Pennyroyal:  I love the scent of this creeping plant, wonderfully intense and fragrant.  Powerfully minty.  I’ve grown pennyroyal from time to time but haven’t found it to be as winter hardy as other mints, nor is it as able to compete and tends to get crowded out if we don’t watch.  So I need to find new plants.   After last summer’s searing drought, I have to replace some other herbs and flowers as well.

Although pennyroyal is sometimes drunk as tea (though not by me) it can cause uterine contractions and should never be imbibed by pregnant women. It has long been used to intentionally cause abortions.  *Under no conditions ever take the essential oil internally! It’s a deadly poison.

A warning from this site:

“When making pennyroyal tea, only the pennyroyal herb should be used. The essential oil of pennyroyal should NOT be used, as it is a poison. Death from untreatable organ failure can result if the essential oil is used.”

*Please bear in mind, as with all other medicinal information given to you in this series, that these practices are not necessarily condoned today.  Some would be strongly frowned upon and are related strictly in a historical sense.

From A Modern Herbal:

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 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.

It is found wild and naturalized throughout the civilized world in strong, moist soil on the borders of ponds and streams, and near pools on heaths and commons. Gerard speaks of it as found abundantly:

‘on a common at Mile End, near London, about the holes and ponds thereof, in sundrie places, from whence poore women bring plenty to sell in London markets.’

Turner says: ‘It crepeth much upon the ground and hath many little round leves not unlyke the leves of mesierum gentil, but that they are a little longer and sharper and also little indented rounde about, and grener than the leves of mariurum ar. The leves grow in little branches even from the roote of certayn ioyntes by equall spaces one devyded from an other. Whereas the leves grow in little tuftes upon the over partes of the braunches…. Pennyroyal groweth much, without any setting, besyd hundsley (Hounslow) upon the heth beside a watery place.’

Like most of its near relatives, Pennyroyal is highly aromatic, perhaps even more so than any other Mint, containing an essential oil resembling in properties that of other mints, though less powerful. The flavour is more pungent and acrid and less agreeable than that of Spearmint or Peppermint.

Pennyroyal was in high repute among the Ancients. Both Pliny and Dioscorides described its numerous virtues. In Northern Europe it was also much esteemed, as may be inferred from the frequent references to it in the Anglo-Saxon and Welsh works on medicine.

‘The boke of Secretes of Albertus Magnus of the vertues of Herbes, Stones and certaine Beastes’ states that, by putting drowning flies and bees in warm ashes of Pennyroyal ‘they shall recover their Iyfe after a little tyme as by ye space of one houre’ and be revived.

Pennyroyal is often found in cottage gardens, as an infusion of the leaves, known as Pennyroyal Tea, is an old-fashioned remedy for colds and menstrual derangements.

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.

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.’

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.~

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