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Mentha pulegium


Mentha pulegium 

[span class=alert]In regards to the Traditional Use and Therapeutic Action sections of Essential Oils, the oils are rated as is standard practice in the French school of aromatherapy and others. The ratings ranked from one (+) to four (++++) with four indicating the highest value, indicate the oil’s therapeutic value from a practicing clinician’s point of view. The French rating system mentioned are obtained from this book reference entitle ‘Les Cahiers Pratiques D'Aromatherapie Selon L'Ecole Francaise’ (Authors: Francine Baudry, Pascal Debauche & Dominique Baudoux). However, further clarification might be required and will be updated once additional information of the rating system is obtained.[/span]

Family Name


Genus Name


Vernacular Name

Pennyroyal, European pennyroyal

Original Habitat

Pennyroyal is a perennial herb native to Asia and Western Europe. It is now found throughout the world.

Plant Part Used



Pennyroyal oil was used traditionally for various purposes due to its spearmint-like aroma. It is presently used in some commercial insect repellants. Medicinally, it is now recommended to be used only by trained aromatherapists due to its toxicity via all modes of administration, even in small doses.


The steam distilled oil of this herb is thin in consistency, light yellow in colour and has a harsh aroma that is unmistakable.

M. pulegium reaching a maximum height of around 50cm, the aromatic plant produces a smell characterised as very similar to common spearmint. Between the months of August and September, the plant produces small, violet or blue flowers, often bisexual and 5-lobed.

Chemical Constituents

Alpha-terpineol [1][2][3]

Medicinal Uses


Antibacterial: The essential oil of pennyroyal was tested against different strains of Klebsiella. This bacterium showed strong resistance to antibiotics however, pennyroyal showed inhibitory actions against Klebsiella. Further research is warranted in human microorganisms.[4]

Another study found that Pennyroyal essential oil exhibited antibacterial activity against gram-positive bacteria; however it was ineffective against gram-negative bacteria, specifically E. coli.[2]

Antifungal: When used against Botrytis cinerea, pennyroyal was shown to be a moderate antifungal.[5]

Traditional Use

Flatulent dyspepsia++
Intestinal colic++
Digestive aid+++
Hysteria+ [3]

Insecticidal: Pennyroyal has shown insecticidal activity in several studies. On the common house fly (Musca domestica L.) the essential oil of pennyroyal showed fumigant activity and was stronger than 13 other essential oils.[6] Another study found that M. pulegium oil was also toxic against Spodoptera littoralis (Egyptian Armyworm).[7]

The essential oils from different species of the mint family, including their primary chemical constituents were tested against Drosophila melanogaster, more commonly known as the fruit fly. Pulegone, a constituent of this herb, exhibited the strongest insecticidal activity of all chemicals measured.[8]

Sixteen different essential oils from Argentina that have been used to treat common head lice were studied for their efficacy. It was found that M. pulegium essential oil demonstrated the highest repellency of the sixteen plants used. The authors stated that this could possibly be useful for future products to treat lice.[9]

Acaricidal: The acaricidal outcome was measure using 6 essential oils including pennyroyal against Dermatophgoides farinae and D. pteronyssinus (common house mites). The results showed that pennyroyal exhibited the highest acaricidal activity killing 98% of the house mites in 5 minutes. The chemical component thought to contribute to this action was pulegone.[10]

Contraindications and Precautions

Pennyroyal is extremely toxic even in small amounts even when inhaled and must only be used by a trained practitioner.

Animal studies have shown that ingestion of pennyroyal tea can lead to hepatoxicity so extreme caution should be taken with this oil and it should never be ingested.[11]

Not to be used in any manner with pregnant or nursing women, children, elderly or frail.


[span class=alert]Keep out of reach of children as oils are highly concentrated.Essential oils are irritating to the eyes.  Avoid contact with eye area.Always dilute essential oils with carrier oil, lotion, cream or gel even when using in diffuser or bath.Essential oils are sometimes prescribed to be used internally, but should only be used internally under professional supervision.[/span]

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 1) Western Herb

 2) Native American Herbs


  1. Aghel N. Supercritical carbon dioxide extraction of Mentha pulegium L. essential oil. Talanta. 6Feb2004;62(2):407-411.
  2. Mahboubi M. Antimicrobial activity and chemical composition of Mentha pulegium L. essential oil. J Ethnopharmacol. 26Sep2008;119(2):325-327.
  3. LorenzoI D. Essential oils of Mentha pulegium and Mentha rotundifolia from Uruguay. Brazil Arch Biol Technol. Dec2002;45(4): doi: 10.1590/S1516-89132002000600016.
  4. Jazani NH. Antibacterial effects of Iranian Mentha pulegium essential oil on isolates of Klebsiella sp. Pak J Biol Sci. 15Jan2009;12(2):183-185.
  5. Bouchra C. Chemical composition and antifungal activity of essential oils of seven Moroccan Labiatae against Botrytis cinerea Pers: Fr. J Ethnopharmacol. Nov2003;89(1):165-169.
  6. Pavela R. Insecticidal properties of several essential oils on the house fly (Musca domestica L.). Phytother Res. Feb2008;22(2):274-278.
  7. Pavela R. Insecticidal activity of some essential oils against larvae of Spodoptera littoralis. Fitoterapia. Dec2005;76(7-8):691-696.
  8. Franzios G. Insecticidal and genotoxic activities of mint essential oils. J Food Agricul Chem. 1997;45(7): 2690-2694.
  9. Toloza AC. Fumigant and repellent properties of essential oils and component compounds against permethrin-resistant Pediculus humanus capitis (Anoplura: Pediculidae) from Argentina. J Med Entomol. Sep2006;43(5):889-895.
  10. Rim IS.Korean Acaricidal effects of herb essential oils against Dermatophagoides farinae and D. pteronyssinus (Acari: Pyroglyphidae) and qualitative analysis of a herb Mentha pulegium (pennyroyal). J Parasitol. Jun2006;44(2):133-138.
  11. Sztajnkrycer MD. Mitigation of pennyroyal oil hepatotoxicity in the mouse. Acad Emerg Med. Oct 2003;10(10):1024-1028.

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