The pennyroyal herb is a grassy plant and the smallest member of the mint family, which can be easily detected from the strong aroma emitted by its crushed leaves. It has a number of medicinal benefits, but great care should be taken with its use. Expert advice should be sought prior to beginning any treatment.
Pennyroyal herb is normally administered as a tea, but when making the tea, the herb is usually blended with other herbs.
American pennyroyal is a native plant to the eastern part of North America. English pennyroyal is also referred to as European pennyroyal.
They differ in their favored habitats, the American plant flourishes in fields and woodland and the English variety grows well near ponds.
The English herb is also slightly smaller, though their benefits are very similar.
The benefits of the pennyroyal herb include:
- Encouraging menstrual flow. Pennyroyal tea can cause the uterus to contract so is useful for those who have problems with menstruation. As a result, it should be avoided by women during pregnancy and should only be used under the guidance of a medical professional. The tincture is also not advised during pregnancy due to its blood thinning properties.
- As an insect repellent. The dried herb can be placed in pet bedding to discourage fleas, and pennyroyal essential oil burnt in an infuser can help to keep flies and mosquitoes out of a room. The essential oil is just as toxic for pets as it is for humans, and this should not be used directly on their skin as a flea repellent.
- To soothe stomach upsets. The tea is said to ease digestive problems, including flatulence and diarrhoea and can soothe inflammations of the digestive tract.
- To ease respiratory disorders, usually coughs, colds and chest infections. It acts as an expectorant, expelling mucus from the airways. One or two drops of the essential oil can be diluted with water and used in an oil burner to assist with breathing during a cold.
There are a number of safety issues which need to be considered carefully when using pennyroyal as an herbal treatment. Pennyroyal tea should not be used for more than five days at a time. If ingesting the herb for any longer than this, even in a diluted form, damage can occur to the liver and other internal organs.
Pennyroyal essential oil is very poisonous and should not be ingested.
Pennyroyal herb has received a lot of bad press in recent years after being linked to a number of cases where young women attempted to induce abortion by taking excessive amounts. These women suffered internal organ failure and died as a result.
It should be remembered that while one should be careful, the herb can be used effectively under the guidance of a professional. If blending the tea yourself, take care to infuse only the recommended quantities, and do not consume more than the recommended amount for the suggested five days.