Peppermint vs. Spearmint: What's the Difference?

Here’s when to use each one.

Gum chewers, holiday bakers, and essential oil enthusiasts know that spearmint and peppermint are not the same thing — but what, exactly, sets one apart from the other? The differences in flavor and use are subtle, but they do exist. Let's break this down:

What Is Mint?

A bunch of freshly picked mint
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Mint is a type of aromatic herb that comes from a genus of plants known as Mentha in the family Lamiaceae. Known for its bright flavor and fresh scent, fresh and dried mint leaves are found in cuisines all over the world. The herb is particularly common in the Middle East, where it's used to flavor curries and other dishes. The leaves, which are warm and fresh with a unique cooling aftertaste, are used in everything from sauces and soups to candies and ice creams.

Mint essential oil, meanwhile, is widely used for flavoring breath fresheners, baked goods, and candies.

Gardeners can choose from more than 600 varieties of mint, which is relatively easy to grow and care for. Two of the most common types, spearmint and peppermint, are also two of the most commonly confused types. Here's how to tell the difference:

What Is Peppermint?

Close up of crushed peppermint candy ready to be mixed with chocolate to make peppermint bark.
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Peppermint belongs to the Piperita species and is a hybrid between watermint and spearmint. Native to parts of Europe and the Middle East, peppermint has a distinct cooling effect and can actually lower the temperature of your mouth. It is used for its leaves and the oil derived from its leaves.


Because it contains 40 percent menthol, peppermint packs a pretty extreme cooling punch. Its flavor is potent and slightly spicy (peppery, if you will).

Medicinal Uses

Peppermint has been used medicinally for centuries for its potential calming effects, often in the form of tea. It is also believed to alleviate gastrointestinal woes like nausea, gas, diarrhea, and indigestion.


Peppermint is often paired with sweet ingredients, particularly during the holiday season. Check out these festive desserts for minty inspiration:


Mojito With Mint And Lemon Or Lime On White Background.
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Spearmint (a.k.a. common mint, garden mint, and lamb mint) is part of the Spicata species and it occurs naturally, which means it's not a hybrid. It's native to parts of Europe and Asia. Like peppermint, it is used for its leaves and the oil derived from its leaves.


Spearmint gets its delicate and sweet flavor from a chemical called carvone. It contains .05 percent menthol, so it doesn't have quite the cooling effect of peppermint.

Medicinal Uses

Like peppermint, spearmint tea has long been used for medicinal purposes — particularly for stomach-related issues. It is also purported to help everything from sore throats to toothaches.


Its subtle sweetness makes spearmint perfect for pairing with savory flavors. Try one of these minty dishes to see what we mean:

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