Herb: Sea Holly

Latin name: Eryngium maritimum

Family: Umbelliferae

Medicinal use of Sea Holly:

Sea holly roots were collected on a large scale in the 17th and 18th centuries in England and were candied then used as restorative, quasi-aphrodisiac lozenges. The plant is still used in modern herbalism where it is valued especially for its diuretic action. The root is to be aphrodisiac, aromatic, diaphoretic, diuretic, expectorant, stimulant and tonic. The root promotes free expectoration and is very useful in the treatment of debility attendant on coughs of chronic standing in the advanced stages of pulmonary consumption. It is used in the treatment of cystitis, urethritis, as a means to alleviate kidney stones (it is unlikely that it dissolves the stones, but it probably helps to retard their formation), and to treat enlargement or inflammation of the prostate gland. Drunk freely, it is used to treat diseases of the liver and kidneys. Used externally as a poultice, the dried powdered root aids tissue regeneration. The root should be harvested in the autumn from plants that are at least 2 years old.

Description of the plant:


45 cm
(1 foot)

July to


Habitat of the herb:

Sea shores, preferring sand and shingle whilst avoiding acid soils.

Edible parts of Sea Holly:

Young shoots - cooked. They are normally blanched by excluding light from the growing plant, and are then used as an asparagus substitute. They are said to be palatable and nourishing. Root - cooked. Used as a vegetable or candied and used as a sweetmeat. Palatable and nutritious, it is slightly sweet and smells of carrots. The boiled or roasted roots are said to resemble parsnips or chestnuts in flavour.

Other uses of the herb:

The extensive root system helps to bind sand on the sea shore.

Propagation of Sea Holly:

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in early autumn on the surface of a well-drained compost in a cold frame. The seed can also be sown in spring. Germination can be very slow, although another report says that the seed usually germinates in 5 - 90 days at 20C. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Division in early spring or autumn. Take care since the plant resents root disturbance. Root cuttings in autumn or winter.

Cultivation of the herb:

Sea shores, preferring sand and shingle whilst avoiding acid soils.

Known hazards of Eryngium maritimum:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.