Herb: Greenbriar

Latin name: Smilax bona-nox

Family: Smilacaceae (Greenbrier Family)

Medicinal use of Greenbriar:

The root is diuretic. It is used in the treatment of dropsy and urinary complaints. A tea made from the roots is used to help the expelling of afterbirth. Reports that the roots contain the hormone testosterone have not been confirmed, they might contain steroid precursors, however. The stem prickles have been rubbed on the skin as a counter-irritant to relieve localised pains, muscle cramps and twitching. A tea made from the leaves and stems has been used as a general tonic and also in the treatment of rheumatism and stomach problems. The wilted leaves are applied as a poultice to boils.

Description of the plant:


6 m
(20 feet)


Habitat of the herb:

Dry to moist soils, sand dunes, fields, clearings and thickets.

Edible parts of Greenbriar:

Root - cooked. It can be dried and ground into a powder. The root can be made into a gelatine. The root contains a pectin-like substance. Young shoots - raw or cooked. Fruit - raw. A rubbery texture, it is chewed (and chewed and chewed presumably!) Produced in umbels of up to 20 fruits, each fruit is about 5mm in diameter.

Propagation of the herb:

Seed - sow March in a warm greenhouse. This note probably refers to the tropical members of the genus, seeds of plants from cooler areas seem to require a period of cold stratification, some species taking 2 or more years to germinate. We sow the seed of temperate species in a cold frame as soon as we receive it, and would sow the seed as soon as it is ripe if we could obtain it then. When the seedlings eventually germinate, prick them out into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first year, though we normally grow them on in pots for 2 years. Plant them out into their permanent positions in early summer. Division in early spring as new growth begins. 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. Cuttings of half-ripe shoots, July in a frame.

Cultivation of Greenbriar:

Dry to moist soils, sand dunes, fields, clearings and thickets.

Known hazards of Smilax bona-nox:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.