English Pennyroyal - The Insect Repelling Mint
English Pennyroyal is a low spreading perennial herb, butterfly attractant and fragrant ground-cover. Only the lavender colored blossom stalk rises above the ground. It is also known as Mosquito Plant, Squaw Balm, Squawmint and Tickweed. It is one of the few mint family members that will grow easily from seed.
The lilac colored flowers are in tightly-packed whorls down the stem, like pin-cushions. Crushed leaves have a very strong fragrance similar to spearmint. English pennyroyal prefers dry soil with full sun, but will tolerate some shade. Seeds are fairly slow to germinate, needing a soil temperature of 65° - 70°F and darkness. It can take a few seasons to really establish itself, but will then creep along the ground, establishing new roots wherever the stems touch the ground. English Pennyroyal is difficult to harvest leaves and dry, mainly due to the tiny size of the leaves. It has the best aroma and flavor when harvested fresh, usually only one or two shoots or stems with a few leaves are all that is needed to flavor a meal or pot of tea.
Both the Greeks and Romans used the herb in cooking and healing, with Pliny writing that pennyroyal drove away fleas; Carl Linnaeus used the Latin root for flea – pulex – when naming it botanically. The common name is a distortion of the older name that described the herb as a remedy for royal lice and fleas. Used as a cooking herb by the Greeks and Romans, who often flavored their wine with pennyroyal. A large number of the recipes in the Roman cookbook of Apicius use pennyroyal, along with such herbs as lovage, oregano and coriander.
Traditionally used as an antispasmodic, carminative, diaphoretic, emmenagogue, aromatic, and stomachic. Leaves have been used as an insect repellent against fleas and other pests after crushing the leaves and rubbing them on exposed skin.
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