Herb: Gooseberry

Latin name: Ribes uva-crispa

Synonyms: Grossularia reclinata, Ribes reclinata

Family: Grossulariaceae (Currant Family)

Medicinal use of Gooseberry:

The fruit is laxative. Stewed unripe gooseberries are used as a spring tonic to cleanse the system. The leaves have been used in the treatment of gravel. An infusion taken before the monthly periods is said to be a useful tonic for growing girls. The leaves contain tannin and have been used as an astringent to treat dysentery and wounds.

Description of the plant:


120 cm
(4 feet)

to May

Habitat of the herb:

Woods and hedges, often by streams.

Edible parts of Gooseberry:

Fruit - raw or cooked. The fruit is often picked when under-ripe and very firm, it has a very tart flavour at this time and is mainly used in making pies, jams etc. However, if the fruit is allowed to remain on the plant until it is fully ripe and soft it becomes quite sweet and is delicious for eating out of hand. The fruit of the wild species is often less than 1cm in diameter, but named cultivars have considerably larger fruits up to 3cm in diameter. Leaves- raw. The young and tender leaves can be eaten in salads. Some caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity.

Other uses of the herb:

The fruit pulp is used cosmetically in face-masks for its cleansing effect on greasy skins.

Propagation of Gooseberry:

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in the autumn in a cold frame. Stored seed requires 3 months cold stratification at between 0 and 5C and should be sown as early in the year as possible. Under normal storage conditions the seed can remain viable for 17 years or more. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in a cold frame for their first winter, planting them out in late spring of the following year. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 10 - 15cm with a heel, July/August in a frame. Cuttings of mature wood of the current year's growth, preferably with a heel of the previous year's growth, November to February in a cold frame or sheltered bed outdoors.

Cultivation of the herb:

Woods and hedges, often by streams.

Known hazards of Ribes uva-crispa:

The fresh leaves contain the toxin hydrogen cyanide, though details of quantities are not given. This substance is found in several foods, including almonds. In small quantities, hydrogen cyanide has been shown to stimulate respiration and improve digestion, it is also claimed to be of benefit in the treatment of cancer. In excess, however, it can cause respiratory failure and even death.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.