Herb: Sour Greens

Latin name: Rumex venosus

Family: Polygonaceae (Buckwheat Family)

Medicinal use of Sour Greens:

The root is astringent, blood purifier and tonic. A decoction has been used in the treatment of diarrhoea, coughs and colds, influenza, pneumonia, stomach aches, kidney disorders, gall bladder problems, venereal disease and rheumatism. An infusion has been given to women to help them expel the afterbirth. The root can be dried, ground into a powder and used as a dressing on burns, wounds, sores etc. A poultice can also be made from the fresh root for use on burns, wounds, sores, swellings etc. An infusion of the stems and leaves has been used as a wash on sores.

Description of the plant:


50 cm
(1 foot)

July to

Habitat of the herb:

Sandy soils.

Edible parts of Sour Greens:

Young leaves - cooked. Used as greens. Young stems - cooked. Used like rhubarb.

Other uses of the herb:

A yellow dye is obtained from the root. The roots are peeled, broken into sections about 25mm long, then spread out thinly in a sunny position until very dry. They are then soaked in water for a few days before being boiled in the same water for a long time. Alum is then added to fix the colour. A red dye is obtained if ashes are added and it turns black if the bark of Cornus stolonifera is also added.

Propagation of Sour Greens:

Seed - sow spring in a cold frame. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out in the summer. Division in spring.

Cultivation of the herb:

Sandy soils.

Known hazards of Rumex venosus:

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.