Herb: Dyer's Greenweed

Latin name: Genista tinctoria

Family: Leguminosae

Medicinal use of Dyer's Greenweed:

The twigs, leaves and flowering stems are cathartic, diaphoretic, diuretic, emetic, stimulant and vasoconstrictor. The seeds are also sometimes used. The plant is harvested in early summer as it comes into flower and can be dried for later use. It should not be stored for more than 12 months since its active ingredients break down. The powdered seeds act as a mild purgative and were at one time used to make a plaster for broken limbs. A decoction of the whole plant has been used as a remedy for dropsy, rheumatism and gout. A homeopathic remedy is made from the fresh shoots. It is used in the treatment of rheumatism.

Description of the plant:


60 cm
(2 feet)

June to

Habitat of the herb:

Meadows, pastures, heaths and the edges of fields, especially on poor soils.

Edible parts of Dyer's Greenweed:

The seed has been suggested as a possible coffee substitute. The flower buds are pickled and used as a substitute for capers. Used as a vegetable.

Other uses of the herb:

A very good quality yellow dye is obtained from the whole plant, but especially from the flowers and young shoots. It produces a very good quality green when mixed with woad (Isatis tinctoria). Alum, cream of tartar and sulphate of lime are used to fix the colour. The stems can be dried and stored until the dye is required. A fibre obtained from the stems is used for coarse cloth and cordage. Plants can be used as a ground cover when spaced about 45cm apart each way. The cultivar "Flore Pleno" is always dwarf and is more reliable than the species.

Propagation of Dyer's Greenweed:

The seed requires a period of cold stratification and is best sown autumn in a cold frame. Pre-soak stored seed for 24 hours in warm water and sow February in a cold frame. Good germination. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out in the summer. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 5 - 10 cm with a heel, July/August in a frame. Roots are formed in the spring. Cuttings of ripe wood, 5 - 10 cm with a heel, September/October in a frame. Good percentage. Plant out the following autumn.

Cultivation of the herb:

Meadows, pastures, heaths and the edges of fields, especially on poor soils.

Known hazards of Genista tinctoria:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.