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  • Hedeoma pulegioides L.
  • Mint family

Common Names

herbsAmerican pennyroyal
herbsMock pennyroyal
herbsMosquito plant
herbsSquaw balm
herbsStinking balm

Parts Usually Used

The herb and oil

Description of Plant(s) and Culture

The American species of pennyroyal is an aromatic, soft-hairy annual plant; the erect, square, branching stem grows from 6 to 16 inches high and bears small, opposite, thin, ovate leaves which are sparingly toothed. Axillary clusters of small, tubular, lavender or purplish flowers; calyx two-lipped, with 3 short and 2 longer teeth; appear from June to October. The whole plant has a pleasant, aromatic odor.

European pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium), or true pennyroyal, is similar to the American species in odor and uses. Do not confuse the two herbs.

Where Found

Found in dry fields and open woods along the Atlantic coast and west to Minnesota and Nebraska.

Medicinal Properties

Carminative, diaphoretic, emmenogogue (promote menstruation), antispasmodic, mild sedative, sudorific, stimulant, aromatic

Oil: anti-emetic (Do not use in pregnancy), anti-spasmodic, rubrifacent

Biochemical Information

Ketone puligone and about 1% volatile oil.

Legends, Myths and Stories

Flavorful and fragrant tea with a somewhat minty taste. Another of the teas used as an oriental tea substitute during the American Revolution.

Back in olden times when abortion was illegal, pennyroyal was used to induce abortion. In some cases it resulted in hemorrhage and serious complications for the mother. Therefore, it should never be used for that purpose. Helps in labor and delivery, though. Do not use without medical supervision.

The oil of this herb is a good insect repellent.

Strip the leaves from the stalk, put the leaves in a muslin bag, sew up the bag and put in pets bed. Fleas are chased away. Or sprinkle with pennyroyal oil or essence.


Pennyroyal was commonly used in the 19th century medicine to induce perspiration at the beginning of a cold and to promote menstruation. It was taken also with brewer's yeast to induce abortion. It is helpful against nausea and nervous conditions but should not be taken during pregnancy. Native Americans used pennyroyal tea for headaches and for menstrual cramps, PMS, and pain. The tea also make a good external wash for skin eruptions, bruises, rashes, and itching.

Used for phlegm, respiratory disorders, jaundice, nausea, ulcers, consumption, dropsy, toothache, leprosy, whooping cough, convulsions, sores in the mouth, colic, snakebites, expel after-birth, sore gums, fainting, fever, and gout. Purifies the blood, relieves gas and stomach pain, stimulates uterine contractions. Oil used externally for rheumatism and insect repellent.

Also used as a flavoring.

Formulas or Dosages

Infusion: use 1 tsp. herb with 1 cup hot water. Take 1 to 2 cups a day.

Tincture: take 20-30 drops at a time, as needed. For children, give small, frequent doses.

Extract: 20-60 drops in liquid daily for relief of symptoms.

How Sold

The oil externally applied wards off mosquitoes. For this purpose it is used alone or combined with citronella.


All essential oils are life-threatening if taken internally. To take pennyroyal oil internally to terminate an unwanted pregnancy is very dangerous and in a few cases has resulted in death. There is possible fetal damage from the use of pennyroyal in any form during pregnancy.

Ingesting essential oil can be lethal; contact with essential oil (a popular insect repellent) can cause dermatitis.

May cause severe kidney/liver damage used in excess of 2 ounces.

Do not be used during pregnancy, it is a uterine stimulant.

Use only with medical supervision.

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