Herb: Beetroot

Latin name: Beta vulgaris craca

Family: Chenopodiaceae (Goosefoot Family)

Medicinal use of Beetroot:

Although little used in modern herbalism, beet has a long history of folk use, especially in the treatment of tumours. The root of white-rooted forms contain betaine which promotes the regeneration of liver cells and the metabolism of fat cells. The root of red-rooted forms contains betanin - an anthocyanin similar to those found in red wine - which is partly responsible for red beet's immune-enhancing effect. The root is carminative, haemostatic, stomachic and a tonic for women. The root can be used as part of the diet, or the juice can be extracted and used as a health-promoting drink. At least one litre of the juice from red-rooted forms must be taken each day in order to stimulate the immune system. The juice is prescribed by herbalists as part of a cancer-treatment regime. A decoction prepared from the seed has been used as a remedy for tumours of the intestines. The seed, boiled in water, is said to cure genital tumours. The juice or other parts of the plant is said to help in the treatment of tumours, leukaemia and other forms of cancer such as cancer of the breast, oesophagus, glands, head, intestines, leg, lip, lung, prostate, rectum, spleen, stomach, and uterus. Some figure that betacyanin and anthocyanin are important in the exchange of substances of cancer cells, others note two main components of the amines, choline and its oxidation product betaine, whose absence produces tumours in mice. The juice has been applied to ulcers. A decoction is used as a purgative by those who suffer from haemorrhoids in South Africa. Leaves and roots used as an emmenagogue. Plant effective in the treatment of feline ascariasis. In the old days, beet juice was recommended as a remedy for anaemia and yellow jaundice, and, put into the nostrils to purge the head, clear ringing ears, and alleviate toothache. Beet juice in vinegar was said to rid the scalp of dandruff as scurf, and was recommended to prevent falling hair.

Description of the plant:


90 cm
(2 feet)

Habitat of the herb:

Not known in a truly wild situation.

Edible parts of Beetroot:

Root - raw or cooked. Well-grown roots are sweet and tender, especially when young, and can be grated and used in salads. Beetroots are traditionally boiled until tender then pickled in vinegar and used in salads. The roots can also be cooked and used as a vegetable, they are sweet and delicious when baked. The root contains up to 8% sugar. The root is tasteless when grown on very wet soils and dry when grown on clay soils. Immature roots can be harvested in the summer and early autumn for immediate use, these are usually much more tender than the older roots. Mature roots can be left in the ground all winter and harvested as required, though they might suffer damage in severe winters. Alternatively, they are harvested in late autumn or early winter and will store for up to 6 months in a cool but not dry frost-free place. Leaves - raw or cooked like spinach. A reasonable spinach substitute, though harvesting leaves from growing plants can reduce yields of the roots. Some people dislike the raw leaves since they can leave an unpleasant taste in the mouth. A nutritional analysis is available.

Propagation of the herb:

Seed - pre-soaking for 12 hours in warm water prior to sowing encourages mare rapid and even germination. For the earliest crop, ready to harvest in late spring, sow the seed in situ in late February or early March, giving it some protection such as a cloche. The first outdoor sowings can be made in March in situ to provide a crop from early summer onwards. For both of these sowings it is important to choose varieties that are resistant to bolting in case there is a cold spell in the spring. Sowings for the main crop can be made in April to early June to provide roots for autumn, winter and early spring use. Late sowings of fast maturing varieties can be made in June and early July in order to provide fresh young roots in the autumn.

Cultivation of Beetroot:

Not known in a truly wild situation.

Known hazards of Beta vulgaris craca:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.