For people with PCOS, symptoms like hirsutism (excess hair growth) can be frustrating and embarrassing due to the beauty ideals in our culture. If you feel like your PCOS is contributing to hair growth on your chin, down the sides of your face, on your back and/or on your chest then you have probably tried plenty of medications, lifestyle changes and natural remedies to try and counteract the symptom.
One popular natural remedy that is promoted for PCOS is spearmint tea, but does the evidence suggest this tasty mint tea can work for PCOS symptoms?
What is PCOS?
PCOS or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is a common endocrine disorder that impacts approximately 1 in 10 people assigned female at birth in the UK. An endocrine disorder means that the hormone system is not working correctly and, in the case of PCOS, insulin and androgen (“male-type” hormones) are produced in unusual or irregular amounts.
PCOS is a syndrome which means it is a collection of symptoms. Symptoms may include irregular periods, difficulty getting pregnant, excessive hair growth (hirsutism), loss of hair on the head (alopecia), oily skin, acne, weight gain, fatigue, anxiety disorders and more.
What is spearmint tea?
Spearmint is an aromatic herb from the mint family. Although it may taste similar to peppermint, it is sweeter and also smoother. It is naturally caffeine-free so can be enjoyed before bed.
Spearmint is a perennial (evergreen) plant from Europe and Asia but is now grown all over the world. It is brewed into a tea from either fresh or dried spearmint leaves. Spearmint tea you can purchase online or in stores will be made from dried leaves which are contained in tea bags or left loose for easy brewing.
What are the benefits of spearmint tea for PCOS?
Spearmint tea has been seen in some studies to help decrease androgen levels (i.e. have anti-androgen effects) and increase “female” hormones like luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). This might be linked with reductions in certain PCOS symptoms like hirsutism (excess hair growth), oily skin, acne and alopecia.
A study in Turkey found that twenty-one people with hirsutism (of which twelve people had PCOS) had a significant decrease in free testosterone and an increase in luteinizing hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone and oestrogen (1).
Similarly, a 30 day randomised controlled trial was carried out with forty-two volunteers who drank spearmint tea twice a day for one month and found that free and total testosterone levels reduced (2).
Will spearmint tea help with facial hair?
Excess androgen levels (i.e high testosterone levels) often contribute to excess facial hair, known as hirsutism.
As we’ve seen above, some studies have shown that spearmint tea lowers testosterone levels in people with hirsutism and/or people with PCOS. But, does this translate to reduced facial hair. Despite reduced testosterone levels, not all studies noted a reduction in the objective Ferriman-Galwe scale. The Ferriman-Galwe scale is a ranking system used to describe “female” hirsutism. This is likely because these studies are short-term and it can take a while for reduced testosterone to present as reduced facial hair, for example.
Do I have to drink spearmint tea or can I take spearmint capsules or spearmint oil?
Currently, the studies we have suggest that preparing spearmint leaves and brewing as tea improves hormone levels.
There are some rodent studies that used spearmint essential oil but we need more human studies to understand the effects of spearmint capsules and spearmint oil.
How many cups of spearmint tea a day help PCOS?
In the literature, participants drink two cups of spearmint tea per day.
As spearmint tea is a low-cost, low-stress intervention it may be worth trying a few times per day for a few months, if mint tea is something you enjoy.
Can I drink cold spearmint tea?
Yes, there doesn’t seem to be any evidence to suggest that drinking spearmint tea cold reduces its efficacy.
If you enjoy iced spearmint tea and it will encourage you to drink it regularly then cold spearmint tea should have the same benefits as hot tea.
Does it have to be 100% spearmint tea?
Most teas on the market are mixtures of different types of mints. In the literature, the tea used as an intervention is primarily fresh spearmint leaves brewed for 10-minutes.
In our busy lives purchasing dried spearmint tea in a tea bag is probably more useful rather than picking fresh spearmint every day!
Peppermint vs Spearmint Tea for PCOS
Although these mint teas have a similar flavour, peppermint tea contains a higher menthol content making the flavour more pronounced.
In terms of PCOS, peppermint tea hasn’t been shown in the research to help with symptoms of PCOS. Whereas spearmint tea has potential androgen-reducing properties, which may help with PCOS symptoms like hirsutism, alopecia, acne and oily skin.
Where can I get spearmint tea in the UK?
It can be challenging to find 100% spearmint tea in the UK but here are our top picks:
- Dried spearmint
- Plastic-free packaging
- 10 tea bags
Founder and Editor | Registered Associate Nutritionist
Founder of Be The Collective LTD [The PCOS Collective & The Endo Collective] Alex Okell ANutr is a London-based reproductive health nutritionist with experience in research, private practice and digital media. She holds a Master’s degree in Nutrition from King’s College London and has co-authored papers with the University of Cambridge, King’s College London, The Food Foundation and the Food Standards Agency. Alex offers 1:1 PCOS support in our virtual PCOS clinic.