Pennyroyal is a mint variety that is native to Europe, parts of Asia as well as to the Middle East. It was introduced to places in Africa along with Australia and New Zealand. Pennyroyal’s use dates back to the Ancient Greeks and the Romans after them. The herb was used for its medicinal value but it was an important culinary herb as well. The Greeks used pennyroyal primarily to flavor wines. Roman gourmet Apicius listed fresh and dried pennyroyal alongside other major culinary herbs such as oregano and lovage. In addition to using it to flavor wines, Apicius also used the herb in sauces including a sauce to be served with game.
Pliny the Elder was another historical figure who documented the herb’s benefits. He listed it as a flea repellant. According to some historians, the herb’s presence around the world can be accounted for by the Roman Empire to a large extent.
It was well known to these early civilizations for its use in improving menstrual flow and for causing abortions. Large doses of pennyroyal are needed to affect a fetus. Those large doses can cause serious kidney or liver damage and death both to the mother and to her unborn child.