Nirvana: Pennyroyal Tea Meaning
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Song Released: 1994
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Pennyroyal Tea Lyrics
I have very bad posture
Sit and drink Pennyroyal Tea
Distill the life that's inside of me
Sit and drink Pennyroyal tea
I'm anemic royalty
Give me a Leonard Cohen afterworld
So I can sigh eternally
This song "Pennyroyal tea" shows the gifted use of a definition. Pennyroyal Tea is an old remedy that helps the body to relieve stomach and bowel irregularities, associated with depression, it is also a great enhancer of miscarriages in women.
This song is dark because he's taking a medicine to kill his depression, but he says it in a way that means "Distill the life that's inside of me.", as if his depression was a child he wanted to abort. Kurt probably experimented with Pennyroyal tea, to help him with his manic depression. Much like "Lithium", "Pennyroyal tea" is a song that foreshadowed his real life events. Kurt never could shake his depression and ultimately killed himself, leaving a question. Did Pennyroyal tea and Lithium help him, or did they worsen his manic depression?
shakeninja Oct 3rd, 2007 10:18am report
This song does reference his stomach condition: warm milk laxatives and cherry flavored antacids. This condition was his excuse for doing heroin. The rest of the lyrics are far more telling however. This song is NOT just about him having a stomach ache. That's just silly. The life that he is aborting by drinking pennyroyal tea is his creative integrity.
He calls himself royalty because of the celebrity position he was thrown into. If this song was written before he was famous then remember he planned out his music career very carefully from a very young age. and of course he always thought of himself as too skinny. Hence anemic. He was dealing with his desire for rock star status versus his need for artistic integrity and control. lines such as "im on my time with everyone" and "im a liar and a thief" are references to the people around him wanting to control his art and his feelings that he is betraying himself by what in his mind was selling out. Though it has never been referenced one would assume he highly respected Leonard Cohen, or at least viewed Cohen's life and famous as ideal. In the end it is very simple. Kurt Cobain wanted to be a rock star. but at the same time he despised everything about the rock star status. The tragedy is that his life long dreams came true but once achieved he didn't know where to go from that point and felt trapped to the point that the only way out that he could see was death.
Anarivan you're a retard. Pennyroyal tea was used for abortions of sorts, it also helped with stomach cramps. You see, when Kurt was a little kid and throughout his adulthood he had very bad stomach aches/cramps all the time.
All the doctor would do his tell him to drink pennyroyal tea, take anti-acids (hence cherry flavored ant acids) drink laxatives and warm milk helps you sleep. The stomach virus kept him from sleeping for days on end. His unknown condition is one thing that made him depressed.
anonymous Oct 4th, 2016 10:10pm report
Obviously the once talented and gifted KURT COBAIN [may he always rise and rest in peace] was a fan of Leonard Khoen's poetic music that lures the soul and spirit from within and out, like people slowly being smoked out of their rooms, house or church. Listening in solitude to it relieved some of his sufferings under certain melancholic conditions when having the blues. This can give you the ''feeling'' you're living in the afterlife of eternity, but ''sighing'' with it in the present. Now in mourning before it's time and drinking ''pennyroyal tea'' to distill the life inside and outside himself that may have felt dead and lonely to KURT COBAIN being depended on drugs that in the long run became to addictive. In need for body and soul to be spiritually purified to heal and renew itself with sipping''PennyRoyal Tea'' and taking laxatives in the hope to purge out it's toxins and resurrect his body to health sort of speaking.
stitch.wazere Jun 12th, 2014 6:43pm report
If you have ever suffered heroin addiction as I have for over a decade this song jus seems to be quite clearly referring to The rattle (withdrawal) from it but although everything from the title to the lyrics about laxatives and antacids and anemia are direct references to it the whole song makes reference to its effects on your life whilst maintaining less literal interpretations that can relate to depression and the monotony of life that I think is quite intentional to open up the application of its meaning and relevance to a much wider spectrum of life and observation of life and suffering. But I don't no what it reads like to someone who hasn't ever bin habited up on an opiate I can only speak from that view point but as much as clean and perfect t-total never smoked a joint type Nirvana/Cobain fans want it not to be true he was diamorphine dependent, a heroin addict, a skagg-head like me and every other self medicator, so it seems obvious what viewpoint he's written it from.
anonymous Jun 5th, 2014 6:31am report
Is it not painfully obvious that he's referring to heroin as pennyroyal tea? "Distill the life in me" notice it's the only song Kurt does alone? Not to mention he had the producers set up the unplugged stage like a funeral. This was Kurt at the peak of his depression. Take laxatives and antacid? Laxative so the opiates don't constipate him and antacids so he doesn't throw up. This was a man telling his fans goodbye on what would end up on the biggest stage of his career.
JasmineStar Sep 4th, 2010 9:06am report
"i have very bad posture", he repeats the lies told to him, as actually the drug ritalin of which he was abused with in his childhood may stunt growth, affect muscle strength. He once expressed that his mothers boyfriend was someone who bashed family. Childhood emotional hurts can also lead to muscle tension.
Anemia is also another possible long term ritalin side effect
"i'm so tired i can't sleep" with some young children they may rest easier with ritalin, but with Kurt as a child it caused insomnia to which he was awake till 4am. he was then given sedatives as well, not sure if these were benzos, valium ot whatever. To be knocked out all day so tired and submissive and then not to be able to sleep sounds pretty horrific, and insomnia can be a side effect that continues for years after stopping ritalin and sedative use.
Stomach pains and laxative needs are also possible long term side effects of ritalin and sedatives.
He knows the simple penny royal tea that helps stomach, and anemia is not enough to undo all the drug abuse he was subjected to as a child.
Hence the melancholy of his attempt.
anonymous Oct 14th, 2009 10:15pm report
This song is about heroin addiction all the way I'm a liar and a thief. ,I'm. Anemic heroin addicts are commonly liars and thief's and are also sometimes anemic
anonymous May 2nd, 2009 5:17pm report
First off, Pennyroyal tea is a drink that is high in iron, and has a reputation for basically at home abortions.
I'm on my time with everyone- I feel like I'm gonna die soon.
I have very bad posture- Kurt had bad posture because of a problem he had with his back.
Sit and drink Penny royal tea,distill the life that's inside of me- this is NOT about abortion.the 'life inside of me" is like a second half.
sit and drink Penny royal tea, I'm anemic royalty- Penny royal tea being high in iron would help with anemia, it being an iron definciency in your blood.
he's obviously getting tired of himself, and just being who he is,not so much on the inside emotionally, but physically. In this song he talks about his bad posture, and his anemia. as you get farther through, he continues the verse and says:
Give me a Leonard Cohen after world, so I can sigh eternally- I guess this is a sorce of self pitty.
I'm so tired I can't sleep, I'm a liar and a theif-this goes back to where he says "distill the life that's inside of me" it's about being tired of himself, and being who he is, this deals more with what one side of him is, but he doesn't wnat to live up to it, and is getting tired of it, "distill the life that's INSIDE OF ME"
I'm on warm milk and laxatives, Cherry flavored antacids-this talks about his horrible stomach problems that he dealt with through the last five years of his life.this is basically about Kurt not wanting to deal with himself anymore.His inside problems, and his health problems.thats a basic way of putting it. This song is not at all about abortion.
anonymous Apr 1st, 2009 4:25am report
It's about heroin if you look in the lyrics a little more deeper
Im sure that pennyroyal tea is the piss of Kings and Queens in Old Britian. They were distinguished enough that they would pipe their excrements out of their castle walls and instead of into a cess pool it would flow into the streets of the populace. This "pennyroyal tea" was in fact considered a delicacy because the kings and queens could get the very best tea's.
So Cobain is drinking piss. I sit and drink piss. Anyone ever heard of another person drinking piss METAPHORICALLY. Think about his relationship with the music industry and why he metaphorically drank piss (doing the things he didn't want to do, but doing them nonetheless, drinking piss)
anonymous Jan 26th, 2009 1:34pm report
i am wondering something, i have no doubt in my mind that the pennroyal tea, being a substance sometimes used in bringing on miscarriages, is something he is singing about because it is killing the life that is inside of him, but could he possible be referring to it as the life that's inside of him because his depression is ultimately what is inspiring him to make his music and write his lyrics but if he drinks this tea that will help his depression subside is that what is 'killing the life inside him' because the life inside of him is the depression that helps him make his music...sorry that didnt make sense..but if anybody gets what im trying to say then..yeah..just comment back about thatt.
anonymous Oct 19th, 2008 10:50pm report
First let me see I agree with the overall moral of the song, about the stomach cramps and the abortion and so on,
and by far I think this is nirvana in its most purest form I think Kurt used the name pennyroyal Tea for an additonal reason, Penny Royalty wich is pretty clear by now I hope,
is pennys are the most common and overlooked by most, sort of like fans, I actually had the honor of seeing nirvana before Kurt died and when he played pennyroyal tea he made a connection with not just me, but everyone in the crowd that no other band has been able to replicate yet, but deep
down Kurt was just like us in the crowd, the only difference is he was him-himself I mean.
and in the lyrics "im anemic royalty" its Kurt basically rejecting his "rockstar" status wich ultimately led to his death,he didn't want to be famous anymore, he didn't want to play his music anymore, he didn't want any of the things he had and he knew the media would never leave him alone
yeaitsfingme Sep 16th, 2008 9:01am report
Man I love this song so much
the first two he's just stating that he feels bad about being self absorbed and only spending time with others when he feels like it...even when they really need him.
Then the rest he's just talking bout his personality ...im lazy, I have so much emotions (life inside me), sometimes I think way to much so I can't sleep. Then the pennyroyal tea, laxatives and Leonard are just things that help him with all these and more problems that he has.
This song describes me too haha.
jeff_mitchell91 Aug 26th, 2008 8:25pm report
Pennyroyal Tea is obviously the tea that helps with stomach pains. Kurt when he was around 8 started feeling (stomach aches) and pennyroyal tea helps and sooths the stomach and he is simply talking about the pains he has felt and how pennyroyal tea and warm laxatives are soothing his stomach.
anonymous May 6th, 2007 5:11pm report
Heard it was about Kurt feeling cheated by the music industry. A play on words (penny Royalty) I don't know if this is true but just throwing it out there.
anonymous Jan 9th, 2007 1:11pm report
This song seems to address Cobain's medical conditions including anemia, depression, stomach ailments, and the final condition (death). Then the song ended and everyone clapped (mtv)unplugged. How strange is that?
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