Herb: Red Bryony

Latin name: Bryonia dioica

Synonyms: Bryonia cretica dioica

Family: Cucurbitaceae (Cucumber Family, Gourd Family)

Medicinal use of Red Bryony:

A powerful cathartic and purgative, bryony is used with great caution in present-day herbalism. It is primarily prescribed for painful rheumatic conditions. The root is cathartic, cytotoxic, diaphoretic, expectorant, hydrogogue, irritant, pectoral, purgative and vermifuge. It is used in small quantities internally in the treatment of various inflammatory conditions, bronchial complaints, asthma, intestinal ulcers, hypertension and arthritis. Externally, it is applied as a rubefacient to muscular and joint pains and pleurisy. The root, which can be 75cm long and 75mm thick, can be used fresh at any time of the year, it can also be harvested in the autumn and be dried for later use. This plant should be used with great caution and only under the supervision of a qualified practitioner. See the notes above on toxicity. The whole herb has an antiviral effect.

Description of the plant:

Perennial Climber

3.5 m
(11 feet)

May to

Habitat of the herb:

Scrub and woodland, especially on well-drained soils, avoiding acid soils.

Edible parts of Red Bryony:

Young shoots - must be cooked. They are eaten in spring. Caution is advised in the use of this plant, see the notes above regarding toxicity.

Propagation of the herb:

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. Sow stored seed in late winter in a cold frame. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter, planting them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Division in early spring.

Cultivation of Red Bryony:

Scrub and woodland, especially on well-drained soils, avoiding acid soils.

Known hazards of Bryonia dioica:

All parts of the plant are poisonous. One report says it is very toxic, another says it is of very low toxicity. The fresh root is a severe skin irritant.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.