Herb: Canaigre

Latin name: Rumex hymenosepalus

Family: Polygonaceae (Buckwheat Family)

Medicinal use of Canaigre:

An infusion of the stems and leaves has been used as a wash for sores, ant bites and infected cuts. The roots are astringent. An infusion has been used in the treatment of diarrhoea. An infusion has been used as a gargle to treat coughs and sore mouths and throats. The root has been chewed in the treatment of coughs and colds. The dried, powdered roots have been used as a dusting powder and dressing on burns and sores. A tea made from this plant is used to treat colds.

Description of the plant:


100 cm
(3 1/4 foot)

May to

Habitat of the herb:

Dry sandy places below 1500 metres in California.

Edible parts of Canaigre:

Young leaves - cooked as a pot-herb. They are usually cooked in several changes of water to remove the bitter-tasting tannin. Leaf stems - cooked. Crisp and tart, they are excellent when used in pies like rhubarb. They are often cooked with sugar, or can be baked and the central portion eaten. The stems, harvested before the flowers open, have been boiled to make a drink. Seed - raw or cooked. It can be ground into a powder, cooked with water to the consistency of a thick gravy and eaten as a mush. The powder can also be mixed with water, shaped into cakes and baked. Root. Eaten raw by children in early spring.

Other uses of the herb:

The roots are rich in tannin, the dried root containing about 35 - 60%. Wild roots contain more tannin than cultivated roots whilst old roots contain more than young roots. Yellow, dark green to brown and dark grey dyes can be obtained from the roots of this plant. They do not need a mordant.

Propagation of Canaigre:

Seed - sow spring in situ. Division in spring.

Cultivation of the herb:

Dry sandy places below 1500 metres in California.

Known hazards of Rumex hymenosepalus:

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.