Pennyroyal can cause death, should not be used for abortions

A video on TikTok suggested that a plant called pennyroyal could cause an abortion, but the plant is dangerous and even a small amount can cause death.

Following the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, many states are trying to restrict or ban abortion altogether. In response, some people have shared alleged recipes to induce an abortion at home.

An ER doctor gained weight to respond to Twitter to a TikTok video implying that a plant called Pennyroyal could act as an abortifacient or something capable of causing an abortion. “It’s incredibly dangerous,” the doctor warned. “It can lead to liver failure, seizures and DEATH.”

The person who originally posted the pennyroyal tea post on their TikTok account with 25,000 followers has since deleted the video. They posted a series of apology videos after taking down the original.


Can Pennyroyal, a Proposed Herbal Abortion Drug, Cause Death?



This is true.

Yes, Pennyroyal can cause death. Do not use it to induce abortions.


According to the UK’s National Biodiversity Network, pennyroyal is a plant in the mint family with a strong scent similar to spearmint. Two varieties of it, one in Europe and one in the US, have been used in a number of historical folk remedies. Some of these remedies involve ingesting the oil contained in the leaves directly, others involve drinking pennyroyal tea which still contains the oil.

The National Capital Poison Center describes pennyroyal oil as a “potentially toxic folk remedy.”

“It is most notable for its use to induce menstruation and abortion,” says the National Capital Poison Center. “Pennyroyal oil use has resulted in serious side effects — including death.”

According to the National Capital Poison Center, pennyroyal oil contains pulegone, a highly toxic, naturally occurring organic compound. Pulegone can initially lead to gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. It can later lead to liver and kidney failure, which then leads to bleeding, seizures, multiple organ failure, and death.

Other side effects of taking pennyroyal oil include nervous system damage, burning sensation in the throat, fever, confusion, restlessness, dizziness, vision and hearing problems, high blood pressure, and lung failure, according to the National Library of Medicine’s MedlinePlus.

The National Capital Poison Center says there is no antidote for pennyroyal oil poisoning. Early treatment in a case of pennyroyal poisoning is key.

Pennyroyal oil is extracted from the leaves of the plant and is therefore found in pennyroyal tea. Although the National Institutes of Health says pennyroyal tea has been used “without serious side effects,” MedlinePlus says there is “not enough reliable information to know if pennyroyal is safe to use as a tea.” That’s because medical experts don’t know how much oil an adult can ingest before it becomes dangerous and then fatal.

Because of the dangers it poses and the unknowns surrounding safe dosage, medical experts strongly warn against using pennyroyal in any way for medical treatments, including abortions.

According to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, there have been several reports over the past few decades of young women who took pennyroyal oil to induce an abortion and died of multiple organ failure. The center also says there have been at least two cases of multiple organ failure in infants given Pennyroyal herbal tea as a home remedy.

Both MedlinePlus and the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center say there is no scientific evidence to support the herb’s alleged uses, including inducing an abortion.

The viral TikTok also mentioned mugwort as an ingredient. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health says there isn’t enough evidence to show that mugwort, which is advertised as a cure for digestive problems, irregular menstrual periods, high blood pressure, a sedative, a laxative, and a liver tonic, is actually beneficial for any of these conditions . More importantly, “very little research has been done on mugwort in humans” and “little is known about whether mugwort is safe to take orally or to use topically.”

You should never prepare your own herbal medicines, says the National Capital Poison Center, and you should always check with a healthcare provider before taking any traditional medicine, herbal product, tea, herb, or dietary supplement.

“This will help them manage your care and keep you safe,” says Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Isn’t that the herb Benjamin Franklin recommends for abortions?

A viewer reached out to VERIFY to ask for a separate claim — did Benjamin Franklin write instructions on how to terminate a pregnancy with herbs?

That claim is true, but it’s a recipe you shouldn’t attempt to use yourself.

According to the National Archives, in 1748 Benjamin Franklin published a book called The American Instructor, a handbook on just about anything the authors found practical. It was primarily a reprint for the British public of a book of the same name by George Fisher, with some omissions and additions by Franklin himself.

One such guide in the book is the “Suppression of Courses,” a guide to “eliminating” what Franklin called “feminine infirmities.” This recipe doesn’t use the word “abortion” directly, but it is made up of ingredients that were widely believed to be abortifacients at the time.

The ingredients in this recipe include a “quarter pint of pennyroyal water.” As previously mentioned, pennyroyal is highly toxic and can kill the person who ingests it. Don’t try to copy Franklin’s recipe from almost 300 years ago.

More from VERIFY: No, the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Repealing Wade doesn’t ban birth control

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