You should never make spearmint tea—unless you want to experience intense cramping, seizures, or hallucinations.

Mint is one of those pleasant-smelling herbal teas that nobody ever thinks twice about. But before you start brewing this refreshingly green treat, be aware that it can have serious side effects if prepared incorrectly. Spearmint tea acne has a strong flavor and theoretically should be steeped for only two minutes. While this is not enough time to achieve the desired result all mint lovers are looking for, it is enough that a particular compound called methyl salicylate (or “oil of wintergreen”) will be produced in large amounts in your cup.

1. Spearmint Tea Makes You Cramp Up

Methyl salicylate is the component responsible for mint’s unfortunate effects. It even has a name that’s as fun to say as it is to look at—miscibility failure. That’s right, miscibility failure. The chemical and its close cousin, acetaldehyde, aren’t exactly known as good guys and have been linked to everything from headaches to nausea. Therefore, if you’ve ever felt nauseous after drinking a glass of mint tea, you’re probably getting enough of these substances to make you sick.

Methyl salicylate’s highest concentration is in spearmint leaves, but it can also be found in other mints such as peppermint, which is often used to make tea. When you steep the leaves, their acids and oil break down into harmful substances. Spearmint tea made with absinth can have enough oil to make you sick. Absinth, or “wormwood,” is a strong-brewed liquor from wormwood leaves and stems. It’s thinner than the drink that you might find at an English pub, but it packs just as much of a punch.

2. Spearmint Tea Can Cause Seizures

The American Epilepsy Society warns against the dosing of spearmint tea during seizures because methyl salicylate can increase the chance that you’ll have one. Spearmint tea can cause seizures by directly affecting the central nervous system (CNS), causing spikes in your blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature.

Some people have brewed spearmint tea and then started to feel dizzy. In most cases, this is a side effect of having high blood pressure. The tea can make your blood vessels tighten, which causes the pulse rate to double or triple. There’s also a small chance that the tea will cause you to have a seizure, although it is unlikely.

3. Spearmint Tea Can Cause Hallucinations

If you’re not careful when making your spearmint tea and get too much oil into your cup (or down your throat), you can begin to hallucinate from the chemicals in the drink. Most other mint teas don’t contain enough methyl salicylate to cause you to hallucinate, so if you’ve ever made a pot of mint tea, you’re probably safe from this symptom. However, the oil from absinth is known for causing hallucinations shortly after consumption; therefore, drinking large amounts of spearmint may do the same.

4. Spearmint Tea May Make You Feel Strange

In worst case scenarios, people who have consumed spearmint tea have experienced severe drowsiness, nausea, dizziness and weakness. These are not typical side effects of drinking spearmint tea, but they can happen if there’s too much methyl salicylate in your drink. If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s best to go to a hospital right away.

5. Spearmint Tea Can Cause Kidney Damage

Since methyl salicylate affects the central nervous system, it can also weaken your kidneys and cause them to fail. The oil has been known to cause kidney damage in lab animals, and there are several documented cases of kidney failure from drinking spearmint tea. If you have pre-existing kidney problems, it’s best not to have any at all.

6. Spearmint Tea Can Make You Sick

The last thing you’d want to do is get sick from a glass of tea. But that’s exactly what can happen if you drink too much of the wrong kind of mint. Spearmint tea can give you vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps. It’s not known why this happens, and it appears that the higher the percentage of methyl salicylate in your cup, the more likely you are to get sick.

7. Spearmint Tea Can Make You Overheated

Methyl salicylate is a diuretic, and it has been shown to cause people to urinate more often than usual. The urine may be clear but it’s still acidic, which can lead to dehydration. Dizziness, nausea, and headaches are also symptoms of this condition.

8. Spearmint Tea Can Make You Overweight

Although spearmint tea does contain caffeine, you shouldn’t drink very much of it if you’re trying to lose weight. The caffeine from the tea can make you jittery and eventually increase your appetite (which is probably why people get sick from overindulging in teas).

Summary:

While spearmint tea is not going to kill you, it can give you some nasty side effects. If you want to drink a cup of mint tea, just remember to let it steep for only two minutes and make sure that your mint leaves are fresh. If they are old, they will already have the chemical in them and could make a toxic brew. No matter how strong you like your mint teas, be careful how much oil you add so that your drink doesn’t end up being toxic.

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