Photo from: Don Loire
L. Mentha pulegium and Preslia cervina, Fr. menthe pouliot, Eng. pennyroyal. The first scientific name is for the male and the second for the female which does not have a common name in English but it is used as much as the male. The female has purple flowers while those of the male are white. Pennyroyal is sharp and a little bitter. It was thought to be hot and dry. The leaves of both are used in infusions as a cure-all for toothaches and other pains, venomous bites, leprosy, gout, to expel afterbirth and dead babies, to thin the phlegm and to relieve vomiting and swooning.
Recently it has been discovered that mint, especially pennyroyal, contains pulegone, a substance which causes abortion. It was used in the Middle Ages to stimulate uterine contractions. Herrera explained that pennyroyal crushed in wine was placed on scorpion and other poisonous bites. Pliny advised that a wreath of it should be worn on the head to prevent giddiness. He thought it more effective than roses. Mixed with oil and vinegar, pennyroyal was applied externally for seasickness. The flower mixed with marrow from veal was used to cure piles and stop pain. It was boiled and drunk with wine to stop stomach aches and to produce urine. It also was thought to help expel stones. To help the spleen pennyroyal was recommended that it be drunk with honey and salt for pulmonary problems. It was thought good to put pennyroyal in the mouth and then spit it out. It was used to help to heal wounds.
|Pennyroyal Drunk like Tea|
Photo by: Lord-Williams
Al-Andalus and Nola only call for pennyroyal to flavor drinks and broth. Almond-meal porridge with pennyroyal was well known. Pennyroyal was a common ingredient for stuffing in “Hog’s Pudding.” It was used to color food preparations green.
In England, it is seldom used today as the flavor is very strong. As the Latin classification indicates the name is derived from pulex, flea, indicating that it keeps pests way. Herrera stated that the smell of the smoke of the pennyroyal flower is what kills the fleas. Pennyroyal oil was put out for mosquitoes and gnats as an insecticide. It was used also as a strewing herb. It is placed between layers of clothing to keep the moths away.
Pulegium normally grows in humid areas with a thin soil layer rather than thick although its humor lets it grow in any type of soil. In Talavera there is so much that it does not have to be planted. Pliny said the best came from Carpentana which is in the province of Toledo but Herrera preferred that of Talavera, also in the province of Toledo.
Pliny and Aristotle claimed that if pennyroyal is hung by the roots it will bloom when days begin to be longer. Herrera was certain that Celestina’s Moorish teachers informed her that when she wanted to animate a friend who was down, she should give him a dish of gachas with almond milk and pennyroyal which they taught her to make as the Spanish word for almond-mead porridge or “thick water” is talvina, from Arabic.
[Anón/Huici.1966:488:267-268:489:268; Curye. 1985:191; ES: Grieve. “Pennyroyal.” May 17, 04; Laza. 2002:169-170; and Nola.1989:xxviii-1: xxviii-2]
See blog titled acedera published October 15, 2010 for Nola’s recipe xxviii-1 “Madame’s Bruet” and galingal published October 31, 2014 for Nola’s recipe xxviii-2 “Good Bruet with Meat.”