OE wyrtig, adj: Garden-like, full of plants;
On anum wyrtige hamme, Homl. Skt. ii. 30:312



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Wyrtig - For gardeners with a sense of history

Pennyroyal. Many thanks to the
British Library for providing this image from
Edgerton 747:76, c. 1300 CE.



In Early Sources...


Mentha pulegium



Growing pennyroyal in your garden


Medieval Names for Pennyroyal


Dweorgedwesle,  dwurgedwesle,  dwyrgedwysle,  hylwyrt,   pollegi,  pollegia

Dweorg means dwarf; dwosle may suggest magical power; may be the name of a plant family, with "dwarf dwosle" being a smaller form; or may be related to the Swedish dvale, dvala, "sleep," in the sense of protecting against dwarf-caused illness.

Capitulare de Villis


Herbarium Apuleii

Dweorge dweosle, dweorge dwoslan, dweorge dwosle, pollegion, pollegium


Dweorgedwoslan,  dweorgedwosle,  dweorgedwostlan


Dweorge  dwostlan, dweorge  dwostle, dweorge  dwostlan; pollegia hylwyrt oşşe dweorgedwesle; pollegia hylwyrt oşşe dwyrgedwysle; pollegia hylwyrt oşşe dwyrgedwysle; poleium hylwyrt; pollegia hulwyrt

St. Gall


Walafrid Strabo


Pulegium takes its name from the Latin pulex, flea;
and is so-called because it repels fleas. Our modern name for this plant, pennyroyal, evolved from the Latin pulegium regale, royal pulegium. Dweorge dwosle, dwarf dwosle, is the Old English name for this small, pungent plant.

Early healers believed pennyroyal should be harvested, without any root, on Whitsun (the seventh Sunday after Easter) or the Eve of St. John the Baptist (Midsummer's eve), and dried in the shade.

The Anglo-Saxon Herbal (LXCV.i) says of pennyroyal:


This plant that is named by some pollegium and by others dweorge dwosle has many healing powers, though many people know them not * Further this plant is of  two kinds,  male and female * The male has white blossoms and the female has red or brown   Either is useful and wonderful  and they have within them wonderful power   blooming with greatest beauty when nearly all other plants shrink and wilt.

Other medieval herbals recommend pennyroyal for a variety of uses:

Medieval ship


If anyone suffers  nausea on shipboard let that person take the same plant pennyroyal & wormwood   pound them together with oil & with vinegar  Smear this on the body frequently.

Anglo-Saxon Herbal, XCIV.viii



To treat a woman who suddenly becomes unable to speak take pennyroyal & rub to dust   wind it up in wool   lay under that woman   it will soon be well with her.

Lacnunga, LXXXV



For stomach pain and if the innards be flatulent  wring pennyroyal in cold water or in wine   give to the patient to drink and soon all will be well.

Lacnunga, CXXXVIII


II. Puliole dronken in leuke [warm] wyn wole bringe oute women flowi3, 7 in Şe same wyse delyuere women of Şer after-burden [afterbirth]. Şe after-burden of women is clepid in latin secunda or secundina. But for Şis name is unknown to many folkys as I trowe it, I wole expoune and declare what it be-tokenyŞ by Şis name. As a chik Şat is not 3it come forŞ hauyŞ Şe ey3 shelle going a-boute hym, ri3t so a child in his moder wombe is keuered a-boute wiŞ a Şynne skyn Şat is maad Şer of Şe moder seed, Şe which skyn Şe child brekiŞ comynely in his birŞe ri3t as Şe chike bekeŞ Şe e3e shelle whan it comeŞ forŞ. Şis skyn hauyn leches clepid secunda or secundina for-Şi anon aftirward Şat Şe child is out of Şe modre wombe, Şis skyn comyŞ out after be right of kynde. and if Şe skyn tarie behynde in Şe moder wombe after Şe child lenger Şan Şei shulde, deŞ folowiŞ in Şe moder, or ellis sum oŞer grete sekeness.

            Macer, Pyliole


II. Pennyroyal drunk in warm wine will bring on a woman's menstrual flow, and in the same way deliver women of the placenta. The afterbirth of women is called in Latin secunda or secundina [follower]. But because this name is unknown to many folks as I believe, I will expound and declare what is meant by this. As a chick that has not hatched has the egg shell going around it, just so a child in the mother's womb is covered about with a thin skin which the child breaks commonly in birth, as the chick breaks the egg shell when it comes forth. This skin healers have called secunda or secundina  because after the child is out of the mother's womb, this skin comes out afterward, as is appropriate for our kind. And if this skin tarries behind in the mother's womb longer than it should after the child, death follows in the mother, or else some other great sickness.

Macer, Pennyroyal




Please note: Many plants have been used in past and present times for medicinal purposes, and as one of the focuses of Wyrtig is the history of gardening, these uses are discussed here. However, common sense requires that you consult your family physician or other health care provider before using any plant materials for medicinal purposes. The old saying that "A doctor who treats him- (or her-) self has a fool for a patient" is no less true in herbal medicine than in any other branch of the healing sciences. Herbal remedies should not be used by the uninformed; medical advice should be sought before using any herbal remedy.


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