Herb: Great Burnet

Latin name: Sanguisorba officinalis

Synonyms: Poterium officinale

Family: Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Medicinal use of Great Burnet:

Great burnet is employed mainly for its astringent action, being used to slow or arrest blood flow. It is taken both internally and externally internally and is a safe and effective treatment. Modern research in China has shown that the whole herb heals burns more effectively than the extracted tannins (the astringent component of the plant). Patients suffering from eczema showed marked improvement when treated with an ointment made from the root and petroleum jelly. The leaves are astringent, refrigerant, styptic and tonic. They are used in the treatment of fevers and bleeding. The plant is prevented from flowering and then the leaves are harvested in July and dried for later use. The root is anodyne, astringent, diuretic, febrifuge, haemostatic, tonic and vulnerary. It is used in the treatment of peptic ulcers, haematuria, menorrhagia, bloody stool, dysentery, diarrhoea, haemorrhoids and burns. The root is harvested in the autumn as the leaves die down and dried for later use. All parts of the plant are astringent, but the root is most active. Great burnet is an excellent internal treatment for all sorts of abnormal discharges including diarrhoea, dysentery and leucorrhoea. It is used externally in the treatment of burns, scalds, sores and skin diseases. This species was ranked 19th in a Chinese survey of 250 potential anti-fertility plants.

Description of the plant:


100 cm
(3 1/4 foot)

June to

Habitat of the herb:

Meadows and wet grassy places by streams. Moist shady sites in grassland, on siliceous soils.

Edible parts of Great Burnet:

Young leaves and flower buds - raw or cooked. They should be harvested in the spring before the plant comes into flower. A cucumber flavour, they can be added to salads or used as a potherb. The fresh or dried leaves are used as a tea substitute.

Other uses of the herb:

The roots contain tannin.

Propagation of Great Burnet:

Seed - sow spring or autumn in a cold frame. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out as soon as they have reached a reasonable size. The seed can also be sown in situ in early spring. Division in the spring or in autumn.

Cultivation of the herb:

Meadows and wet grassy places by streams. Moist shady sites in grassland, on siliceous soils.

Known hazards of Sanguisorba officinalis:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.