Pennyroyal toxicity.

Botanical name: 

Date: Fri, 29 Apr 1994 18:03:46 EDT
Sender: "Medicinal and Aromatic Plants discussion list" <HERB.TREARN.BITNET>
Subject: Re: pennyroyal

> Hi,
> I have some questions about pennyroyal for you guys. Is it an abortificant? Is it fatal? Is it a tea? What if you take/drink it while on your period? Does it do anything for cramps?

Yes, pennyroyal is an "abortifacient", an "emmenagogue", an "antifertility herb", meaning it stimulates uterine contractions. This can be good or bad, depending on your situation. The tea has often been used to "bring on a delayed menstrual period" (which often may mean inducing early abortion). Some say the tea reduces menstrual cramping, and there's no harm in trying it if you're sure you're not pregnant and if you make the tea from the plant and not from its essential oil.

The herb itself is not lethal at any dose you could reasonably take. Again, if you're certain you're not pregnant, you can eat the leaves, make a strong tea from them (some people really like the taste, especially of American pennyroyal), rub them on your skin or clothes and on your pets' bedding (but NOT on their skin, since many pets are sensitive) to repel insects--especially fleas and mosquitoes--and generally roll around in it and embrace it as a wonderful-smelling part of your life.

If you are (or think you are) pregnant, best you should avoid this plant completely until the baby has seen the light. I haven't run across any information about the potential postpartum benefits of pennyroyal.

What's lethal is the distilled essential oil. Since the turn of the century, it's gained a reputation for causing abortion because up to 90% of the oil of either Mentha pulegium (English pennyroyal, a perennial grown from root divisions or cuttings) or Hedeoma pulegioides (American pennyroyal, an annual grown from seed) comprises the ketone known as pulegone, which stimulates uterine contractions. Several women who wished to induce "natural" abortions in secret have severely damaged themselves by ingesting pennyroyal oil by the spoonful. Even the minimum amount required to induce abortion is certain to cause kidney damage, and may harm liver and lungs as well: as little as ½ teaspoon can cause convulsions and coma. But that's the equivalent of about 20 gallons of strong tea consumed over a period of a few hours. Jeez! 20 gallons of ANY kind of tea would have adverse effects, as would even a fraction of a teaspoon of most herbal essential oils.

From: Ellee Margileth <emargile.SOLAR.RTD.UTK.EDU>


I don't know all the answers to you question but pennyroyal has been used to induce abortions. The oil, if taken internally, can be highly toxic and has been the cause of death in women who have tried to procure abortions. I don't think it would do anything for cramps. It has been used in teas to promote sweating in the cases of colds. Be very careful with this herb!

From: Christopher Hedley <christopher.GN.APC.ORG>

My partner has used penneyroyal for menstrual cramps. *externally*. The technique is to make a bowl of steaming hot pennyroyal tea, squat over it and (quote) breath in through the vagina. This will stop cramping pains which come just before or during the flow. Follow up with a little meditation and eating a little every few hours, and they won't come back.

I endorse Elle's advice; be careful with this herb.