Spearmint for the Aging Mind

By: Theresa Greenwell

Age-related memory and cognitive decline threaten the quality of life for many in the aging community. These changes not only create many challenges for the elderly, it puts more stress on the ever-increasing cost of healthcare. As our aging population continues to increase, we must look for alternative, affordable and easy options that can delay or decrease the impact these changes can have. So, how does spearmint fit in?

To this end, a recent study in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (January 2018) looked at the effect of a specific spearmint extract on cognitive health, memory, mood and sleep in older adults.

The Study:

This study included 90 men and women, 59-60 years of age, in generally good health and with some age-associated memory impairment. Participants were separated into three test groups. Each group received one of three treatments in capsule form: placebo, 600 mg spearmint or 900 mg spearmint. Individuals were to take capsules with breakfast for 90 days. During the study period, researchers assessed participants for cognitive, mood or sleep changes.

Cognitive assessments included 11 tasks that would help to gauge attention and information processing, episodic and working memory, executive function and motor control. This assessment occurred on day 0, 45 and 90 of the study.

Mood assessments included a total mood disturbance (TMD) score along with evaluation of 6 factors: tension-anxiety, depression-dejection, anger-hostility, vigor-activity, fatigue-inertia, and confusion-bewilderment. This assessment occurred on day 0 and 90 of the study.

Sleep assessments included a subjective evaluation of sleep based on 4 criteria: ease of getting to sleep, quality of sleep, awaking from sleep, and behavior following wakefulness. This assessment occurred on day 0 and 90 of the study.


The Results:

Results of all assessments showed that individuals who received 900 mg spearmint showed significant improvement over other test groups in all categories. Better working memory and spatial memory, easy in ability to fall asleep and better quality of sleep, as well as increased vigor-activity and TMD were just some of the improvements noted.  Neither placebo nor 600 mg of spearmint supplementation came close to providing the improvements that 900 mg of spearmint did.


What It Means:

This study shows that spearmint supplementation can have significant and positive effects on some aging cognitive concerns.  Though these results are promising, more studies with more participants are necessary to know the full extent of promise spearmint supplementation may hold for our aging population!




Herrlinger, K., et al. Spearmint extract improves working memory in men and women with age-associated memory impairment. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 24(1): 37-47, 2018.