Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium) is a plant in the mint genus, within the family Lamiaceae. Crushed Pennyroyal leaves exhibit a very strong fragrance similar to spearmint. Pennyroyal is a traditional culinary herb, folk remedy, and abortifacient. The essential oil of pennyroyal is used in aromatherapy, and is also high in pulegone, a highly toxic volatile organic compound affecting liver and uterine function.
Culinary and medicinal uses
Pennyroyal was commonly used as a cooking herb by the Greeks and Romans. The ancient Greeks often flavored their wine with pennyroyal. 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. Although still commonly used for cooking in the Middle Ages, it gradually fell out of use as a culinary herb and is seldom used so today.
As an easily-made poison, pennyroyal has had a long historical use. Early settlers in colonial Virginia used dried pennyroyal to eradicate pests. So popular was pennyroyal, that the Royal Society published an article on its use against rattlesnakes in the first volume of its Philosophical Transactions (1665).
Pennyroyal tea is the use of an infusion made from the herb. The infusion is widely reputed as safe to ingest in restricted quantities. It has been traditionally employed and reportedly successful as an emmenagogue (menstrual flow stimulant) or as an abortifacient. In 1994 a young woman died from an undetected ectopic pregnancy while performing a self-induced abortion using pennyroyal tea; reports say that she had consumed the tea for longer than the recommended five days. The most popular current use of the tea is to settle the stomach. Other reported medicinal uses through history include treatment for fainting, flatulence, gall ailments, gout, and hepatitis (presumably Hepatitis A), and as a lung cleanser, a gum strengthener and, when ground with vinegar, a tumor remedy..
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