Pulegone is a clear and colorless liquid with an oily texture and an appealing odor and flavor. Minty tasting, it is complicated to extract, with LLE or Liquid-Liquid extraction with chloroform, and then evaporation to dryness and resolving in ethanol. It can also be extracted through direct drying of plants, as well as synthetically. It is insoluble in water.
Pulegone is derived from many different plant species, including the aforementioned pennyroyal, as well as many types of evergreen shrubs, corn mint, orange mint, peppermint, spearmint and blackcurrant, the palo santo tree, and the plant known as creeping Charlie, among others. Its fragrance and flavor make it a common fragrance and flavoring ingredient in food and perfumery.
It also considered a viable therapeutic and medicinal ingredient as well as offering very strong insecticidal properties. It is quite widely used, and it is estimated that the average US consumer has an intake of around 12 micrograms per day in everything from flavorings to cosmetics and toiletries.
Pulegone in Nature
According to studies, Pulegone content of 85% or more occurs in American Pennyroyal, but in much smaller percentages in the leaves and flowers of edible mint species. For example, in peppermint variants, it occurs at “a range of 0.5% to 4.6%, and in M. arvensis oils at a range of 0.2% to 4.9%”.1When it is contained in oils, in their natural form, the concentrations are lower in those that have been partially de-mentholized. It is also present in the leaves of Barosma betulina at a rate of 3% to 50%.
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The amount, however, does vary based on the yearly weather conditions, the time that the plant was harvested, the origins of any plant, its age, amount of fertilization, planting time, location and more. Primarily found in leaves, stems, and flowers, it is the “aerial parts” most often used as “a traditional remedy, as a flavoring, as a spice, and for brewing teas”. It can be used to flavor alcoholic drinks, cosmetics, oral hygiene products, and more. Yet studies have proven that its natural aromatic properties are effective as insect repellants, too.
Naturally, it also has some medicinal and therapeutic indications proven by scientific study.
Pulegone for Human Health
When brewed from whole plants (aerial parts) of pennyroyal (in which the pulegone content can be as much as 95%), it has proven an effective internal treatment for:
- Dyspepsia (non-ulcer)
- Menstrual cramps
- Pain from endometriosis
- Secondary amenorrhea
When the pulegone is derived from one of the mentha family (typically the Mentha piperita and Mentha pulegium L. variants2), as well as working as a sedative it can function as a treatment for:
- Common cold
- Water retention (diuretic)
- A headache
- Heart issues
When it is a component of peppermint oil, it has demonstrated effectiveness in soothing the symptoms of IBS or inflammatory bowel syndrome.3
Yet, as a component of so many essential oils, it offers broad benefits to human health. Thus, it is the role of pulegone as a monoterpene that allows it to supply the widest number of benefits. As noted, laboratory studies have shown it to be effective, but it is also useful to look at it through the filter of monoterpenes and their benefits.
Pulegone as a Monoterpene in Essential Oils
Even a brief look at the vast array of literature published around studies that used pulegone (or essential oils high in it) proves that it has many benefits. Just a few titles prove this to be true. For example, there are studies that look at pulegone and its functions as:
- An antioxidant
- An antimicrobial compound 4
- A repellant effective on birds as well as insects 5
- As a food preservative 6
- As an anti-aging compound7, and much more
The different studies emphasize different plant variants, and many consider the role of pulegone as a monoterpene. As one of the most important components of an essential oil, these have long been proven to be effective by practitioners of holistic and natural medicine, including those who practice Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), to use them. Their performance in many modern scientific studies has made them of interest to modern medicine.
Known to “prevent, treat or otherwise improve a number of medical conditions,” it is pulegone’s role as a monoterpene that makes it such a beneficial compound in the world of botanical ingredients. When using essential oils, it is important to make note of the demonstrated benefits of pulegone, and understand how to use it for its proven effects in therapeutic remedies and as a soothing treatment in aromatherapy.
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