Herb: Sorrel


Latin name: Rumex acetosa


Family: Polygonaceae (Buckwheat Family)



Medicinal use of Sorrel:

The fresh or dried leaves are astringent, diuretic, laxative and refrigerant. They are used to make a cooling drink in the treatment of fevers and are especially useful in the treatment of scurvy. The leaf juice, mixed with fumitory, has been used as a cure for itchy skin and ringworm. An infusion of the root is astringent, diuretic and haemostatic. It has been used in the treatment of jaundice, gravel and kidney stones. Both the roots and the seeds have been used to stem haemorrhages. A paste of the root is applied to set dislocated bones. The plant is depurative and stomachic. A homeopathic remedy is made from the plant. It is used in the treatment of spasms and skin ailments.

Description of the plant:



Plant:
Perennial


Height:
60 cm
(2 feet)

Flovering:
May to
June

Habitat of the herb:

Meadows, by streams and in open places in woodland. Often found as a weed of acid soils.

Edible parts of Sorrel:

Leaves - raw or cooked. They make a thirst-quenching on their own, or can be added to salads, used as a potherb or pureed and used in soups. A delicious lemon-like flavour, liked by most people who try them, they can be rather overpowering in quantity and are more generally used as a flavouring in mixed salads. The leaves can also be dried for later use. The leaves can be available all through the winter, especially in mild weather or if a little protection is given to the plants. The leaves should be used sparingly in the diet, see the notes on toxicity above. Flowers - cooked as a vegetable or used as a garnish. Root - cooked. It is dried, ground into a powder and made into noodles. Seed - raw or cooked. Ground into a powder and mixed with other flours to make bread. The seed is easy to harvest, but is rather small and fiddly to use. The juice of the leaves can be used as a curdling agent for milks.

Other uses of the herb:

Dark green to brown and dark grey dyes can be obtained from the roots, they do not need a mordant. A grey-blue dye is obtained from the leaves and stems. An infusion of the stems is used as a polish for bamboo and wicker furniture and also for silver. The juice of the plant removes stains from linen and also ink stains (but not ball-point ink) from white material. It is sometimes sold as "essential salt of lemon".

Propagation of Sorrel:

Seed - sow spring in situ. Leaves can be harvested within 8 weeks from sowing. Division in spring. Division is very simple at almost any time of the year, though the plants establish more rapidly in the spring. Use a sharp spade or knife to divide the rootstock, ensuring that there is at least one growth bud on each section of root. Larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found it best to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in a lightly shaded position in a cold frame, planting them out once they are well established in the summer.

Cultivation of the herb:

Meadows, by streams and in open places in woodland. Often found as a weed of acid soils.

Known hazards of Rumex acetosa:

Plants can contain quite high levels of oxalic acid, which is what gives the leaves of many members of this genus an acid-lemon flavour. Perfectly alright in small quantities, the leaves should not be eaten in large amounts since the oxalic acid can lock-up other nutrients in the food, especially calcium, thus causing mineral deficiencies. The oxalic acid content will be reduced if the plant is cooked. People with a tendency to rheumatism, arthritis, gout, kidney stones or hyperacidity should take especial caution if including this plant in their diet since it can aggravate their condition.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.