Herb: Scarlet Pimpernel

Latin name: Anagallis arvensis

Family: Primulaceae (Primrose Family)

Medicinal use of Scarlet Pimpernel:

The scarlet pimpernel was at one time highly regarded as a medicinal herb, especially in the treatment of epilepsy and mental problems, but there is little evidence to support its efficacy and it is no longer recommended for internal use because it contains toxic saponins and cytotoxic cucurbitacins. The whole herb is antitussive, cholagogue, diaphoretic, diuretic, expectorant, nervine, purgative, stimulant and vulnerary. It can be taken internally or applied externally as a poultice. An infusion is used in the treatment of dropsy, skin infections and disorders of the liver and gall bladder. The plant is best harvested in June and can be dried for later use. Use with caution, large doses can cause polyuria and tremor. A homeopathic remedy is made from the plant. It is used internally to treat itchy skins and externally to remove warts.

Description of the plant:


10 cm
(4 inches)

June to

Habitat of the herb:

Roadsides and cultivated land, preferring rather sandy soils.

Edible parts of Scarlet Pimpernel:

Leaves - raw or cooked. Used in salads and as a spinach. The tender shoots are cooked as a vegetable. It is best not to eat these leaves, see the notes above on toxicity.

Other uses of the herb:

The squeezed plant is used in Nepal for washing and bathing.

Propagation of Scarlet Pimpernel:

Seed - sow spring in situ.

Cultivation of the herb:

Roadsides and cultivated land, preferring rather sandy soils.

Known hazards of Anagallis arvensis:

The seeds are slightly poisonous to some mammals, but no cases involving people are known. Skin contact with the plant can cause dermatitis in some people.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.