Botanical Name: Hedeoma pulegioides
Species: H. pulegioides
Common Names: American pennyroyal or American false pennyroyal
Other Names : Mock pennyroyal, Squaw mint, Tickweed, Stinking balm, Mosquito plant, American falsepennyroyal
Habitat : Hedeoma pulegioides is native to eastern North America, from Nova Scotia and southern Ontario west to Minnesota and South Dakota, and south to northern Georgia and Arkansas. It grows on dry soils in open woods and fields.
Hedeoma pulegioides is a low-growing, strongly aromatic herbaceous annual plant from 15 to 30 cm tall, with a slender erect much-branched, somewhat hairy and square stem. The leaves are small, thin, and rather narrow, with a strong mintlike odor and pungent taste. The flowers are pale blue, monoecious, produced in small clusters; it flowers from mid to late summer. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs).
Prefers a sunny position in a well-drained acidic soil of low to moderate fertility. Another report says that it prefers a rich sandy soil in sun or partial shade. The plants neat habit and aromatic foliage make it a good candidate for growing in containers or planting near seats.
The leaves have a very strong mint-like aroma and taste, they can be brewed into a refreshing tea that promotes good digestion, or they can be used as a culinary flavouring. An essential oil from the plant is used by the food industry as a flavouring in beverages, ice cream, baked goods etc.
American pennyroyal has a long history of medicinal use by various native North American Indian tribes and has become a traditional household remedy in North America. It is used mainly in the treatment of digestive disorders, colds, whooping cough, painful menstruation and as an aid in childbirth. A tea made from the leaves or flowering stems is carminative, rubefacient, stimulant. It is used to treat colds because it promotes perspiration. A tea with brewers yeast can induce an abortion. The plants are harvested when flowering and can be used fresh or dried. The essential oil is distilled from the plants when they are in flower and used medicinally in the same ways as the leaves. Caution is advised since the pure essential oil is very toxic and ingestion can be lethal whilst skin contact can cause dermatitis.
In the early 20th century, it was used “in domestic medicine, in the form of a warm infusion, to promote perspiration and as an emmenagogue.”Upon ingestion, one of its components, pulegone, metabolizes into hepatotoxic metabolites that depending on dosage can lead to organ failure, seizures, and death.
The essential oil is used as an ingredient in commercial insect repellents and cleaning products. The plant is used as an insect repellent. When rubbed on the body it is said to repel ticks
In the 19th century it was recommended for flea control: “Sprigs of wild myrtle, or penny-royal, or small flat camphor-bags dispersed about your under-clothes, and conveniently fastened, will keep fleas from molesting your person during the day. At night, let penny-royal be scattered over the bed-covers, and laid under the pillows and bolster; strewing a large quantity between the sacking and the matrass. Wash yourself before going to bed in water that has had essence of pennyroyal mixed.
Known Hazards : In large quantities this plant, especially in the form of the extracted essential oil, can be toxic if taken internally. Skin contact with the pure essential oil can cause dermatitis
Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.