:59 pm
Personally, I would primarily emphasize dietary and lifestyle measures as first-line prevention. In many people, PCOS can be greatly improved, even “cured”, by adopting a consistent, healthy diet, exercise routine and stress reduction. If you haven’t already, please take a look at this recent column – and be sure to read the updates in the “Comments & Updates” section towards the bottom of the page.
If these measures aren’t enough, I would work with your daughter’s doctor to evaluate the benefits of mint tea. I recommend having a baseline hormone profile taken. Then, see if it changes after a few months of mint tea use. IMO, it’s generally a good idea to start with a lower dose to establish tolerance. Maybe as little as a cup of good quality, organic mint tea daily – with no added sugar. For children and the elderly, it’s usually best to attempt to find the lowest effective dosage needed to produce the desired result. You can always increase the dose if it’s necessary.
June 11th, 2016 at 9:36 pm
Hey i am just 21 and I have grown lots of hair on my arms, shoulders and on back too. Someone suggest me to take spearmint tea for a limited period of time to get rid from my problem. So please tell me does it really works or it is just a nonsense. Or please give any other solution.
June 11th, 2016 at 10:26 pm
Do you have any other symptoms? Have you received a diagnosis from your doctor? It would be helpful to know.
June 14th, 2016 at 9:35 pm
What kind of symptoms sir … my body growth is normal, blood pressure is normal, not even any parental hormonal issues than what ? Are u a doctor?
June 14th, 2016 at 10:50 pm
I am not a doctor. The reason I asked is that some health conditions and/or health-related circumstances can cause hirsutism. A few examples include Cushing’s syndrome, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and even medications like danazol which is used to treat endometriosis. If, for instance, you were diagnosed with PCOS, there are many other natural remedies which may be helpful. I’ll post an example below:
August 20th, 2016 at 6:06 pm
I will definetly try it * i need this perfect for me* bt where do i find spearmint in south africa?
August 21st, 2016 at 3:18 pm
You’re most welcome!
I’m not very familiar with south african resources. But, I would look for (preferably organic or wild-crafted) spearmint at local health food or natural food stores, farmer’s markets and/or inquire with traditional healers in your area. If you can’t find it from any of those sources, perhaps ordering it online may be an option.
September 10th, 2016 at 7:23 pm
Iran J Nurs Midwifery Res. 2016 Jul-Aug;21(4):363-7.
Evaluation of mint efficacy regarding dysmenorrhea in comparison with mefenamic acid: A double blinded randomized crossover study.
BACKGROUND: Menthol is the most important active material in mint and different mechanisms have been suggested for the way mint functions, most of which emphasize its analgesic effect owing to the presence of a group of temporary protein receptors. This study investigates the efficacy of peppermint capsule in the treatment of primary dysmenorrhea, in comparison with Mefenamic Acid and placebo.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: This was a prospective, double-blinded, crossover study and was conducted on 127 girl students studying in Hamadan University of Medical Sciences who had experienced primary dysmenorrhea. Each participant was asked to take one of the drugs including Mefenamic Acid and Mint, starting from the first menstruation for 3 days. At the end of each period, a questionnaire was used to gather information; through the volunteer herself, pain intensity was recorded according to visual analog scale (VAS), duration of pain according to COX questionnaire, and bleeding amount according to pictorial blood loss assessment chart (PBAC) chart (Hygham).
RESULTS: Average pain intensity and duration of pain were significantly lower after intake of Mefenamic Acid and Mint (P < 0.05). Average bleeding was significantly lower in those taking Mefenamic Acid capsule than in those taking peppermint extract (P < 0.05). Nausea and diarrhea were lower in the mint group than in Mefenamic Acid group. But analgesic usage was lower in Mefenamic Acid group than in peppermint group (P < 0.05). CONCLUSIONS: While the bleeding amount did not significantly change, pain and its severity and all the clinical signs and symptoms decreased after taking peppermint extract. Because the side effect of herbal drugs is lower than other medicinal drugs, using mint is advised for treating dysmenorrhea symptoms. Be well! JP
September 13th, 2016 at 10:37 pm
I am F 23. I have PCOS for the past 7 years.
I just started drinking the tea before 3 days.
I wanted to know whether drinking spearmint tea reduces the androgens or any male hormones and results in regularizing hormonal imbalance/PCOS.
Also I wanted to know whether drinking this tea now(before marriage)will affect after marriage?
September 14th, 2016 at 6:16 pm
One study found positive results. I’ll paste the details below. But, I generally recommend a more comprehensive, holistic approach to PCOS – not just one remedy, like spearmint tea.
Phytother Res. 2010 Feb;24(2):186-8.
Spearmint herbal tea has significant anti-androgen effects in polycystic ovarian syndrome. A randomized controlled trial.
Hirsutism in polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), consequent to elevated androgen levels leads to significant cosmetic and psychological problems. Recent research in Turkey has shown that spearmint tea has antiandrogenic properties in females with hirsutism. No research has yet been undertaken to assess whether a reduction in androgen levels brought about by spearmint tea, translates to a clinical improvement in the degree of hirsutism. This study was a two centre, 30 day randomized controlled trial. Forty two volunteers were randomized to take spearmint tea twice a day for a 1 month period and compared with a placebo herbal tea. At 0, 15 and 30 days of the study serum androgen hormone levels and gonadotrophins were checked, the degree of hirsutism was clinically rated using the Ferriman-Galwey score and a questionnaire (the modified DQLI = Dermatology Quality of Life Index) was used to assess improvements in the level of self-reported hirsutism. Forty one of 42 patients completed the study. Free and total testosterone levels were significantly reduced over the 30 day period in the spearmint tea group (p < 0.05). LH and FSH also increased (p < 0.05). Patient's subjective assessments of their degree of hirsutism scored by the modified DQLI were significantly reduced in the spearmint tea group (p < 0.05). There was, however, no significant reduction in the objective Ferriman-Galwey ratings of hirsutism between the two trial groups over the trial duration (p = 0.12). There was a clear and significant alteration in the relevant hormone levels. This is associated clinically with a reduction in the self-reported degree of hirsutism but unfortunately not with the objectively rated score. It was demonstrated and confirmed that spearmint has antiandrogen properties, the simple fact that this does not clearly translate into clinical practice is due to the relationship between androgen hormones and follicular hair growth and cell turnover time. Simply put, the study duration was not long enough. The original studies from Turkey were in fact only 5 days long. The time taken for hirsutism to resolve is significant and a much longer future study is proposed as the preliminary findings are encouraging that spearmint has the potential for use as a helpful and natural treatment for hirsutism in PCOS. I hope this helps! Be well! JP
September 17th, 2016 at 11:23 pm
So maybe this is a silly question- I use a concentrated peppermint liquid soap for showering/bathing/shaving. Is there any possibility the concentrated peppermint could affect testosterone levels through bodily absorption?
September 21st, 2016 at 3:49 pm
I don’t think it’s a silly question at all. Anything we apply, eat or are otherwise exposed to on a regular basis could potentially have a profound influence on our biology. And, for instance, there’s some credible research indicating that topical peppermint oil can reduce headache pain. So, it would be naive to assume that it’s little more than a natural scent provider.
Having said that, I haven’t come across any direct evidence that topical peppermint oil affects sex hormones. The closest thing I found was a recent animal study that revealed potent hair growth stimulating activity when peppermint oil was applied to mice. However, it appears that the mechanisms involved weren’t associated directly with testosterone levels – at least not based on my understanding of the study text.
Toxicol Res. 2014 Dec;30(4):297-304.
Peppermint Oil Promotes Hair Growth without Toxic Signs.
Peppermint (Mentha piperita) is a plant native to Europe and has been widely used as a carminative and gastric stimulant worldwide. This plant also has been used in cosmetic formulations as a fragrance component and skin conditioning agent. This study investigated the effect of peppermint oil on hair growth in C57BL/6 mice. The animals were randomized into 4 groups based on different topical applications: saline (SA), jojoba oil (JO), 3% minoxidil (MXD), and 3% peppermint oil (PEO). The hair growth effects of the 4-week topical applications were evaluated in terms of hair growth, histological analysis, enzymatic activity of alkaline phosphatase (ALP), and gene expression of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), known bio-markers for the enhanced hair growth. Of the 4 experimental groups, PEO group showed the most prominent hair growth effects; a significant increase in dermal thickness, follicle number, and follicle depth. ALP activity and IGF-1 expression also significantly increased in PEO group. Body weight gain and food efficiency were not significantly different between groups. These results suggest that PEO induces a rapid anagen stage and could be used for a practical agent for hair growth without change of body weight gain and food efficiency.
November 30th, 2016 at 7:48 am
I want to know if taking mint leafs tea can cause infertility in women, because I drink it each day. Thank you
December 1st, 2016 at 1:02 am
The only studies I’ve found re: mint and fertility are animal experiments involving male rats. No human studies. No studies involving female animals.
January 21st, 2017 at 7:03 am
Hi…thanks for sharing this Info.
Ive been drinking fresh Mint tea since last summer. Since i have my own green garden and i grow so many kinds of herbs and mint is one of my favorite that’s why i used it as my beverage everyday. And now since its winter time here in Europe i drink 24/7 this tea because its make feel more warmer. But i have a problem i cannot honestly says its because i drink too much tea but last year i had irregular menstruation and i did not menstruate for more than 6mos. I googled about it and they said it will come back unexpectedly. So i waited but when i menstrauated again its really not normal because my blood doesnt look like its a blood. It looks like blood that mix with some acid or vinegar and its turn to really dark red and black blood. I find it really weird. I hope u can send me more information about this because i don’t want to stop drinking tea. i find it better than drinking Soda or Cola.
January 21st, 2017 at 8:28 pm
My suggestion is to have a proper examination by your primary care doctor or gynecologist. I think the change in appearance of your menstrual fluid needs to be assessed. It’s possible that drinking so much mint tea is the culprit. Also, you may wish to take a break from drinking mint tea to see if your menstrual cycle and flow normalizes.
Why not mix up your tea consumption? There are many other herbal teas you can enjoy besides mint. A few of my favorites are chamomile, ginger, hibiscus and rooibos tea. Usually, I drink a variety of teas rather than drinking a lot of just one. I believe this is probably a healthier approach. It’s kind of like eating a variety of fruits or vegetables instead of just one type of fruit of vegetable over and over again.
January 23rd, 2017 at 7:27 am
Thank u for your advice. I did a little experiment 2 days ago. I stopped drinking mint tea and suddenly my blood and menstruation is back to normal. Now i am thinking to try drinking mint tea again the next day because i want to try and see if these tea has really do something with my blood abnormality. If not then i think i better visit my home doctor. About your adviCe to try drinking diff. kind of tea. I honestly say fresh mint tea is the only tea i consume because i hated the smell and taste of those dried leaves etc. I did try twice to drink diff kind of tea’s but it really doesn’t work with its make me more sick.
Another symptom i had during my mint tea obsession is i feel really tired and sleepy during the day which i cannot control ’til i fall sleep on the sofa almost everyday. When i tried to control it then i go drink another cup of tea but it doesn’t help. Instead, i feel more sleepy and tired. I guess this problem has really do with my tea obsession because these last 2 days i did not fall sleep on the sofa and not feeling so tired.
Well thank u for ur advise and i hope i came up with a better result with my obsession experiment .
January 23rd, 2017 at 9:10 pm
Drinking a lot of mint tea, especially with meals and snacks, could inhibit iron absorption. This, in turn, *could* cause fatigue. Simple blood tests administered by your doctor can confirm or refute this possibility.
I hope you continue feeling better.
March 15th, 2017 at 9:04 pm
Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. 2017 Mar 7;86:167-176.
Safety and tolerability of a dried aqueous spearmint extract.
Spearmint (Mentha spicata L.) and spearmint extracts are Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) for use as flavoring in beverages, pharmaceuticals, and confectionaries. Studies of spearmint extracts in humans and animals have reported conflicting results with respect to toxicity. Since the chemical composition of these extracts was not reported and the spearmint source material was different, the relevance of these existing data to evaluating the risks associated with ingestion of a dried aqueous spearmint extract standardized to rosmarinic acid is not clear. Hence, the safety and tolerability of the dried aqueous spearmint extract was evaluated as part of a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial in healthy adults with age-associated memory impairment. Ingestion of both 600 and 900 mg/day for 90 days had no effect on plasma levels of follicular stimulating hormone, luteinizing hormone, or thyroid stimulating hormone, or other safety parameters including vital signs, plasma chemistry or whole blood hematology values. Additionally, there were no reported severe adverse events, no significant between-group differences in the number of subjects reporting adverse effects and the adverse events reported could not be attributed to ingestion of the extract. These results therefore show that ingestion of the aqueous dried spearmint extract is safe and well-tolerated.
April 4th, 2017 at 10:38 pm
I had about 2-3 cups of fresh mint tea a few hours ago and I am having a lot of intestinal pain… And yet I keep reading that it is used to relieve intestinal pain. What gives??
April 4th, 2017 at 10:51 pm
Traditionally, mint tea has been used to support healthy digestion. However, we’re all unique and don’t respond identically to any given food.
Do you drink mint tea often? Is this the first time you’ve had such an experience? Do you have any digestive conditions such as Celiac disease, GERD or IBS? Could your symptoms have anything to do with something you ate? There are many possible causes of the symptoms you’ve described.
If the pain persists, please seek the assistance of physician. If it passes and you can’t think of any other reasons for these symptoms, you might consider avoiding mint tea or experimenting with it in smaller dosages. For instance, maybe one cup instead of three. Too high a dose of almost anything (even water) can be problematic.
I hope this helps!
February 23rd, 2018 at 4:42 pm
So according this study, peppermint and spearmint is safe for male androgens?
February 23rd, 2018 at 4:45 pm
Also note that spearmint does NOT contain menthol, while peppermint does. That could have influenced the outcome of the study.
February 24th, 2018 at 12:20 am
I have read peppermint tea can have an antibacterial effect on SIBO (small intestinal bacteria overgrowth). Do you have any informational studies or knowledge on peppermint tea for this? Thanks
February 27th, 2018 at 11:25 am
Thanks so much for your work in putting this article together and following up with all the comments.
Are you aware of any additional studies since the one you posted about last March?
March 3rd, 2018 at 8:43 pm
Sorry for my delayed response. The study you linked to examined the effects of a specific spearmint extract – standardized for rosmarinic acid. No peppermint was used in the research and the study involved older adults. For these reasons, I think we shouldn’t necessarily compare the two mints.
Also, it’s my understanding that spearmint does contain menthol. But, the menthol content of spearmint is much lower than peppermint.
March 3rd, 2018 at 8:51 pm
I apologize for taking so long to reply.
I haven’t seen much published research directly pointing to a peppermint-SIBO benefit. But, there are numerous studies showing gastrointestinal benefits in patients supplementing with enteric-coated peppermint oil (or blends containing other essential oils combined with peppermint oil).
Peppermint tea may have some microbiota modifying effects. However, the activity of a water extract (in this case, tea) will likely differ significantly from a concentrated lipid extract aka peppermint oil.
Here’s one study I thought might interest you:
March 3rd, 2018 at 9:07 pm
Thank you for your kind comments. Here are a few interesting studies of late.
Altern Complement Med. 2018 Jan;24(1):37-47.
Spearmint Extract Improves Working Memory in Men and Women with Age-Associated Memory Impairment.
OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of supplementation with a spearmint (Mentha spicata L.) extract, high in polyphenols including rosmarinic acid, on cognitive performance, sleep, and mood in individuals with age-associated memory impairment (AAMI).
DESIGN: Subjects with AAMI (N = 90; 67% female; age = 59.4 ± 0.6 years) were randomly assigned (n = 30/group) to consume 900, 600, or 0 mg/day (two capsules, once daily) spearmint extract for 90 days, in this double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Assessments were completed for cognition (days 0, 45, and 90), sleep (days 0 and 90), and mood (days 0 and 90) by using the Cognitive Drug Research (CDR) System™, Leeds Sleep Evaluation Questionnaire (LSEQ), and Profile of Mood States (POMS™), respectively.
RESULTS: Quality of working memory and spatial working memory accuracy improved after supplementation with 900 mg/day spearmint extract by 15% (p = 0.0469) and 9% (p = 0.0456), respectively, versus placebo. Subjects consuming 900 mg/day spearmint extract reported improvement in their ability to fall asleep, relative to subjects consuming placebo (p = 0.0046). Overall treatment effects were evident for vigor-activity (p = 0.0399), total mood disturbance (p = 0.0374), and alertness and behavior following wakefulness (p = 0.0415), with trends observed for improvements after spearmint supplementation relative to placebo.
CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest that the distinct spearmint extract may be a beneficial nutritional intervention for cognitive health in older subjects with AAMI.
Adv Pharm Bull. 2017 Dec;7(4):651-654.
Role of Essential Oil of Mentha Spicata (Spearmint) in Addressing Reverse Hormonal and Folliculogenesis Disturbances in a Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome in a Rat Model.
Purpose: Given the antiandrogenic effects of spearmint, in this study we evaluated the effects of its essential oil on polycystic ovarian syndrome in a rat model.
Methods: Female rats were treated as follows: Control, normal rats which received 150 mg/kg spearmint oil or 300 mg/kg spearmint oil, or sesame oil; and PCOS-induced rats which received 150 mg/kg spearmint oil or 300 mg/kg spearmint oil, or sesame oil. Then the animals were killed and the levels of LH, FSH, testosterone and ovarian folliculogenesis were evaluated.
Results: Spearmint oil reduced body weight, testosterone level, ovarian cysts and atretic follicles and increased Graafian follicles in PCOS rats.
Conclusion: Spearmint has treatment potential on PCOS through inhibition of testosterone and restoration of follicular development in ovarian tissue.