English Name—AMERICAN PENNYROYAL.
French Name—HEDEOME POTJLIOT.
Officinal Name—Hedeoma herba.
Vulgar Names—Pennyroyal, Tickweed, Stinking Balm, Squaw-mint, &c.
SYNONYMS—Melissa pulegioides Lin. Cunila pulegioides Lin. and many botanists.
Authorities—Lin. Mich. Pursh, Persoon, Kalrn, Schoepf, Thacher, Cullen, Big. seq., Duncan, Eberle, Zollickoffer, Chapman, Elliott, B. Barton, W. Barton, M. M. fig. 41.
Genus HEDEOMA—Calix bilabiate, ten striated, base gibbose, upper lip trifid, lower with two subulate teeth and ciliated bristles, corolla bilabiate, upper lip nearly entire, lower trilobe, middle lobe obcordafe. Two fertile stamina as long as the corolla, two sterile and short. One style, four seeds.
Species H. PULEGIOIDES—Annual, leaves subpetiolate, oblong, acute, subserrate, a little rough. Flowers axillary, verticillate by six, on short pedicels, with two small bracteoles.
Description—Root annual, small, yellowish, brnched fibrose. Stem upright, about a foot high, with slender erect branches, terete, pubescent. Leaves opposite, small, oblong lanceolate or suboval, on short petioles, base attenuated, end subacute, margin with small remote serratures, surface rough or pubescent, nerved and pale beneath.
Flowers all along the branches in axillary whorls of six, nodding, on short pedicels, very small. Calix as above, pubescent. Corolla very small, hardly longer, white, with the lips purple, base slender, then campanulate with two small lips, the upper rounded, seldom notched, the lower with two rounded lateral lobes, and an obcordate middle lobe. Stamina and style filiform, anthers oblong. Stigma lateral acute. Fruit four small oblong seeds in the persistent calix, mouth closed by the ciliated bristles of the lower lip.
Locality—Very common and abundant all over the United States, and in Canada, in dry woods and hills chiefly, but also in plains, alluvions, roads, stony fields. Never in moist soils. No where more abundant than in lime soils or arid grounds.
History—It was the fate of this plant to be successively united by Linnaeus and other botanists to Melissa and Cunila, until distinguished and named by Persoon, and it is as yet commonly blended, even by medical writers, with the European Pennyroyal or Mentha pulegium, which does not grow in America; the shape, smell, and properties being somewhat similar, whence the same vulgar name; but our plaot appears to be more efficient.
It belongs to the natural order of LABIATE, and to Diandria monogynia of Linnaeus. It blossoms in summer from July to September. The name of Hedeoma means sweet smelling in Greek; the whole plant is scented; but the smell far from agreeable, being strong and graveolent: many persons, however, like it and call it pungent, reviving and pleasant: females are sometimes fond of it as well as of Rue or Ruta graveolens, although both very graveolent.
Qualities—The smell and taste are very warm, pungent, strong, and hardly aromatic, but pleasant or disagreeable according to different personal affections. The medical principle resides in an essential oil, possessing eminently the same smell and taste.
Properties—Carminative, resolvent, pectoral, diaphoretic, antispasmodic, menagogue, pellent, stimulant, &c. It is a popular remedy throughout the country for female complaints, suppressed menstruations, hysterics, &c. It is chiefly beneficial in obstructed catamenia, and recent cases of suppressions, given as a sweetened tea, with the pediluvium. Eberle, however, deems its menagogue property problematical, and useful only as a vehicle for other remedies: that he is mistaken, is proved by daily experience. It promotes expectoration in the whooping cough, it alleviates spasms, pains in the hips, and the spasmodic or dyspeptic symptoms of menstruation. Schoepf mentions it for palpitations, fevers and gout; but it is too stimulant in fevers. A warm cataplasm of the herb is useful in severe pains, and thrilling palpitations. Zollickoffer says that it is a valuable medicine in some cases of diarrhea, but which? Some herbalists in the north, employ it extensively for colds, cholics of children, to remove obstruction, warm the stomach and promote perspiration. Although it affords one of the most popular graveolent tea, there are many other labiate plants which are equivalent to it and more agreeable withal: the best are Mint, Dittany, Balms, Sage, Monarda, Isanthus, &c. The oil is now kept in pharmacies, and often used instead of the infusion, in mixtures, &c.
Substitutes—Monarda Sp.—Mentha pulegium and M. piperita—Cunila mariana—Isanthus ceruleus—Ruta graveolens—Salvia officinalis—Melissa nepeta—Juniperus Sp.—Rosmarinus officinalis—Rubia tinctoria—Polygala senega, &c.
Remarks—This plant is also frequently used to kill the Ticks, (Ixodes) which attach themselves to men, dogs and cattle, in summer. These troublesome animals are found wherever the Hedysarums and Lespedezas or true Tickweeds grow, upon which they breed, but both are unknown in the limestone plains. By rubbing the legs or boots with this plant or its oil, these insects will avoid you, or if they have taken hold, the oil kills them. A strong decoction of the plant is equally convenient, and a strong decoction of Tobacco as good likewise.
Medical Flora, or Manual of the Medical Botany of the United States of North America, 1828, was written by C. S. Rafinesque.