Mountain Mint Essential Oil Production
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: John Smyth
Posted on: March 1, 2002

1: I have successfully grown healthy plants from your seed "Mountain Mint" in Nova Scotia, and was wandering if this particular plant would be suitable for commercial essential oil production?

I am not aware that mountain-mint (Pycnanthemum pilosum and other spp.) is being grown commercially for essential oil production. It could have the same prospects as pennyroyal oil. Superficially, the aroma of mountain-mint is similar to pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium and Hedeoma pulegioides). Pennyroyal oil is very effective as an insect repellent and insecticide, but it also has abortifacient properties. There have been cases of pregnant women losing their babies while using pennyroyal oil. Part of the physiological activity of pennyroyal is thought to be attributed to pulegone, a constituent of the essential oil, and mountain-mint contains more pulegone than pennyroyal, about 50% more.

Pennyroyal has long been used for culinary and beverage uses. It is not widely used today for these purposes, probably because of fears that the oil’s abortifacient properties could have other more subtle effects on the body. But as far as we know all of the problems reported with pennyroyal have been with the oil, not with the dried or fresh herb. Compounds such as pulegone are much more concentrated in the essential oil than in the leaves. The essential oils of other seemingly safe herbs such as thyme and lavender are also hazardous in the pure essential oil state if misused. And pulegone is found in other plants that have a long history of internal use: for example, zuta levana (Micromeria fruticosa) is widely used in the Middle East as tea herb. So pennyroyal oil, and by extension, mountain-mint oil, may require appropriate instructions for the end user, when and how to use it safely.

2: Do you have the necessary info on essential oil production & marketing for my business plan? I am particularly interested in lavender, mint, oregano, & thyme. I plan to return to New Zealand soon and was wondering if this info (if you have it) would be suitable to growing conditions down there? Thanks.

In the growers’ resource section of our website is a link to a New Zealand report on essential oil production. There are references to books that may be helpful. New Zealand (and Australia) have become major producers of essential oils in recent years, and there is government and trade association support.

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