Spearmint tea, one of the most rapidly accelerating acne trends, is simply the leaves of the spearmint plant distilled into a beverage.
If you’re ever hunting for acne-friendly meat in a local butcher, and discover some lamb with a strange orange coating, this is spearmint; they haven’t resorted to dorito dust to boost sales. The green, minty plant with a strangely velvety texture that sprouts up in gardens across Europe is also spearmint.
Maybe you’ve eaten this wild plant, believing that you have your own hoard of free organic nutrition. If you have, you might have noticed a big reduction in acne over the following weeks. You might have never connected it to spearmint, but enjoyed newly clear skin nevertheless.
But if you’re a man, your sex drive could have been slashed, and your precious beard and mustache might have faded into nothingness. Why?
Spearmint tea is one of the strongest anti-androgen foods, lowering testosterone enough to rob men of their health, but give women a huge improvement in acne.
Spearmint eliminates oily skin and clogged pores
The story of spearmint began centuries ago. A classic book of medicine called Historia Plantarum from 1704 recommended spearmint for stomach upset, while by 1789, a Scottish medical journal recommended a heavily condensed distillation of spearmint into tea for curing vomiting and strengthening a weak stomach.
Enhancing digestion was traditionally the mint family’s most famous property, but over the years, a steady stream of women reported that spearmint tea reduced their acne.
Then in 2007, an interesting hormonal phenomenon was observed in a south-western Turkish town called Isparta. The men of this village, which lies on a plateau 2000 metres above sea level, suffered from extremely low libido. The reason? The spearmint plant grows heavily on this plateau, and the villagers drank four cups of peppermint or spearmint tea per day.
There had already been a 2004 rat study on peppermint, where total testosterone levels fell after weeks of feeding. However, spearmint’s nutrient profile is different, so in 2007, Isparta University scientists tested a herbal spearmint tea on female humans. 21 women with hirsutism, women starting to grow beards and facial hair, were selected. 12 of these women had polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), where the ovaries pump out too much testosterone.
After 5 days, estrogen levels increased by 36%. There was no change in total testosterone levels, but free testosterone, the unbound and active form in the bloodstream, fell by 29%.
The scientists knew neither the compound nor mechanism responsible. However, they made a few speculations: 1) that spearmint tea increases the enzyme CYP3A4, a detoxification enzyme (for example, also responsible for metabolising caffeine) which breaks down testosterone. Or 2) that spearmint tea increased sex hormone binding globulin levels. SHBG binds to testosterone molecules in the bloodstream and disables them, and this would explain why free testosterone fell while total testosterone didn’t.
A 2010 study on PCOS women was bigger and better: 4 weeks long and 42 women strong. This time, after drinking spearmint infused tea daily, both free and total testosterone levels fell. A separate group drank chamomile tea and experienced no difference. The explanation was absent again.
What’s strange about spearmint tea is that both studies detected an increase in leuteinising hormone (LT) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FST). These hormonal actors both stimulate testosterone production by controlling enzymes in the ovaries, and balls in men, but testosterone levels still fell, adding to the mystery.
The evidence strongly supports the hordes of women on the internet using spearmint tea for acne, PCOS and hormonal woes.
Complimenting these human studies we have a bunch of rat studies, including this 2014 study where blood testosterone levels fell, and this 2008 study where spearmint downregulated testosterone production at the source. Spearmint crushed antioxidant enzymes in the balls and made testosterone molecules more vulnerable to assault.
Most interesting was that 3beta-HSD and 17beta-HSD, two of the key testosterone enzymes, were inhibited. However, LT and FST also fell, unlike in the human studies, and since they control those enzymes, that might be why.
This study raises more questions than it answers, but it reaffirms the overall testosterone lowering abilities. Every study on spearmint tea has shown a reduction in either total or free testosterone, and that’s why it can clear acne.
The glorious results
The benefit for acne, whether you’re a man or a woman, is less oily skin. Reduced testosterone equals less stimulation of androgen receptors in your skin’s sebaceous glands. That equals less sebum production, which equals less clogged pores and reduced formation of squalene peroxide, both of which will clear acne.
Testosterone causes oily skin itself, but also coverts into DHT, an androgen which is extra potent for oily skin. For women, your mouth, jawline, neck and chin might clear dramatically since acne correlates with testosterone and DHT in those areas, due to them having a higher androgen receptor density.
I strongly recommend against spearmint or peppermint tea for men, unless you want your muscles to fall off and lose any hope of growing a wise old beard when you reach 70. Men should never bother to tackle androgens at all except for minimising the damage to your skin, but for women the opportunity is wide.
Comparing spearmint to other popular anti-androgens for acne, green tea and saw palmetto both target DHT specifically, inhibiting the enzyme 5-alpha reductase which converts testosterone to DHT via their epigallocatechin gallate and stigmasterol compounds. There’s also failed anti-androgen weapons for acne such as nettle root and fenugreek, and successful topical remedies like green tea and sea buckthorn oil.
Most similar to spearmint tea is licorice root with its glycyrrhizic acid compound, which lowers testosterone by curtailing certain enzymes used to make it. Licorice lowered testosterone by a much stronger 45% in one study, but both weapons lower testosterone itself. Lowering DHT is more targeted, since for the everyday woman, maintaining normal testosterone levels is preferable. Women need a little testosterone for a happy mind and sex drive just like men do. The problems of high T and hormonal fluctuations often come from higher conversion to DHT.
However, women with high testosterone, potentially caused by polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), do stand to benefit. Women’s androgen receptors are very sensitive and a tiny decrease can clear acne. If your androgens are secretly elevated, you can benefit from experimentation too.
Stay alert – spearmint tea remains mysterious
That said, licorice is a stronger testosterone slasher for acne, and spearmint has another downside: potential side effects.
The method to spearmint’s madness remains mysterious. The only change we can consistently confirm is testosterone itself, and with this uncertainty comes more room for hormonal side effects.
For example, what if spearmint tea works by increasing the aromatase enzyme, the enzyme which creates estrogen via conversion from testosterone, and thus overall estrogen levels? That would explain the T reduction, but open up new side effects like mood swings and menstrual mayhem. Estrogen increased by 36% in one study.
Reports from the acne underground are mostly delighted, but hormonal horrors are lurking, including breast tenderness, menstrual cramps, and even ovarian cysts. The doses could have been over the top or merely normal.
If you drink gallons of this anti-testosterone liquid, more predictable effects will occur: an unstable mood and vanishing sex drive, even for women. Digestive problems have even been reported, scuppering the ancient beliefs.
Spearmint is also linked to liver damage, in huge doses, but a more worrying fact from the rat study was testosterone production being decreased through a suppression of antioxidants enzymes in the balls. That’s a simple brute force mechanism: if spearmint reduces testosterone with no subtlety and plain toxicity, what if acne-clearing antioxidants like glutathione are under threat elsewhere? Glutathione is made in the liver, and spearmint can occasionally cause liver toxicity: is there a link? This study observed that spearmint increased overall glutathione levels in the body, but we could speculate all day.
Inhibiting 5-alpha reductase, like green tea, saw palmetto and red reishi mushrooms do, is a much more straightforward DHT-inhibiting mechanism. Because spearmint is still mysterious, it ranks below green tea in the oily skin acne hierarchy, which is very safe….
…but most acne patients do not experience side effects. Your strategy is therefore to control your intake and monitor your body and skin like a hawk.
Bonus acne secret – java tea
Every year, more secret plants and herbs which cure acne are discovered. Centuries ago, some wise elders of the Ottoman empire probably connected wild spearmint to low libido, but who could have guessed that sea buckthorn berries from Himalayan valleys would end acne and oily skin?
Another androgen-slashing secret is java tea. Also known as Orthosiphon stamineus and Cat’s Whiskers, java tea is derived from a once obscure Indonesian plant with thin white or purple flowers leaves resembling cat’s whiskers and hence giving it the nickname. Java tea is a popular health beverage in mainland Asia, but recently, studies have identified it as a topical DHT inhibitor.
When applied to human skin, a 2% concentration Orthosiphon stamineus cream suppressed the activity of type 1 5-alpha reductase, the most active form of the 5AR enzyme. DHT activity was reduced, resulting in a significant reduction of oily skin after 28 days of daily usage. This is exactly the same as green tea: local suppression of DHT on the skin’s surface, an acne trick which is non-systematic and therefore safe for women and men, in addition to being hyperconcentrated.
5AR activity fell by 64%, beating topical zinc gluconate, which caused a 56% reduction. There was also a noticeable improvement in skin evenness and skin radiance. Unusually, squalene was specifically examined and it also fell; this is the ingredient of human sebum which causes acne by oxidising when attacked by free radicals.
Java tea even reduced the size of skin pores, meaning that any remaining oil will have a harder time getting lodged in them. Java tea was judged to be promising for oily skin and thus acne.
An interesting gimmick of this study was the ethnicities: both Caucasian and Asian people were examined. They enjoyed very similar acne benefits, so there’s no difference between British and Chinese, or Swedes and Thais.
While java tea hasn’t infiltrated its way into any acne products yet, this discovery shows just how much potential for acne there is in the world. If you happen to run a skincare company, you can have this acne secret for free and become a billionaire, because everyone else has missed it.
Spearmint tea’s influence in the world of acne is growing steadily and in 2017, there’s been a big upswing in popularity.
Should you automatically follow fads and trends for acne? Never, but while the likes of papaya and lemon juice should be avoided like the plague, spearmint is one instance where the truth sneaked out.
If you’re choosing your first anti-androgen remedy, use green tea or saw palmetto, since they target DHT specifically. Spearmint and licorice are promising if you suspect your testosterone to be elevated.
Only women should drink spearmint tea, and the countdown to clear skin will require patience. Testosterone fell after 5 days to several weeks, but even then, the reduction in testosterone takes time to filter through to sebaceous glands, which then takes more time to clear acne. Androgen slashers are always the lengthiest acne remedies, so never get impatient and switch to coffee or beer 3 weeks in.
Remember the mysterious side effects, and lower the dosage or switch remedies if you observe any.
Bonus benefits for acne include antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, but they’re too feeble to recommend to normal acne patients. For acne, spearmint tea’s sole benefit is for ending oily skin, but for that purpose, it’s an excellent secret.
Thanks for reading!