From Medicinal Plants Usage
Template:Italic title Template:Taxobox Mentha pulegium, commonly (European) pennyroyal, also called squaw mint, mosquito plant<ref>Gunby, Phil. (1979). "Medical News: Plant Known for Centuries Still Causes Problems Today." Journal of the American Medical Association 241(21): 2246-2247.</ref> and pudding grass,<ref>Keville, Kathi. (1994). Herbs: An Illustrated Encyclopedia. New York, New York: Friedman/Fairfax Publishers. Pp. 128.</ref> is a species of flowering plant in the family Lamiaceae native to Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East.<ref>Kew World Checklist of Selected Plant Families</ref> 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 it was commonly used for cooking in the Middle Ages, it gradually fell out of use as a culinary herb and is seldom used as such today. The fresh or dried leaves of the plant were used to flavor pudding.<ref>Template:Cite book</ref>
Even though pennyroyal oil is extremely poisonous, people have relied on the fresh and dried herb for centuries. Early settlers in colonial Virginia used dried pennyroyal to eradicate pests. Pennyroyal was such a popular herb that the Royal Society published an article on its use against rattlesnakes in the first volume of its Philosophical Transactions in 1665.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref>
Pennyroyal is used to make herbal teas, which, although not proven to be dangerous to healthy adults in small doses, is not recommended, due to its known toxicity to the liver.<ref name="French">Template:Cite journal</ref> Consumption can be fatal to infants and children.<ref name=French /> It has been traditionally employed as an emmenagogue (menstrual flow stimulant) or as an abortifacient.<ref name=French /> Pennyroyal is also used to settle an upset stomach<ref name="Rodale">Kowalchik, Claire, and William H. Hylton, eds. (1998). Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs. Emmaus, Pennsylvania: Rodale Press. Pp. 412-414.</ref> and to relieve flatulence.<ref name="Ritchason">Ritchason, Jack. (1995). The Little Herb Encyclopedia: The Handbook of Natures Remedies for a Healthier Life. 3d ed. Pleasant Grove, Utah: Woodland Health Books. Pp. 171.</ref> The fresh or dried leaves of pennyroyal have also been used when treating colds, influenza, abdominal cramps, and to induce sweating,<ref name="Rodale"/> as well as in the treatment of diseases such as smallpox and tuberculosis, and in promoting latent menstruation.<ref name="Ritchason"/> Pennyroyal leaves, both fresh and dried, are especially noted for repelling insects.<ref name="Rodale"/> However, when treating infestations such as fleas, using the plant's essential oil should be avoided due to its toxicity to both humans and animals, even at extremely low levels.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>
Pennyroyal essential oil should never be taken internally because it is highly toxic; even in small doses, consumption of the oil can result in death.<ref name ="Macht">Macht, David I. (1913). "The Action of So-Called Emmenagogue Oils on the Isolated Uterus with a Report of a Case of Pennyroyal Poisoning." Journal of the American Medical Association LXI(2):105-107.</ref> The metabolite menthofuran is thought to be the major toxic agent. Complications have been reported from attempts to use the oil for self-induced abortion. For example, in 1978, an 18-year-old pregnant woman from Denver, Colorado, died within one week after consuming one ounce of concentrated Pennyroyal oil in an attempt to self-induce abortion.<ref name=Sullivan>Template:Cite journal</ref> There are numerous studies that show the toxicity of pennyroyal oil to both humans and animals.<ref name="Ann Intern Med">Template:Cite journal</ref><ref name="Ann Intern Med 2">Template:Cite journal</ref><ref name="Pediatrics">Template:Cite journal</ref><ref name="JAVMA">Template:Cite journal</ref>
Since the U.S. Congress passed the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act in October 1994 all manufactured forms of pennyroyal in the United States have carried a warning label against its use by pregnant women, but pennyroyal is not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.<ref name="medline">Template:Cite web</ref>
Attributed and possible contributions to death
- 1897- A 23-year-old British woman died eight days after swallowing a tablespoon of pennyroyal in order to induce menstruation.<ref name ="Macht"/>
- circa 1909- The Supreme Court of Indiana convicted a Mr. Carter of prescribing and administering pennyroyal pills to a pregnant woman who died two months after her miscarriage.<ref>Editorial. (1909). "Medicolegal: Pyemia, "Pennyroyal Pills" and Evidence in Abortion Case. Journal of the American Medical Association LIII(11): 891.</ref>
- August 1912- A 16-year-old girl from Maryland consumed 36 pennyroyal pills to induce abortion.<ref name ="Macht"/> An autopsy revealed that the herbal abortion was only partially successful.<ref name ="Macht"/>
- November 1978- An 18-year-old pregnant woman from Denver, Colorado, died after ingesting one ounce of concentrated pennyroyal oil in an effort to abort her fetus.<ref name="Sullivan"/> Prior to her death, the victim had reported using the dried leaves of the plant to induce menstruation with no ill effects.<ref name="Sullivan"/>
- July 1994- Kris Humphrey, a 24-year-old woman, died in California.<ref name="Young"/> At the time of her death, Humphrey unknowingly had an ectopic pregnancy, and drank an herbal tea made with pennyroyal extract.<ref name="Young"/> According to one news report, there is disagreement over whether Humphrey died as a result of the ectopic pregnancy or from pennyroyal poisoning.<ref name="Young">Young, Gordon. (1995). "Lifestyle on Trial." Metro: Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.</ref>
- Hedeoma pulegioides (American Pennyroyal, a distantly related species)
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