Today and throughout history, there are many infusions that have enjoyed great popularity among various cultures and population groups, using various herbs with medicinal properties useful for relieving certain ailments or generate alterations in our levels of activation or mood.

Tea or chamomile are probably the best known, as well as (although we don’t usually stop to identify it as such) coffee. Another plant used for making infusions is pennyroyal , which we will talk about throughout this article.

Pennyroyal: basic description

Poleo mint is the popular name we give to “Mentha pulegium”, a type of aromatic plant that, like rosemary, oregano, sage or basil, belongs to the family of the Lamiaceae. It is one of the best-known forms of mint, which has been used for centuries in the Mediterranean and the East for a variety of purposes, from insect repellent to flavouring and as a medicinal herb.

Pennyroyal is a plant that has numerous properties that make it recommendable to help fight numerous discomforts and to favour our well-being, but nevertheless some of its components can be toxic (especially the pulegone). In general, the whole plant is used and consumed, although the leaves are most commonly used for making infusions.

Healthy properties of this plant

There are multiple properties of pennyroyal that make it a useful herb in its multiple presentations, especially when used as an infusion. Among these beneficial properties, some of the main ones are the following .

1. Promotes digestion and reduces intestinal discomfort

Pennyroyal is very useful in aiding the digestive process.

Specifically, it has a cholagogue effect, which means that it generates the expulsion of bile from the gallbladder (something fundamental for the digestive process) and in turn facilitates evacuation. In addition, it is antispasmodic, reducing the sudden contractions or spasms that can occur at a visceral level . It also has the interesting property of facilitating the expulsion of gases, something that diminishes possible discomfort.

2. Stimulates appetite

It has been observed that pennyroyal is a plant that has the ability to promote an increase in appetite and hunger, which can be useful for those people who show little appetite (e.g. for upset or depression).

3. Contributes to the regulation of the menstrual cycle

Pennyroyal has been shown to have an emenagogic effect, which implies that the action of this plant can favour the expulsion of menstrual flow. This makes it useful in those people with alterations, deregulations or stops in the menstrual cycle. The previously mentioned antispasmodic effect also makes it easier to reduce PMS .

4. Facilitates exudation

Another useful property of this plant is the fact that it can contribute to lowering the level of fever and body temperature because it causes an increase in sweating.

5. Antiseptic, antifungal and parasiticide

In addition to the above properties, another advantage of pennyroyal is that fights different bacteria and parasites, as well as some species of fungi . Thus, it is often used both as an infusion to be taken orally and to clean wounds externally or even as a mouthwash.

6. Helps combat cold symptoms and mild respiratory disorders

Pennyroyal is also used both as an infusion and as a vapour for the treatment of some conditions such as the common cold or bronchitis , as it has a slight antitussive effect and facilitates the expulsion of mucus. This is due to the menthol, which it possesses like the rest of the plants of the genus mentha.

7. Relaxing

Stress and anxiety can be slightly reduced with an infusion of pennyroyal, which helps to relax and facilitates rest and sleep .

Risks and contraindications

Although pennyroyal is a relatively popular herb and especially used when preparing infusions (in which case the low concentration of the components of this plant makes it generally not harmful), the truth is that it can also cause adverse health effects .

Therefore, under certain conditions it may be contraindicated, especially when excessive consumption occurs. The risk is usually higher when the essential oil is being used .

To start with, this plant can be irritating, which can cause burning and pain along the digestive tract. In addition, if consumed in excess it can generate from diarrhea to headaches through gastrointestinal problems.

The most significant aspects are the fact that pennyroyal can be toxic at a renal and hepatic level, and its consumption by people with insufficiency or problems related to these organs should be avoided.

It also affects the absorption of iron , making it difficult and decreasing its levels, and could even lead to hypoglycemia. This is why it is recommended that people with anemia do not consume it.

In addition is contraindicated during pregnancy because it favours the appearance of contractions in the uterus, something that in high doses can end up facilitating an abortion or a premature birth. It is also not recommended for breastfeeding or for children under two years of age.

Bibliographic references:

  • Batllori, L. (1990): Medicinal plants and plant drugs: Poleo. Offarm 9(9): 97 – 98.
  • Muñoz, L.M., Alonso, M.T. and Santos, M.T. (1998). Spanish medicinal plants. Mentha Pulegium L. (Labiatae). (Poleo, poleo-menta)., 17. Ediciones Universidad de Salamanca.