The other day we fielded a question from a customer who had wondered which herb was the best for promoting fresh breath. The implication was that if, for example, eucalyptus is extremely effective but spearmint is only half as effective, why dilute the efficacy of the eucalyptus with the less potent spearmint? That's a great question and answered in short by Aristotle, who said, "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts."
Neutralizing Bad Breath is a Team Sport
Most effective breath freshening products contain multiple herbs prepared in combination as a mixture. When it comes to stamping out bad breath, herbs like sage, peppermint, and tea tree have flavor and effect profiles that are very complementary. Bad breath has various causes and each herbal remedy is better described as a puzzle piece rather than a stand-alone solution. While they all attack bad breath, each does it a little differently. Combining fresh breath promoting herbs allows for all the gaps to be filled and delivers a more complete, breath freshening experience.
Make Sure Your Team Includes Spearmint
There are a number of herbs that promote fresh breath and an effective breath freshener should contain most, if not all, of them. One to absolutely watch for is spearmint. Spearmint, or Mentha spicata, is a less pungent and more subtle member of the mint family. It's a favorite in the kitchen among chefs who wish to impart less overbearing flavors that might be obtained with peppermint. However, don't misinterpret that as a suggestion that spearmint is a weakling. Spearmint is a potent herb with much to offer in your pursuit for fresh breath. Spearmint contains the active ingredients carvone and menthone and has been shown to slow the proliferation of biofilm - the slimy, organism ridden film that forms within the mouth.  
Spearmint has the added bonus of being a strong natural antioxidant. In fact, it's one of the most potent antioxidants of all breath freshening herbs.  Spearmint also raises the bar. Research has repeatedly shown that when spearmint is added to herbal mixtures, antioxidant activity and flavonoid content go through the roof. 
Choose Spearmint, Not Bad Breath
Maintaining fresh breath requires a proactive approach. If you neglect your oral hygiene, organisms and their waste will proliferate in your mouth and the stench will be abhorrent. You need to brush your teeth at least twice a day, brush your tongue (consider investing in a tongue scraper), floss (more than once a week) and, between brushings, keep a breath freshening product at arm's reach. It really is a simple equation but it's amazing how easy it can be to get behind.
Effective breath fresheners don't have to come in a package. If you have fresh herbs available, chewing on peppermint, spearmint, or tea tree leaves can be very refreshing. Many folks also enjoy a minty essence in their drinking water by adding spearmint leaves.
- Soković MD, Vukojević J, Marin PD, Brkić DD, Vajs V, van Griensven LJ. Chemical composition of essential oils of Thymus and Mentha species and their antifungal activities. Molecules. 2009 Jan 7;14(1):238-49. doi: 10.3390/molecules14010238.
- Rasooli I, Shayegh S, Astaneh S. The effect of Mentha spicata and Eucalyptus camaldulensis essential oils on dental biofilm. Int J Dent Hyg. 2009 Aug;7(3):196-203. doi: 10.1111/j.1601-5037.2009.00389.x.
- Guimarães R, Barreira JC, Barros L, Carvalho AM, Ferreira IC. Effects of oral dosage form and storage period on the antioxidant properties of four species used in traditional herbal medicine. Phytother Res. 2011 Apr;25(4):484-92. doi: 10.1002/ptr.3284. Epub 2010 Aug 24.
- Guimarães R, Barros L, Carvalho AM, Ferreira IC. Infusions and decoctions of mixed herbs used in folk medicine: synergism in antioxidant potential. Phytother Res. 2011 Aug;25(8):1209-14. doi: 10.1002/ptr.3366. Epub 2011 Feb 9.
†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.