Suppression

Pennyroyal

Category: Medicines - plant based

Type

Voluntary

Introduction and description

 

Mentha pulegium, commonly (European) pennyroyal is a species of flowering plant in the family Lamiaceae native to Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East.

Crushed pennyroyal leaves exhibit a very strong fragrance similar to spearmint. Pennyroyal is a traditional folk remedy, and in general is sniffed!

The essential oil of pennyroyal is used in aromatherapy, and the herb itself also used for complaints like the common cold, where some relief is needed for a blocked nose.

Mentha pulegium is not ingested.  It is used for its smell.

Too many pennyroyals

A herb called 'Pennyroyal' was commonly used as a cooking herb by the Greeks and Romans.  But this is one of the dangers of using a common name for a plant.  The ancient Greeks often flavored their wine with something called 'Pennyroyal' too. 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, which are edible.  This leads one to suspect that the 'pennyroyal' being referred to here was actually marjoram.

Drummond's pennyroyal

There is a further complication.  There is an American 'pennyroyal', in fact four plants also called 'pennyroyal'.

  • Hedeoma drummondii BENTH. (Lamiaceae) -- Drummond's Pennyroyal
  • Hedeoma pulegioides (American pennyroyal or false pennyroyal), and
  • Monardella odoratissima (mountain pennyroyal), mint family plant found in the southwestern United States
  • Isanthus brachiatus (L.) BSP (Lamiaceae) -- False Pennyroyal

The confusion caused by the use of the same name for different plants is such that we considered it better to group them together for comparison so that you can compare the properties of each.  Medicinally they do very different things and the Dr Duke entries should help you compare.  

It is indeed important you get the right plant, not just for medicinal reasons but also because, as with all medicines, there is a danger of ingesting the wrong plant or the wrong part of the plant, or ingesting a plant that should not be ingested at all.

Early settlers in colonial Virginia, for example, used dried pennyroyal to eradicate pests, which might be a good indicator that one of these - being an insecticide, - is not at all good for you.

 

Wikipedia

Pennyroyal was such a popular herb that the Royal Society published an article on its use against rattlesnakes in the first volume of its Philosophical Transactions in 1665.

 

The UK has no rattlesnakes, so we can only assume that this little snippet of usefulness came over from America and refers to one of the American pennyroyals.

 Cultivation and description

We have included an observation from Mrs Grieve's herbal which provides extensive and very detailed information on where European Pennyroyal can be found, what it looks like, and how it can be cultivated and used.

Medicinal uses

Use the observations to find out the differences between each plant and what they are useful for.  Overall, it is worth questioning what these plants have in common that induced the people of old to call them all pennyroyal.

Why did the Europeans, for example,  call Hedeoma drummondii Drummond's pennyroyal?  The answer appears to be that the plant shared quite a number of activities with European pennyroyal, but there was also the smell.  At least three of these plants [possibly four] give off menthol.  

Menthol - The fresh or dried leaves of both pennyroyals have been used when treating colds, influenza, and to induce sweating - externally, not internally.  And the reason is simply that both contain menthol. They help you breathe more easily.

Mrs Grieve
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.

 

Insecticide -  It is possibly that the plants were used as an insect deterrent and pesticide, Hedeoma drummondii is listed as such in Jacobson's Glossary of Plant-Derived Insect Deterrents, and also Dr Duke's  The potential of pesticides from plants.  European pennyroyal has numerous chemicals that are insecticides or insectifuges as well as pesticides.

Anti Bacterial activity - Both Drummond’s pennyroyal and European pennyroyal have antibacillus activity.  Bacillus is a genus of Gram-positive, rod-shaped (bacillus) bacteria.  Ubiquitous in nature, Bacillus includes both free-living (nonparasitic) and parasitic pathogenic species. Under stressful environmental conditions, the bacteria can produce oval endospores that are not true 'spores', but to which the bacteria can reduce themselves and remain in a dormant state for very long periods.  Bacillus are important pathogens, causing anthrax and food poisoning.

 

Both Drummond’s and European pennyroyal have antibronchitic activity as well as Antistaphylococcic activity. 

Although Drummond’s pennyroyal is not in the list of plants with this activity, this is only because it just misses the list from not having quite enough chemicals. 

Dr Duke’s lists concentrate on the top plants.  Nevertheless Drummond’s pennyroyal has six chemicals that provide this activity.

Gerard
'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.

 Anti-parasitic activity - Both Drummond’s and European pennyroyal have Trichomonicide activity.  Again, although Drummond’s pennyroyal is not in the list of plants with this activity, this is only because it just misses the list from not having quite enough chemicals.  Dr Duke’s lists concentrate on the top plants.  Nevertheless Drummond’s pennyroyal has two chemicals that provide this activity.

Chelation activity - European pennyroyal is a chelator of mercury in people.  Drummond's pennyroyal is from Dr Duke's analysis, not.  But the following research paper is of great interest in this respect

The aerial parts of the Lamiaceae Hedeoma drummondii (Benth.) are used in Mexico to prepare a herbal tea and by North American Amerindians as a spice. The methanolic extract of the aerial parts exhibited a strong antioxidant effect measured by the scavenging of the free diphenyl picrylhydrazyl (DPPH) radical. Assay-guided fractionation of the crude methanolic extract allowed the identification of three major active constituents, chlorogenic, caffeic and rosmarinic acid, as well as sideritoflavone derivatives and simple phenolics. The TEAC, FRAP, total phenolic and flavonoid content were determined. The high content of caffeic acid and rosmarinic acid relates to the antioxidant activity of H. drummondii. PMID: 18669018

 

All three chemicals are very powerful chelation agents, as such there is the possibility that Drummond's pennyroyal has much the same capability as European pennyroyal. 

Comparison table

The following table - derived from Dr Duke's analysis -  compares the chemicals in each plant but excludes the chemicals found in the essential oil only.

European pennyroyal

Drummond’s pennyroyal

American pennyroyal

False pennyroyal

(+)-CAMPHENE
(+)-ISOISOPULEGONE
(+)-ISOMENTHONE
(+)-ISOPULEGONE:
(+)-LIMONENE
(+)-MENTHOL
(+)-MENTHONE
(+)-NEOISOMENTHOL
(+)-NEOMENTHOL
(+)-OCTAN-3-OL
(+)-PULEGONE
1,1,3-TRIMETHYL-
1,8-CINEOLE;
3-METHYL-CYCLOHXANONE
-
-
-
3-OCTYL-ACETATE
-
ALPHA-HUMULENE
ALPHA-PHELLANDRENE

ALPHA-PINENE
ALPHA-TERPINENE
ALPHA-TERPINEOL
-

ALUMINUM
AROMADENDRENE:
ASH;
BETA-BOURBONENE

BETA-CARYOPHYLLENE:

BETA-FENCHENE

BETA-HUMULENE:

BETA-METHYL-DELTA-ISOBUTYLVALERIC-ACID

BETA-PHELLANDRENE

BETA-PINENE

-

-

CADINENE
CALCIUM
CAMPHENE
-
CARVACROL
CARYOPHYLLENE
-
CHROMIUM;
CINEOLE
CIS-ISOPULEGONE
CIS-PULEGONE-OXIDE:

CITRONELLOL
COBALT;
CYMOL
-
DEHYDROMENTHOFURAN-OXIDE:

DEHYDROXYMENTHOFURAN-OXIDE:

DELTA-ISOBUTYRL-VALERIC-ACID-BETA-MENTHOL:

DIOSMIN:
DIPENTENE:

EO
EUGENOL
FENCHENE
FENCHONE
-
GAMMA-TERPINENE;
-
GERMACRENE-D:

GUAIAZULENE:
HESPERIDIN:
IRON;
-
ISOMENTHOL
ISOMENTHONE;
ISOPIPERITENONE;
ISOPIPERITONE:
ISOPULEGOL
ISOPULEGONE

LIMONENE
LINALOL
-
LINALOL-ACETATE
LINALOL-ISOVALERATE
MAGNESIUM;
MANGANESE;
MENTHENE
MENTHOFURAN
MENTHOFURAN-OXIDE:
MENTHOL
MENTHOL-ACETATE:
MENTHONE
-
-

MYRCENE
NEO-ISOPULEGOL
NEOISOMENTHOL
NEOISOMENTHOL-ACETATE
NEOMENTHOL
NEPETALACTONE:
-
NEROL
OCIMENE
OCTAN-3-OL
OCTAN-3-OL-ACETATE
-
P-CYMENE
P-CYMOL
P-MENTHA-1,4(8)-DIENE:
P-MENTHANE
PHOSPHORUS;
PIPERITENOL
PIPERITENONE
PIPERITOL
PIPERITOL-ACETATE
PIPERITONE
PIPERTENONE
POTASSIUM
PROTEIN
PULEGOL
PULEGONE
PULEGONE-EPOXIDE:
ROSMARINIC-ACID;
SABINENE
-

SALICYLIC-ACID:
SELENIUM;
SILICON;
SODIUM
TANNIN;
-
TERPINENOL
TERPINOLENE
THUJONE
THYMOL:
TIN;
-
TRANS-BETA-OCIMENE
TRANS-ISOPULEGONE
-
TRANS-PULEGONE-OXIDE:
-
WATER;
ZINC;

-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-

1,8-CINEOLE
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-

ALPHA-PINENE
-
-
-

-
-
-
-

-

-

-

-

 
BETA-PHELLANDRENE

BETA-PINENE;

BORNEOL

-
-
-

CAMPHENE
CAMPHOR
-
-
-
-
-
-

-
CITRONELLAL
-
-
-
-


-


-


-
-
EO
-
-
-
-
-
GERANIAL
-
-

-
-
-
-
ISOMENTHONE
-
-
-
ISOPULEGONE;
LIMONENE
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
MENTHOL
;
-
MENTHONE
-
-
MYRCENE

-
-
-
-
-
NERAL
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
PULEGONE
-
-
SABINENE;
SABINENE-HYDRATE
-
-
-
-
-
TERPINEN-4-OL
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-

TRANS-OCIMENE
-
-
-
-

-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
1,8-CINEOLE
-
1-OCTEN-3-OL
3-OCTANOL
-
3-OCTYL-ACETATE

ACETIC-ACID
ALPHA-HUMULENE
-

ALPHA-PINENE
-
-
-

-
-
-
-
-

-

-

-

-

-

BETA-PINENE

-
BUTYRIC-ACID:
-

-

-
-
-
CARYOPHYLLENE
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
DECYLIC-ACID
-


-


-


DIOSMIN
DIPENTENE:
EO
-
-
-
FORMIC-ACID:
-
-

GERMACRENE-D
-
-
-
ISOHEPTYLIC-ACID:
-
ISOMENTHONE
-
-
-
-
LIMONENE
-
LINALYL-ACETATE
-
-
-
-
-
MENTHOFURAN;
-
MENTHOL
-
MENTHONE

METHYL-SALICYLATE:
METHYLCYCLOHEXANONE:
MYRCENE
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
OCTYLIC-ACID:
-
-
-
-
-
-
PIPERITENONE
-
-

PIPERITONE
-
-
-
-
PULEGONE
-
-
SABINENE
-
SALICYLIC-ACID:
-
-
-
TANNIN:
-
-
-
-
-
-
TRANS-BETA-FARNESENE:
-
-
-
-
-
-
-

-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-

-
1,8-CINEOLE
-
1-OCTEN-3-OL
-
-
-
-
ALPHA-HUMULENE
-

ALPHA-PINENE
-
ALPHA-TERPINEOL
ALPHA-TRPINYL-ACETATE

-
-
-
-

-

-

-

-

-
-

BETA-PINENE

-
-

-
-
-
-
-
CARYOPHYLLENE CARYOPHYLLENE-OXIDE
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-


-


-


-
-
EO

-
-
-
-
-
-
GERMACRENE-D;
-

-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
LIMONENE;
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
MYRCENE;
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-

TERPINEN-4-OL;
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
TRANS-VERBENOL;

-
-

 

PENNYROYAL. - A CAROL

 

'Far away in Sicily!'
A home-come sailor sang this rhyme,
Deep in an ingle, mug on knee,
At Christmas time.

In Sicily, as I was told,
The children take them Pennyroyal,
The same as lurks on hill and wold
In Cotsall soil.

The Pennyroyal of grace divine
In little cradles they do weave
Little cradles therewith they line
On Christmas Eve.

And there, as midnight bells awake
The Day of Birth, as they do tell,
All into bud the small buds break
With sweetest smell.

All into bud that very hour;
And pure and clean, as they do say,
The Pennyroyal's full in flower
On Christmas Day.

Far away in Sicily!
Hark, the Christmas bells do chime!
So blossom love in thee and me
This Christmas time!

---W. B.  December 19, 1917.

 

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