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Two similar plants go by the name pennyroyal, one native to Europe (and therefore called European pennyroyal) and one native to North America (and therefore called American pennyroyal). Both are members of the mint family (Lamiaceae) and grow in temperate regions of Europe and the Americas. The flowering tops are used as medicine, but the internal use of the volatile oil should be strictly avoided.
The mucilage of slippery elm gives it a soothing effect for coughs. Usnea also contains mucilage, which may be helpful in easing irritating coughs. There is a long tradition of using wild cherry syrups to treat coughs. Other traditional remedies to relieve coughs include bloodroot , catnip , comfrey (the above-ground parts, not the root), horehound , elecampane , mullein , lobelia , hyssop , licorice , mallow , (Malvia sylvestris), red clover , ivy leaf , pennyroyal (Hedeoma pulegioides, Mentha pulegium), onion , (Allium cepa), and plantain (Plantago lanceolata, P. major). None of these has been investigated in human trials, so their true efficacy for relieving coughs is unknown.
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.
When taken by mouth: Pennyroyal oil is LIKELY UNSAFE. It can cause serious liver and kidney damage, as well as nervous system damage. Other side effects include stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, burning of the throat, fever, confusion, restlessness, seizures, dizziness, vision and hearing problems, high blood pressure, lung failure, and death. There isn't enough reliable information to know if pennyroyal is safe to use as a tea. Pregnancy and breast-feeding: It is LIKELY UNSAFE to take pennyroyal by mouth or apply it to your skin when pregnant or breast-feeding. There is some evidence that pennyroyal oil can cause abortions by causing the uterus to contract. But the dose needed in order to cause an abortion could kill the mother or cause life-long kidney and liver damage. (Source: medlineplus.gov)