What if you could sip your way to better skin? That’s the theory behind drinking spearmint tea as an acne-preventive or acne-treatment product.

While people have used medicinal plants (such as tea tree oil or salicylic acid made from willow bark) to treat acne for many years, these are usually topically applied.

Keep reading to find out the proposed method behind spearmint tea as an acne treatment — and if there’s any science to back it up.

Spearmint tea is brewed from the leaves of the spearmint plant, also known as Mentha spicata. The plant has small, spiky flowers that are pink, white, or lavender. The leaves have a sweet, mint fragrance.

Spearmint tea has several properties that could make it a good treatment for some acne types:

Anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antibacterial properties

According to an article in the Journal of Medicinal Food, spearmint tea contains compounds called polyphenols (specifically rosmarinic acid) that has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antibacterial properties.

Anti-androgen properties

Another study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research suggests that spearmint tea has anti-androgen properties.

Androgens are male hormones, including testosterone. An excess of these hormones can lead to acne in some people, particularly teenagers, because they cause overproduction of sebum that can clog pores.

It’s the anti-hormone potential of spearmint tea that has the internet buzzing about its skincare effects. A quick Google search reveals blog posts and Reddit threads dedicated to those who testify to the benefits of drinking spearmint tea for their hormonal acne.

What you won’t see is any research about the spearmint tea and acne connection, specifically.

Proposed benefits for acne are largely anecdotal

The proposed benefits of spearmint tea for acne are mostly anecdotal from people who have tried the approach. Studies point to properties that could be skin-benefiting, but it’s hard to predict just how spearmint tea could affect the skin.

Botanical researchers have periodically examined the benefits of spearmint treatments to reduce a number of health conditions. Here are a few examples:

  • Reducing hirsutism in women with PCOS. An older 2010 study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research found drinking spearmint tea twice daily for one month reduced hirsutism (excess hair) in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). The researchers concluded the tea may have anti-androgen (male hormone) effects on the body.
  • Reducing knee pain. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food studied the benefits of drinking spearmint tea that was high in rosmarinic acid on osteoarthritis knee pain. This tea is different from commercially available spearmint tea. After 16 weeks, the high-rosmarinic tea helped to decrease pain, stiffness, and physical disability. Those who drank the commercial spearmint tea reported reductions in stiffness and physical disability.
  • Aiding sleep. A 2018 study published in the journal Evidence Based Complementary Alternative Medicine studied the abilities of spearmint tea to induce or prolong sleep in rats. The researchers found administering spearmint tea extract to rats helped to increase the amount of time spent asleep. However, this study has not been replicated in humans.
  • Reducing cancerous cells. A 2018 laboratory study published in the journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine found spearmint essential oil helped to reduce tumor cell viability. The researchers specifically applied spearmint oil to three tumor strains and determined there was a 50 percent reduction in cancerous cells. However, researchers haven’t studied this benefit in human subjects.

These are just some of the examples of potential spearmint benefits, but they aren’t widely researched on large populations of people.

Spearmint tea is not poisonous, and doctors usually associate it with few side effects. Some people may find if they drink spearmint tea in large quantities, they experience vomiting or diarrhea.

While the exact “large quantity” is not specified, limiting your intake to two to three cups a day may put you on the safe side.

Peppermint tea, or simply mint tea, is a hybrid combination of two mint varieties. The first is spearmint and the second is water mint or Mentha aquatica. The addition of water mint to spearmint alters the herb’s taste.

Spearmint is lower in menthol, the compound that gives the plant its minty properties, compared to peppermint. This means spearmint usually has a sweeter, milder flavor while peppermint hits your taste buds with a stronger, mint “zing.”

According to the National Institutes of Health, there’s a small body of evidence that supports the idea that peppermint oil may have the following beneficial effects:

  • reducing irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms in adults who take it in coated capsules
  • lessening tension headaches when applied topically
  • reducing spasms during certain gastrointestinal procedures, such as an upper endoscopy or barium enema

These benefits are more related to topical applications or swallowing a pill-coated form. There isn’t a lot of conclusive research about drinking mint tea.

While natural treatments can help acne, there are a variety of medical approaches available. If you’ve tried to manage your acne at home through regular face washing, exfoliation, and spot treatments, but you aren’t seeing results, it may be time to call a skin care professional.

Dermatologists specialize in acne treatments and can examine your skin to help determine what treatments may help your specific skin type.

Some signs it’s time to see a dermatologist include:

  • at-home treatments aren’t working
  • your acne is painful
  • you are experiencing scarring related to your acne
  • your acne makes you feel self-conscious

Many treatments are out there. A dermatologist can help you determine where to begin.

Spearmint tea is a proposed acne treatment, likely because of its potential to exert anti-androgen effects on the body. There isn’t any research noting how much tea to drink or for how long, so it’s difficult to say if this approach would work.

Because there aren’t a lot of side effects related to spearmint tea, it may be worth conducting your own experiment at home. However, if the tea doesn’t work, or your acne symptoms worsen, it may be time to contact a dermatologist.