Turkish researchers say women who suffer from excessive hair growth (hirsutism) may be helped by drinking spearmint tea.
Hirsutism can cause hair growth on the stomach, breasts and face and causes women a great deal of distress and embarrassment.
In general hirsutism is rarely caused by a serious illness but is usually the result of an excess of the male sex hormone androgen which includes testosterone.
Current treatment usually involves drugs to reduce the levels of androgen in the body but the researchers say drinking the spearmint tea twice a day, reduces the levels of male sex hormones, and could offer a good natural alternative therapy.
Study leader Professor Mehmet Numan Tamer, says in some cases, hirsutism may be a result of an underlying medical disorder, such as polycystic ovary syndrome.
According to the researchers, extracts of spearmint plant had been reported to reduce libido in men in a town called Isparta in southwest Turkey, possibly due to reduced androgen hormone levels.
In a study looking at the effects in women, 21 volunteers with hirsutism, 12 of whom had polycystic ovary syndrome, were given a cup of spearmint tea twice a day for five days in the follicular (when the ovarian follicle develops) phase of their menstrual cycle.
The tea was made by pouring a cup (250ml) of boiling water over one heaped teaspoon (5g) of dried leaves, and leaving it to seep for five to 10 minutes.
The researchers found a significant decrease in the levels of testosterone in the blood and an increase in several female hormones including the follicle-stimulating hormone.
The scientists suggest that spearmint could affect the metabolism of hormones such as testosterone or directly affect synthesis of androgen hormones.
Professor Tamer says more work is needed to test the reliability of spearmint in treating mild hirsutism.
Experts say the that naturally occurring plant products can have an effect on human hormones but warn that women suffering from hirsutism or polycystic ovary syndrome needed proper medical treatment.
The research was carried out at the Suleyman Demirel University, Isparta, Turkey and is published in Phytotherapy Research.