Herb: Spiny Rest Harrow

Latin name: Ononis spinosa

Synonyms: Ononis campestris

Family: Leguminosae

Medicinal use of Spiny Rest Harrow:

The roots, leaves and flowers are antitussive, aperient, diuretic and lithontripic. The root contains a fixed oil that is anti-diuretic and an essential oil that is diuretic. If the diuretic action is required then the root should be infused and not decocted or the essential oil will be evaporated. An infusion is used in the treatment of dropsy, inflammation of the bladder and kidneys, rheumatism and chronic skin disorders. The roots are used occasionally, they are harvested in the autumn, cut into slices and carefully dried for later use. The young shoots are more commonly used, either fresh or dried. They can be harvested throughout the summer. A cough mixture is made from the bark.

Description of the plant:


60 cm
(2 feet)

May to


Habitat of the herb:

Chalk and limestone grassland, stony hillsides and open pine forests, mainly on dry stony ground.

Edible parts of Spiny Rest Harrow:

Young shoots - cooked. Used as a potherb. Roots - chewed for their liquorice-like flavour. Flowers - raw. They are used as a decoration on salads.

Propagation of the herb:

Scarify or pre-soak the seed for 24 hours in warm water and sow the seed in the middle of spring in situ. The seed can also be sown in a cold frame in the autumn. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out in late spring. Division just before new growth begins in spring. Very easy, larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found that it is better to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in light shade in a cold frame until they are well established before planting them out in late spring or early summer. Cuttings, September in a cold frame.

Cultivation of Spiny Rest Harrow:

Chalk and limestone grassland, stony hillsides and open pine forests, mainly on dry stony ground.

Known hazards of Ononis spinosa:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.