A member of the mint family, pennyroyal (Botanical Name Mentha pulegium) has the characteristic angled stem of its cousins.
It has a prostrate, creeping habit with opposite, hairy, oval-shaped leaves. The purplish flowers rise in clusters in mid to late summer and attract butterflies and bees.
Other Names Pudding grass, Mosquito Plant, Tick Weed, Lurk in the Ditch, Organ Broth, Organ Tea, Pilioerian, Squaw Mint
Growing zones: 6-11
History and Folklore
The botanical name of Pennyroyal comes from the Latin word for flea, alluding to its flea repellent properties.
Pennyroyal seems to have been a staple herb for the ancient physicians from ancient Greece to Northern Europe for a variety of complaints. It was even said that just hanging a branch in the sick room would aid in healing. Garlands of pennyroyal worn about the head was supposed to prevent headaches and giddiness and to help clear the mind. It was even believed to purify foul water.
Much commercial pennyroyal oil comes from this plant, though it is only distantly related to the above described plant.
However, they do have the same active constituents and can be used the same. American Pennyroyal may be stronger than European Pennyroyal and doses should be adjusted accordingly. American Pennyroyal is an annual that does well in dry soil in full sun.
Pennyroyal is a perennial, hardy to zone five. It prefers moist, rich soil in full sun to part shade.
Pennyroyal roots at growth nodes, meaning that stems touching the ground can form a new plant. It’s a very aggressive grower and should be kept in a pot to prevent it taking over the world!
Harvesting and Storage
Cut the stems when the plant is just about ready to flower and hang to dry in bunches, then strip off the leaves for use in tea.
Pennyroyal is of feminine nature and ruled by Venus and the element earth. Alternatively (that is, depending on who you ask), it’s masculine and ruled by fire and mars.
Because of its association with midwifery, pennyroyal is also associated with Hecate, Eileithyia and other Goddesses associated with the art.
Use pennyroyal in healing spells and sachets.
It is said that pennyroyal in your shoes will protect you from tired feet. Include pennyroyal in blessings before traveling and spells designed to protect a traveler.
It helps relieve blockages of the throat chakra and helps heal an aura damaged by addiction. Use in spells to protect your psychic energy from the negativity of others and to strengthen, cleanse and repair the aura.
Use also to protect against the evil eye and for spells for removing the evil eye.
Pennyroyal was once used for stuffing pork in combination with pepper and honey. Its flavor is not as pleasant as that of other mints and it is not commonly used for culinary purposes today.
Pennyroyal has been used since Roman times to keep away fleas. The tincture can be sprayed into the pet’s bedding or added to wash water or a sachet can be placed in the dryer. Do not let your pet eat it.
Infusing olive oil with Pennyroyal and other insect repelling herbs will create an herbal insect repellent to smooth onto your skin, as long as you’re not allergic or pregnant.
Pennyroyal tea is used for stomach complaints and to bring on delayed menstruation. It is still occasionally used in herbal combinations intended to end early pregnancies.
Pennyroyal may lower blood sugar levels; however, it should not be used for an extended period of time and is therefore not useful for those who need to regulate their blood sugar levels.
Also, if you take any medication to regulate your blood sugar levels, you should not use pennyroyal.
You should never ingest pennyroyal oil (or any other essential oil). Pennyroyal is generally used in tincture or tea form, 1 teaspoon of dried leaves steeped in water and strained.
Heavy concentrations of pennyroyal or prolonged use can cause severe damage to the liver and other organs and internal bleeding, convulsions, hallucinations and several other unpleasantries. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) can cause liver damage, and the addition of Pennyroyal into the mix can strengthen this possibility.
Some people have allergies to Pennyroyal. If you experience any irritation of the mucus membranes, itching, difficulty breathing, stomach cramps or vomiting, stop using Pennyroyal immediately and go to the emergency room if your symptoms are severe.
Use of Pennyroyal should always be carefully supervised because of the dangers associated with overdose. Pennyroyal should never be used for more than a week at a time. Pennyroyal should never be used in combination with other drugs or herbs that act on the liver.
Herbal abortion should never be attempted past the 8th week of pregnancy. Herbal abortion should never be attempted in any but the most normal of pregnancies. If any unusual cramping, especially in the side, should occur, discontinue use immediately and consult a medical doctor.
And though it may not need to be said after this discussion – Pennyroyal should not be used during pregnancy due to an increased risk of miscarriage.
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