Herb: Corncockle

Latin name: Agrostemma githago

Synonyms: Githago segetum, Lychnis githago

Family: Caryophyllaceae (Pink Family, Starwort Family)

Medicinal use of Corncockle:

The seed is diuretic, expectorant and vermifuge. Minute amounts are used medicinally. It has a folk history of use in the treatment of cancer, warts etc. The plant is not used in allopathic medicine, but it has been found efficacious in the treatment of dropsy and jaundice if used for long enough. Some caution is advised, see notes above on toxicity. A homeopathic remedy has been made from the seeds. It has been found useful in the treatment of paralysis and gastritis.

Description of the plant:


90 cm
(2 feet)

June to

Habitat of the herb:

A weed of cornfields, becoming very rare in the wild due to modern agricultural practises.

Edible parts of Corncockle:

Leaves - cooked. A famine food, used when all else fails. Some caution is advised - see the notes above on toxicity.

Propagation of the herb:

Seed - sow spring or autumn in situ. The seed usually germinates in 2 - 3 weeks. The seed has a short viability. Eighteen month old seed germinated freely with us.

Cultivation of Corncockle:

A weed of cornfields, becoming very rare in the wild due to modern agricultural practises.

Known hazards of Agrostemma githago:

The seed and leaves are poisonous, containing saponin-like substances. Although poisonous, saponins are poorly absorbed by the human body and so most pass through without harm. Saponins are quite bitter and can be found in many common foods such as some beans. They can be removed by carefully leaching the seed or flour in running water. Thorough cooking, and perhaps changing the cooking water once, will also normally remove most of them. However, it is not advisable to eat large quantities of food that contain saponins. Saponins are much more toxic to some creatures, such as fish, and hunting tribes have traditionally put large quantities of them in streams, lakes etc in order to stupefy or kill the fish.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.