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FAQs about spearmint
Spearmint and peppermint differ in both their appearance and taste. As the "pepper" in its name suggests, peppermint has a stronger, almost spicy flavor. It contains more menthol than spearmint at roughly 40%, which gives it a more potent mint flavor. Peppermint leaves are dark green and smooth instead of the spear-shaped light-green leaves that give spearmint its name.
Spearmint has a subtler, almost sweet flavor that comes from the chemical carvone rather than menthol. The menthol content of spearmint is very low, at 0.5%, which means spearmint doesn't have the same strong cooling effect associated with peppermint. Where peppermint often complements sweet recipes, spearmint tends to appear in savory dishes.
Spearmint has several medicinal uses and health benefits. Spearmint tea, for instance, is an extremely low-calorie beverage that contains vitamin C, antioxidants, and iron. This tea is often touted as a way to promote memory, digestion, and relaxation. Spearmint oil contains chemicals that may help reduce inflammation, kill bacteria, alter hormone levels, and damage cancer cells. This oil can also be used in aromatherapy to help alleviate nausea.
Early research has shown that the carvone in spearmint behaves similarly to the active ingredients in high blood pressure medication. Spearmint may also be able to help lower blood sugar and improve memory. It contains antioxidants that are often associated with reducing the risk of illnesses like cancer and heart disease.
If a recipe does not specify a type of mint, then the choice is up to you. Your choice will affect the flavor of the dish, but either one will work.
For recipes that call for fresh mint, spearmint is more likely to be what the author intended. After all, spearmint is the variety most commonly sold fresh in grocery stores. Understanding the differences between spearmint and peppermint can help you choose the mint that best complements the recipes and suits your preferences.