HERB - Fwd: hist-brewing: mint tea

Walter J. Wakefield wjwakefield at juno.com
Fri Oct 29 21:12:41 PDT 1999

Mints will cross pollinate with each other and hybridize into other
varieties, so it is possible that pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium) could
cross with peppermint (Mentha piperita) or spearmint (Mentha viridis),
and create a plant with at least some of pennyroyal's known toxic
properties.  The plants would have to be growing close together for this
to happen.  (This is the same kind of thing that can happen when you
plant your dill and fennel too close together.  Several members of my
herb club have said that dennel or fill, whichever you get from the
cross, is worthless.)

So the only way that I would expect to see any of the cited compounds in
such a tea would be if someone was careless in growing their mints too
close together, or if someone had intentionally included pennyroyal in
the tea.  

Mint tea, particularly peppermint, is good for digestive upsets, on an
occasional basis, even in children.  Pennyroyal, on the other hand, while
it has its uses, should never be given internally to children or pregnant
women, and should not be used internally on any kind of regular basis by
anyone.  In period, it was used internally, similarly to other mints, and
was used to make a sausage stuffing (according to Mrs. Grieve, "A Modern
Herbal").  However, there are enough constituents in pennyroyal that are
harmful to the liver in particular, that I usually recommend against
internal use except for occasional maladies.  There are a number of
external uses, especially as a counter irritant and insect repellent
(flea repellent is what gives it its Latin name, 'pulex' being Latin for
flea - again, Grieve).

Suzanna, the herbalist

On Fri, 29 Oct 1999 13:45:25 -0600 Ghia <ghia at netherworld.com> writes:

>Are they saying that the pennyroyal grew near the mint and was
mistakenly brewed as mint (similar to ragweed-chamomile confusion) or
that the mint plant itself contained pennyroyal?


>Bowen MacTarbh wrote:

>> Greetings unto the list;   I thought some of you might be interested
in this post to the brewing
>> list. I will be more than happy to forward comments to and from the
brewing list for those not on both lists.               

>> >From: isenhour at uiuc.edu
>> >Reply-To: isenhour at uiuc.edu
>> >To: hist-brewing at pbm.com (Brewmasters Histerical)
>> >Subject: hist-brewing: mint tea
>> >Date: Tue, 26 Oct 1999 09:49:44 -0500 (CDT)
>> >
>> >from Pediatrics, V98, N5, pp944-947 1996
>> >
>> >Hepatic and neurologic injury developed in two infants after
ingestion of mint tea.  Examination of the mint plants, from which the
teas were brewed, indicated that they contained the toxic agent
pennyroyal oil.

>> >METHODS: Sera from each infant were analyzed for the toxic
constituents of pennyroyal oil, including pulegone and its metabolite

>> >RESULTS: Fulminant liver failure with cerebral edema and necrosis
developed in the first infant, who died.   This infant was positive only
for menthofuran (10ng/mL).   In the other infant, who was positive for
both pulegone (25 ng/mL) and menthofuran (41 ng/mL), hepatic dysfunction
and a severe epileptic encephalopathy developed.

>> >CONCLUSION: Pennyroyal oil is a highly toxic agent that may cause
both hepatic and neurologic injury if ingested.  A potential source of
pennyroyal oil is certain mint teas mistakenly used as home remedies to
treat minor ailments and colic in infants.   Physicians should consider
pennyroyal oil poisoning as a possible cause of hepatic and neurologic
injury in infants, particularly if the infants may have been given home-
brewed mint teas.

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