Dad has been asking about how to keep pesky insects at bay. And after I quickly squashed his hopes of using harmful chemicals..I told him I’d put together a list of the various plants and herbs that are said to have pest and insect repellent properties. First on the list, we have Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium).
It can be used as a low-growing ground cover, as it spreads rapidly. Below is a picture of mine that I have in a pot. I started with just a little container that you buy at the nursery (see the circle), and in just a few weeks it’s exploded into this (see below)! I’m going to have to do some transplanting! It’s easily grown from seed, and doesn’t need a ton of water (but dislikes drought) – so water occasionally. And it loves the sun, so make sure it gets at least a couple hours of sun a day!
It’s in the mint family, hence its fast-growing and spreading properties. It has flea-repelling properties, so it’s good for those with pooches and kitties. Please note that this is a toxic plant to pets if ingested. So, if you have pooches, plant it in a pot (or somewhere they won’t be tempted to munch on it)..but if not, plant it where you want ground cover and/or insect control.
Now regarding human consumption: It’s highly aromatic, yet has a pungent and less agreeable flavor than spearmint or peppermint. I wouldn’t recommend walking by and picking off some leaves to nibble on. In days of old, a tea was made to relieve colds (sweetened with nectar) and menstrual derangements. I personally haven’t tried this, but before the days of med’s the herbalists typically knew what they were doing. Culpepper (a famous herbalist) has written about pennyroyal that “a garland of Pennyroyal made and worn about the head is of great force against the swimming in the head and the pains and giddiness thereof. It is also beneficial in cases of spasms, hysteria, flatulence and sickness, being very warming and grateful to the stomach. The infusion of 1 OZ. of herb to a pint of boiling water is taken warm in teacupful doses, frequently repeated, and the oil is also given on sugar, as well as being made up into pills and other preparations.”
For tips on making teas from fresh herbs, see SOP: Tea.