The health benefits of pennyroyal essential oil can be attributed to its properties as an anti-microbial, anti-bacterial, anti-rheumatic, anti-arthritic, antiseptic, astringent, cordial, decongestant, depurative, digestive, emmenagogue, insecticide and stomachic substance.
What is Pennyroyal Essential Oil?
Pennyroyal essential oil is extracted form a plant belonging to the mint family. It is a grass-like creeper herb bearing the scientific name Mentha Pulegium. Its leaves smell like mint when crushed. The essential oil of pennyroyal is derived from the fresh plant by steam distillation and contains isomenthone, neomenthone, menthone and pulegone as its chief components. This oil is high in pulegone content and this makes it a deadly poison.
It is indeed a wonder why such a poisonous plant or oil has been in use as a folk medicine from ancient times. But again, it is also true that most of the medicines (particularly in homeopathy) are based on poisons collected from plants and animals. It is the accuracy in the number of doses, frequency of administration, and diagnosis of a disease that their use as a medicine depends upon.
Benefits of Penny Royal Essential Oil
Antimicrobial & Antibacterial
Research published in 2019 in the journal BioMed Research International found that the pennyroyal essential oil has strong antimicrobial properties.
The antimicrobial and antibacterial properties of pennyroyal oil are the results of its toxicity. You can imagine that even in trace quantities (mere parts per million) how deadly this poisonous oil might be for those tiny microscopic living beings (microbes) if it is so deadly for humans.
Even a few milliliters can cause death. It kills microbes and bacteria and protects us from the infections caused by them. It also exhibits antifungal activity.
Anti-Rheumatic & Anti-Arthritic
The depurative property, which is seen as the numbing effect of this oil on the nerves, as well as its cordial and stimulating effects on the blood circulation, make it an ideal combination as an anti-rheumatic and anti-arthritic treatment.
Being a depurative, it promotes the removal of toxins like uric acid from the body, thereby eradicating the biggest cause behind rheumatism. The numbing effect on the nerves also helps withstand the pain of rheumatism and arthritis. Its cordial or warming effect heats up the affected area and gives a more comfortable feeling. Finally, its stimulating effect on blood circulation increases blood flow to important organ systems, bringing warmth to the affected places, while also curing them of rheumatism and arthritis.
Wounds and internal organs, particularly the urinary tract, urethra, kidneys, and uterus may become septic due to infection by the germs. The highly poisonous nature of the pennyroyal oil makes it an antiseptic since it kills the germs or bacteria that cause sepsis. However, this oil should be used in very mild doses, as it is highly poisonous and an irritant.
There are certain reports that say that this oil can be used as a depurative, that is, a blood purifier. Certain components of this oil may help neutralize the toxins in the blood. Since it promotes blood circulation, it also helps proper mixing of fresh oxygen with the blood. In this way, it can purify the blood and keep the organs and cells properly oxygenated.
An animal study found that pennyroyal essential oil increased hemoglobin, white blood cells, and red blood cells, but did not have any effect on other blood indices. The increase in white blood cells indicates that it can strengthen the immune system.
In an animal study published in 2018 for the journal Heliyon, it was found that pennyroyal essential oil improved performance, organ weight, serum lipids and intestinal morphology. It increased nutrient absorption in the intestines.
Pennyroyal is been in used in folk medicine to facilitate digestion. This property is also reportedly present in its essential oil and it promotes digestion by stimulating the secretion of digestive juices.
Pennyroyal essential oil is sometimes used in herbal medicine as an emmenagogue. It is believed to open blocked and delayed menstruation cycles. The resultant stimulation of certain hormones like estrogen and progesterone makes the cycle more regular. However, there is little scientific evidence to support this.
It was also used as an abortifacient. Writing for the book Essential Oil Safety (Second Edition), writers Robert Tisserand and Rodney Young pointed out pennyroyal’s use as an emmenagogue and abortifacient from ancient times. However, its action as an abortifacient was linked to its toxicity. The amount required for abortion also endangered the pregnant woman’s life, found the authors.
Since this oil is toxic to humans and to other animals, it is toxic to insects as well. It is a very efficient insect killer and is very effective if used in fumigants, sprays, and vaporizers. Insects also try to stay away from this oil. This oil is highly praised and reputed as an insect repellant. An experiment undertaken to study the acaricidal effects of different herb essential oils found that the pennyroyal derivative was the most effective.
Traditionally, this oil is used as a gum strengthener, which is probably due to its astringent properties. This makes the gums contract and tighten their grip on the teeth. The effects of its astringency can also be felt on other parts of the body since it induces muscle contraction, pulls up loose hanging skin, gives the face a lift, strengthens hair roots, and helps stop hemorrhaging by contracting the blood vessels.
Due to its stimulating property, the essential oil of Penny Royal increases blood circulation, which in turn warms up the whole body, thus behaving as a cordial. This warming effect gives relief from feelings of cold that often result from a fever.
The toxicity of this oil makes it an antiviral and fights infections in the lungs. This also loosens the phlegm and catarrh deposition in the lungs and the respiratory tracts, as well as promoting their expectoration. This way, it behaves as a decongestant for the lungs and respiratory tracts.
Used in very low doses, this oil can cure stomach problems and can settle the stomach. It cures infections in the stomach, helps maintain the acid-base balance in the stomach by stimulating secretion of acids and bile into the stomach, and also soothes inflammation and irritation in the digestive tract.
It is also used to treat flatulence, ailments pertaining to the gall bladder and liver, jaundice, hepatitis, and tumors.
Word of Caution: This oil is highly poisonous to humans and other animals. Ingestion in even small doses can cause death. It is a strong abortifacient as well, and should, therefore, be strictly avoided during pregnancy. It is not used in aromatherapy, as inhalation in small quantities can seriously damage the lungs, the respiratory tracts, and the liver. Furthermore, although several medicinal properties of this oil have been discussed above, most of them are reported to have been in use traditionally and their authenticity is not guaranteed.
There are no sufficient research studies or proof for or against these medicinal properties except its properties like toxicity, insect repelling, and abortifacient. So, the utmost care should be taken while using this oil, either internally or externally. So, before we use it for its medicinal properties, we must take serious precautions to see that it is only used under the supervision of an expert practitioner.