Drinking two cups of spearmint tea a day could help women lose excessive body hair, by lowering levels of sex hormones in their blood, scientists said. Women who drank tea leaves from the spearmint plant, Mentha spicata, for five consecutive days had reduced levels of a sex hormone believed to trigger hirsutism, a condition where thick, dark hairs sprout on the face, stomach and breasts.

The disorder is linked to a hormonal imbalance and is common among women with polycystic ovary syndrome, which affects 5-10% of women of childbearing age. It is usually treated with drugs that block the hormones working, or the contraceptive pill, which cuts the available testosterone in the bloodstream.

The study focused on 21 women aged from 18 to 40. Twelve had polycystic ovary syndrome. Blood tests revealed that after drinking the tea, testosterone was cut by 29%, while factors thought to impair hair growth, were boosted.

“Current therapies use either oral contraceptives to suppress androgen production, or medications such as spirolactone that prevent the body responding to androgen, but this study shows that spearmint could be a good natural alternative for women who have mild symptoms,” said Mehmet Tamer, an endocrinologist at Suleyman Demirel University in Isparta, Turkey. The study appears in the journal Phytotherapy Research. The team decided to study the effects of spearmint after reports emerged of men experiencing reduced libidos after consuming the drink over long periods.

“For many women with hirsutism, it is an exceptionally distressing problem,” said Valerie Randall, an expert in hormones and hair growth at Bradford University. “The difficulty with natural remedies is knowing how much, if any, of the active ingredient is in a batch of leaves.”