Used internally in the recommended amounts, pennyroyal is generally safe, though an occasional person may experience intestinal upset or temporary dizziness.7 Pulegone and its toxic metabolites, particularly menthofuran, damage the liver and nerves if taken in sufficiently large quantities.8 If used during pregnancy, pennyroyal may cause fetal death by liver and brain damage as well as promote uterine contractions to expel the fetus.9 Therefore pregnant or nursing women should absolutely avoid pennyroyal in any form. The traditional use of the herb to induce an abortion has led to many reports of nervous system toxicity in pregnant women. Internal ingestion of pennyroyal volatile oil should be avoided by everyone. People with liver failure or kidney failure, and all children, should avoid pennyroyal. Signs and symptoms of pennyroyal toxicity include severe stomach pain, dizziness, seizures, vomiting, difficulty walking, and coma. Since 1905, 18 cases of injury (with complete recovery in every case) and four deaths related to pennyroyal have been reported in the medical literature.10 The majority of acute poisonings and deaths reported with pennyroyal have been in cases of women using the oil attempting to induce an abortion.
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The information presented in Aisle7 is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2015.