NEW YORK - A few mugs of spearmint tea could help women combat excess facial and body hair, Turkish researchers report.
Women with excess body hair, a condition known as hirsutism, who drank two cups of the herbal tea a day for five days showed significant reductions in their levels of free testosterone, Dr. Mehmet Numan Tamer and colleagues from Suleyman Demirel University in Isparta report.
Typical treatments for hirsutism target excess levels of male hormones, and include oral contraceptives to prevent the production of these hormones or drug treatment to block the body's response to them, Tamer and his team point out in the journal Phytotherapy Research.
The researchers previously noted that drinking peppermint tea seemed to lower the libido in some men, which prompted them to investigate spearmint as an anti-hirsutism treatment. Hirsutism is characterized by excessive hair growth on the face, breasts and belly, and affects about 5 percent of women. It is thought to be related to the body's level of androgens (male hormones).
The researchers had 21 women with hirsutism drink a tea prepared from a heaping teaspoon of dried spearmint leaves twice daily. Twelve of the women had polycystic ovary syndrome, while the rest had hirsutism with known cause.
After five days, the women's levels of free testosterone (the biologically active form) declined, although their total testosterone level stayed the same. Women's levels of luteinizing hormone, follicle stimulating hormone, and estrogen rose, while their triglyceride levels dropped significantly.
Women with high male hormone levels may also have high levels of triglycerides, insulin resistance, and obesity, the researchers note.
"Spearmint can be an alternative to antiandrogenic treatment for mild hirsutism. However, further studies are needed for testing the reliability and availability of spearmint as a drug for hirsutism," the researchers conclude.
SOURCE: Phytotherapy Research, online February 20, 2007.