Spearmint Tea Quickly Boosts Mental FocusAugust 2018
By Michael Downey
Many people turn to coffee every day for a quick boost in mental focus and working memory.1-3
Yet some find this leads to a later “crash” or interferes with sleep. Others don’t like coffee because of stomach acidity and other issues.
As an alternative, scientists have developed an instant spearmint herbal tea that targets working memory and is stimulant-free.
Recent human evidence demonstrates that this tea quickly and sustainably boosts mental focus, attention, and concentration—while supporting restful sleep at night.4
Lab and animal data suggest that spearmint polyphenols may promote neurogenesis—the growth of new brain cells—while protecting existing neurons and boosting neurotransmitter levels.5,6
What you need to know
- While coffee may enhance mental sharpness, focus, and attention—abilities that tend to fade with age—many individuals may wish to avoid caffeine let-down or may simply not like coffee.
- In human studies, the phenolic compounds in spearmint have been shown to boost working memory, focus, attention, and concentration—and to allow volunteers to get to sleep faster at night.
- Compelling preliminary data suggest that spearmint polyphenols may work by promoting neurogenesis—the growth of new brain neurons—and protecting existing neurons.
- A spearmint extract standardized to provide higher levels of phenolic compounds, especially potent rosmarinic acid, is now available in an instant, spearmint herbal tea that, uniquely, comes in one-cup, grab-and-go packets—for a quick, caffeine-free boost in cognitive performance.
A Coffee Alternative for Mental Focus
A key reason that 64% of Americans—and 74% of Americans over 55—drink coffee daily1 is that they seek a short-term boost in overall focus. While these effects are associated with caffeine, spearmint has been shown to provide the same immediate cognitive enhancement.4
This is great news for a public that—according to surveys by the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons)—has become increasingly concerned about retaining mental sharpness.
In fact, 92% of the association’s over-age-50 members rate “staying mentally sharp” as their number-one topic of interest,7 and 98% of adults over 40 believe “it is important to maintain or improve brain health.”8
This concern is not restricted to the older population. Another survey found that 59% of individuals aged 18-29 were “very/extremely concerned” about staying mentally sharp, as were 55% of those aged 20-39, and 61% of those aged 40-49.9
Critical to the daily jolt in focus that most people seek is an effective working memory. Working memory is a part of your short-term memory that allows you to store information and manipulate it while working on another mental task. Controlled by the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus, working memory helps maintain attention, focus, and concentration and may enhance movement and reaction times.10
One report found that working memory decreases roughly 10% per decade after age 40.11 So any nutrient that can support working memory plays a crucial role in delivering that daily boost of focus and concentration—especially with increasing age.
Also important to cognitive function is spatial working memory. This is the ability to know where items are arranged in space, such as the layout of your house or how to get around town. Both working memory and spatial working memory are necessary for fully functioning cognitive ability.
Scientists have identified a spearmint extract that contains higher levels of phenolic compounds such as rosmarinic acid. This extract serves as an excellent, stimulant-free alternative to coffee, because it essentially helps the brain focus but will not interfere with sleep the way caffeine does. Research demonstrates that spearmint extract:
- Improves working memory and spatial working memory,4
- Boosts attention, concentration, and brain function,4
- Shortens the time it takes to fall asleep at night,4 and
- Promotes the generation and protection of brain cells.5,6
Let’s examine the evidence.
Spearmint Boosts Attention and Concentration
The first study was a small, pilot, open-label study—meaning there was no placebo group. It consisted of 11 healthy adults experiencing typical age-related problems with memory.12
The patients underwent a battery of computerized cognition tests one hour before taking the first dose to establish a baseline of cognitive function. Then they took 900 mg of spearmint extract once a day with breakfast for 30 days.
The volunteers demonstrated significant improvements in attention and concentration as early as 2.25 hours after a single dose of spearmint extract—demonstrating just how quickly the cognitive effects start taking place. By four hours after the initial dose, average scores showed:12
- 46% improvement on a task requiring attention and concentration,
- 121% improvement on a second task requiring attention and concentration, and
- 39% boost in planning ability.
Benefits continued to improve over the next 30 days, with the participants demonstrating:12
- 35% improvement on a test of reasoning,
- 125% improvement on a test of attention and concentration, and
- 48% boost in planning ability.
This study showed both the immediate and longer-term benefits of supplementation with spearmint extract on important aspects of brain function.
Clinically Shown to Support Cognition and Working Memory
Encouraged by these initial findings, scientists subjected the spearmint extract to the most rigorous type of clinical study: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study.
Investigators enlisted 90 volunteers averaging 59.4 years of age who had age-associated memory impairment.4 This is not a memory disorder but is simply a general, age-related decline in memory.13
This study evaluated the effect of the spearmint extract on alertness, mood, and sleep, as well as working memory and spatial working memory.
For this study, subjects took either 900 mg or 600 mg of the spearmint extract or a placebo every day at breakfast for 90 days. The extract was standardized to contain 24% total phenolics and 14.5% rosmarinic acid, one of spearmint’s brain-protective components.4
After 90 days, the subjects taking the spearmint extract showed an approximate 15% improvement of their working memory and a 9% improvement in spatial working memory compared to placebo. These were statistically significant differences that indicated enhanced alertness of brain function. Furthermore, the study author wrote that:
“These data suggest that this extract could improve working memory equivalent to that which may have diminished over a decade of life.”4
As an added benefit, those in the spearmint group reported improvement in the time it took to fall asleep—and on awakening, they were more alert.
Improved mood was also observed by using a standard psychological-rating scale. These treatment effects alone could make a big difference in how well we are able to function on any given day.4
Together, these studies make it clear that this novel spearmint extract significantly helps aging individuals to stay focused and on-task, through both enhanced cognition and working memory—and via improved sleep.
As the author of the recent clinical study wrote, spearmint “may be a beneficial nutritional intervention for cognitive health in older subjects with age-associated mental impairment.”4
Mechanisms may Include the Generation of New Brain Cells
Medical science once believed that humans stop growing new brain cells after adolescence. However, a 2018 Columbia University study published in Cell Stem Cell shows this to be untrue.14
Postmortem examination of the brains of humans who died at various ages revealed that—unlike mice—healthy older humans without cognitive impairment or neuropsychiatric disease maintain neurogenesis in the critical hippocampus region of the brain well into old age. Immature neuron pools remain stable throughout life.14
This changes medicine’s entire picture of brain aging, because if new brain cells are being formed, then the brain can renew itself.
The focus now shifts to how quickly each individual produces new brain cells—and there are large differences in this neurogenic rate. In fact, your rate of neurogenesis may be the single most important factor for a high quality of life.
This new finding has made it even more imperative, with advancing age, to continue to provide the brain with maximum support in order to optimize its potential for the creation of new neurons. This neurogenic support may be especially critical for those at risk of age-associated memory impairment.
The incredible news is that as scientists look into the effects of spearmint, early lab and animal data suggest that it delivers significant support for neurogenesis.5,6
In a 2018 published study, spearmint-treated subjects—who were aged between 50 and 70—reported improvements in the time it took to get to sleep.
The improvements were “consistent with effects reported after administration of commonly used sleep aids typically administered before bed.”4
This in turn can produce further improvements in cognitive focus, because the reduced sleep efficiency that often occurs with age has been associated with cognitive decline.
Protecting Existing Neurons
The compounds in spearmint protect existing brain cells and positively impact the blood vessels that support and nourish them.
Phenolics present in spearmint inhibit acetylcholinesterase, an enzyme that breaks down the vital memory-associated neurotransmitter acetylcholine.15-17
These phenolic compounds also inhibit oxidative stress.5,6 A mouse study showed that one specific phenolic compound—rosmarinic acid—provided continued protection for key memory centers of the brain (such as the hippocampus and cortex) against cellular damage from oxidative stress.6
As previously mentioned, phenolics present in spearmint have been shown in preliminary lab and animal studies to promote the formation of new brain cells.5,6 In particular, rosmarinic acid significantly enhanced new cell growth in cultures of cells from the hippocampus, the brain center of working memory.5
A Convenient Format for Quick Mental Productivity
The spearmint extract used in these studies has a high concentration of rosmarinic acid—in a convenient tea drink.
There are over 50 phenolic compounds in this spearmint extract that have been standardized to 24% total phenolics and 14.5% rosmarinic acid.
This is achieved by using a gentle water extraction process and an innovative drying technology that preserve the native profile of the phenolic complex. This can be seen in the rosmarinic acid component, which is more fully expressed compared to typical steam extraction methods.
A new instant spearmint herbal tea delivers 900 mg of spearmint extract, the same dose used in the human studies.
This spearmint extract has been shown to be safe in animal toxicity and genotoxicity studies (studies that test for damage to genetic information). In human trials, it was found to have no adverse side effects.4,12
And its unique format means people don’t need to be at home to enjoy a cup. This new spearmint herbal tea comes in one-cup, grab-and-go packets that can make tea in just seconds. Just tear open the packet, pour the contents into a cup, add hot water, and stir—no steeping needed.
Spearmint itself has a natural, almost sweet flavor. But this tea is sugar-free and can always be sweetened as desired.
It offers instant, on-the-go refreshment that can provide an immediate boost in mental focus without the potential for a later “crash.” For many people, the improvement in the time it takes to get to sleep at night and longer-range improvement in working memory and cognitive ability are more important benefits.4,12
Some people seek an alternative to coffee for a quick boost in levels of attention, concentration, and focus.
The good news is that scientists have shown in human studies that the phenolic compounds in spearmint enhance performance on tests of working memory, focus, attention, and concentration—while allowing volunteers to get to sleep faster at night.
Preliminary lab data show that spearmint polyphenols may promote the growth of new brain neurons, protect existing neurons, and boost levels of neurotransmitters.
Instant spearmint herbal tea is available in one-cup, grab-and-go packets that provide a high concentration of phenolic compounds, especially potent rosmarinic acid—providing an ideal, caffeine-free way to improve mental focus.
If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Wellness Specialist at 1-866-864-3027.
- Available at: http://news.gallup.com/poll/184388/americans-coffee-consumption-steady-few-cut-back.aspx. Accessed May 2, 2018.
- Klaassen EB, de Groot RH, Evers EA, et al. The effect of caffeine on working memory load-related brain activation in middle-aged males. Neuropharmacology. 2013;64:160-7.
- Parker A, Byars A, Purpura M, et al. The effect of alpha-glycerylphosphorylcholine, caffeine or placebo on markers of mood, cognitive function, power, speed and agility. Vol 122015.
- Herrlinger KA, Nieman KM, Sanoshy KD, et al. Spearmint Extract Improves Working Memory in Men and Women with Age-Associated Memory Impairment. J Altern Complement Med. 2018;24(1):37-47.
- Fonseca BA, Herrlinger KA. The effects of a proprietary spearmint extract on neurogenesis rates in rat hippocampal neurons. Paper presented at: Neuroscience2016; San Diego, CA.
- Farr SA, Niehoff ML, Ceddia MA, et al. Effect of botanical extracts containing carnosic acid or rosmarinic acid on learning and memory in SAMP8 mice. Physiol Behav. 2016;165:328-38.
- Available at: https://www.aarp.org/content/dam/aarp/research/surveys_statistics/general/2013/Findings-from-AARP-2012-Member-Opinion-Survey-AARP.pdf. Accessed May 3, 2018.
- Available at: https://www.aarp.org/content/dam/aarp/research/surveys_statistics/health/2015/2015-brain-health.doi.10.26419%252Fres.00114.001.pdf. Accessed May 3, 2018.
- Available at: http://beta.rodpub.com/uploads/May%2010.pdf. Accessed May 3, 2018.
- Blazer DG, Yaffe K, Liverman CT, eds. Cognitive Aging: Progress in Understanding and Opportunities for Action. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2015.
- Wesnes K. The Cognitive Drug Research computerized assessment system: Application to clinical trials. In: de Deyn P TE, D’Hooge R, eds, ed. Memory: Basic Concepts, Disorders and Treatment. Leuven: Uitgeverij Acco; 2003:453-72.
- Nieman KM, Sanoshy KD, Bresciani L, et al. Tolerance, bioavailability, and potential cognitive health implications of a distinct aqueous spearmint extract. Functional Foods in Health and Disease. 2015;5(5):165 of 87.
- Available at: http://www.human-memory.net/disorders_age.html. Accessed May 3, 2018.
- Boldrini M, Fulmore CA, Tartt AN, et al. Human Hippocampal Neurogenesis Persists throughout Aging. Cell Stem Cell. 2018;22(4):589-99.e5.
- Ali-Shtayeh MS, Jamous RM, Zaitoun SYA, et al. In-vitro screening of acetylcholinesterase inhibitory activity of extracts from Palestinian indigenous flora in relation to the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Functional Foods in Health and Disease. 2014;4(9):381-400.
- Oinonen PP, Jokela JK, Hatakka AI, et al. Linarin, a selective acetylcholinesterase inhibitor from Mentha arvensis. Fitoterapia. 2006;77(6):429-34.
- Shaikh S, Yaacob HB, Rahim ZHA. Prospective Role in Treatment of Major Illnesses and Potential Benefits as a Safe Insecticide and Natural Food Preservative of Mint (Mentha spp.): A Review. Asian Journal of Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences. 2014;4(35):1-12.