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Common Name: pennyroyal
Botanical Name: Mentha pulegium
Native Range: Europe, North Africa and the Middle East

A description of the use of pennyroyal in Natural History by Pliny the Elder, c. 77-79 AD:

Pennyroyal partakes with mint, in a very considerable degree, the property of restoring consciousness in fainting fits; slips of both plants being kept for the purpose in glass bottles filled with vinegar. It is for this reason that Varro has declared that a wreath of pennyroyal is more worthy to grace our chambers than a chaplet of roses: indeed, it is said that, placed upon the head, it materially alleviates head-ache. It is generally stated, too, that the smell of it alone will protect the head against the injurious effects of cold or heat, and that it acts as a preventive of thirst; also, that persons exposed to the sun, if they carry a couple of sprigs of pennyroyal behind the ears, will never be incommoded by the heat. For various pains, too, it is employed topically, mixed with polenta and vinegar.

The female plant is the more efficacious of the two; it has a purple flower, that of the male being white. Taken in cold water with salt and polenta it arrests nausea, as well as pains of the chest and abdomen. Taken, too, in water, it prevents gnawing pains of the stomach, and, with vinegar and polenta, it arrests vomiting. In combination with salt and vinegar, and polenta, it loosens the bowels. Taken with boiled honey and nitre, it is a cure for intestinal complaints. Employed with wine it is a diuretic, and if the wine is the produce of the Aminean grape, it has the additional effect of dispersing calculi of the bladder and removing all internal pains. Taken in conjunction with honey and vinegar, it modifies the menstrual discharge, and brings away the after-birth, restores the uterus, when displaced, to its natural position, and expels the dead fetus. The seed is given to persons to smell at, who have been suddenly struck dumb, and is prescribed for epileptic patients in doses of one cyathus, taken in vinegar. If water is found unwholesome for drinking, bruised pennyroyal should be sprinkled in it; taken with wine it modifies acridities of the body.

Mixed with salt, it is employed as a friction for the sinews, and with honey and vinegar, in cases of opisthotony. Decoctions of it are prescribed as a drink for persons stung by serpents; and, beaten up in wine, it is employed for the stings of scorpions, that which grows in a dry soil in particular. This plant is looked upon as efficacious also for ulcerations of the mouth, and for coughs. The blossom of it, fresh gathered, and burnt, kills fleas by its smell. Xenocrates, among the other remedies which he mentions, says that in tertian fevers, a sprig of pennyroyal, wrapped in wool, should be given to the patient to smell at, just before the fit comes on, or else it should be put under the bed-clothes and laid by the patient’s side. 

Last updated: 1/3/2020