Botanical Name: Mentha pulegium
Species: M. pulegium
Synonyms: Pulegium. Run-by-the-Ground. Lurk-in-the-Ditch. Pudding Grass. Piliolerial.
Common Names :PennyRoyal , Penny-Royal, poleo
Parts Used: leaves and young flowers, essential oil
Habitat: Native to Europe but now it is grown in most of the places in the world.
Pennyroyal represents plants of two genera, Mentha pulegium L., European pennyroyal, and Hedeoma pulegioides (L.) Pers., American pennyroyal. European pennyroyal is a low, prostrate, and spreading perennial herb, native to Europe and western Asia. Reaching a height of 0.3 meters, the plant has ovate to nearly orbicular leaves and lilac flowers. American pennyroyal is a low-growing annual plant, native to the eastern part of the United States. Reaching a height of 0.3 meters, the plant has multibranched pubescent stems, small, narrow, elliptic leaves, and light blue to purple flowers that appear in the summer months.
The reported life zone of European pennyroyal is 7 to 26 degrees centigrade with an annual precipitation of 0.3 to 1.2 meters and a soil pH of 4.8 to 8.3 (4.1-31). The plant is found in humid, low-coastal regions along the Mediterranean Sea, and grows best in fertile, moist soils with partial shade (14.1-8). American pennyroyal grows on dry, sandy soils and is commercially cultivated to only a very limited extent.
Pennyroyal is the smallest of the Mints and very different in habit from any of the others. Two forms of the plant are met with in Great Britain: the commonest, the variety decumbens, has weak, prostrate stems, bluntly quadrangular, 3 inches to a foot long, which readily take root at the lower joints or nodes. The leaves are opposite, shortly stalked, more or less hairy on both sides, roundish oval, greyish green, about 1 to 1 1/2 inch long and 1/2 inch broad. The flowers are in whorled clusters of ten or a dozen, rising in tiers one above the other at the nodes, where the leaves spring in pairs, beginning about the middle of the stem, their colour reddish purple to lilac blue, and in bloom during July and August. The seed is light brown, oval and very small. The other variety, erecta, has much stouter stems, not rooting at the nodes and not decumbent, but erect or sub-erect, 8 to 12 inches high. It is rarer, but the best for cultivation, as it can be reaped and tied up in bundles easily, whereas the stems of decumbens form a dense green turf, the flowering stems, sparingly produced, Iying on the leafy cushions of the plant. There are other varieties on the Continent. The plant has been introduced into North and South America. It is mentioned in the Herbals of the New World as one of the plants the Pilgrim Fathers introduced.
Cultivation: Locally, Pennyroyal grows abundantly, but being required by the hundredweight it has been cultivated to a certain extent in this country, on account of the difficulty of obtaining sufficient quantities from the widely separated localities in which it is found.
As a crop, it presents uncertainty, being diminished by drought, its natural habitat being on moist heaths and commons by the sides of pools. It is easily grown from seed and succeeds best in loamy soil, in a moist situation, but propagation is commonly by division of old roots in autumn or spring, March or April, like Spearmint, or more rarely by cuttings. The roots may be divided up in September where the winters are mild, in April where the winters are frosty.
In planting, allow a space of 12 inches between the rows and 6 inches between the plants in the row. Water shortly afterwards should the weather be at all dry. When a good stock of healthy roots has been obtained, Pennyroyal may be forced with advantage. The creeping underground roots grow in horizontal masses, as with the other mints and if some of these are taken up at any time during the winter and laid out on a bed of good soil, covering them with 2 or 3 inches of the same, they will soon push up fresh shoots in quantity. They can be put in boxes in a moderately warm house or pit. If all the tops are not wanted they may be made into cuttings, each with four or five joints, and, inserted in boxes of light, sandy soil, will soon form roots in the same temperature, and after being duly hardened off, may be planted out in the open, in due course, and a healthy, vigorous stock thus be maintained. Towards the close of autumn all the stalks that remain should be cut down to the ground and the bed covered with fresh soil to the depth of 1 inch.
Plantations generally last for four or five years when well managed and on favourable soil, but frosts may cause the crop to die off in patches, so it is a safe plan to make new plantings yearly.
Harvesting: Pennyroyal is mostly sold in the dry state for making tea, the stems being cut when the plant is just about to flower and dried in the usual manner.
Constituents: he fresh herb yields about 1 per cent of a volatile oil, oil of Pulegium, a yellow or greenish-yellow liquid, obtained by distillation, and having a strong aromatic odour and taste. The chief constituent is ketone pulegone.
A yield of 12 lb. of oil to the acre of crop is considered good.
Pennyroyal was commonly used as a cooking herb by the Greeks and Romans. The ancient Greeks often flavored their wine with pennyroyal. A large number of the recipes in the Roman cookbook of Apicius call for the use of pennyroyal, often along with such herbs as lovage, oregano and coriander. Although still commonly used for cooking in the Middle Ages, it gradually fell out of use as a culinary herb and is seldom used so today.
Medicinal Action and Uses: Pliny gives a long list of disorders for which Pennyroyal was a supposed remedy, and especially recommends it for hanging in sleeping rooms, it being considered by physicians as more conducive to health even than roses.
As a medicinal plant, pennyroyal has traditionally been used as an antispasmodic, carminative, diaphoretic, emmenagogue, sedative, stimulant, aromatic, and stomachic. It has been used to promote menstruation, induce abortion, cure headaches, and relieve colds (11.1-101). The essential oil can be toxic, causing nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, depression, stimulation, and convulsions (8.2-19, 11.1-136). Pennyroyal is pharmaceutically classified as a diaphoretic and emmenagogue (14.1-35).
It was likewise thought to communicate its purifying qualities to water, and Gerard tells us: ‘If you have Pennyroyale in great quantity dry and cast it into corrupt water, it helpeth it much, neither will it hurt them that drink thereof.’ As a purifier of the blood, it was highly spoken of: ‘Penny-royale taken with honey cleanseth the lungs and cleareth the breast from all gross and thick humours.’
It was deemed by our ancestors valuable in headaches and giddiness. We are told: ‘A garland of Penny-royale made and worn about the head is of great force against the swimming in the head and the pains and giddiness thereof.’
Pennyroyal Water was distilled from the leaves and given as an antidote to spasmodic, nervous and hysterical affections. It was also used against cold and ‘affections of the joints.’
Pennyroyal tea is the use of an infusion made from the herb. The infusion is widely reputed as safe to ingest in restricted quantities. It has been traditionally employed and reportedly successful as an emmenagogue (menstrual flow stimulant) or as an abortifacient. In 1994 a young woman died from an undetected ectopic pregnancy while performing a self-induced abortion using pennyroyal tea; reports say that she had consumed the tea for longer than the recommended five days.The most popular current use of the tea is to settle the stomach. Other reported medicinal uses through history include treatment for fainting, flatulence, gall ailments, gout, and hepatitis (presumably Hepatitis A), and as a lung cleanser, a gum strengthener and, when ground with vinegar, a tumor remedy.
Culpepper says of Pennyroyal:
‘Drank with wine, it is good for venomous bites, and applied to the nostrils with vinegar revives those who faint and swoon. Dried and burnt, it strengthens the gums, helps the gout, if applied of itself to the place until it is red, and applied in a plaster, it takes away spots or marks on the face; applied with salt, it profits those that are splenetic, or liver grown…. The green herb bruised and putinto vinegar, cleanses foul ulcers and takes away the marks of bruises and blows about the eyes, and burns in the face, and the leprosy, if drank and applied outwardly…. One spoonful of the juice sweetened with sugar-candy is a cure for hooping-cough.’
Its action is carminative, diaphoretic, stimulant and emmenagogic, and is principally employed for the last-named property in disorders caused by sudden chill or cold.
It is also beneficial in cases of spasms, hysteria, flatulence and sickness, being very warming and grateful to the stomach.
The infusion of 1 OZ. of herb to a pint of boiling water is taken warm in teacupful doses, frequently repeated, and the oil is also given on sugar, as well as being made up into pills and other preparations.
In France and Germany oil of Pennyroyal is also used commercially.
Pennyroyal essential oil is extremely concentrated. It should not ever be taken internally because it is highly toxic; even in small doses, the poison can lead to death. The metabolite menthofuran is thought to be the major toxic agent. Complications have been reported from attempts to use the oil for self-induced abortion. The oil can be used for aromatherapy, a bath additive and as an insect repellent. There are numerous studies that show pennyroyal’s toxicity to humans and animals.
Since the U.S. Congress passed the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act in October 1994, all manufactured forms of pennyroyal have carried a warning label against its use by pregnant women. This substance is not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Pennyroyal oil should not be used as a natural flea repellent due to its toxicity to pets, even at extremely low levels
As an easily-made poison, pennyroyal has had a long historical use. Early settlers in colonial Virginia used dried pennyroyal to eradicate pests. So popular was pennyroyal, that the Royal Society published an article on its use against rattlesnakes in the first volume of its Philosophical Transactions (1665).The plant has been used as an insect repellent against fleas and other pests. Plants and oil can cause contact dermatitis.
Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.