Herb: Spinach

Latin name: Spinacia oleracea

Family: Chenopodiaceae (Goosefoot Family)

Medicinal use of Spinach:

The plant is carminative and laxative. In experiments it has been shown to have hypoglycaemic properties. It has been used in the treatment of urinary calculi. The leaves have been used in the treatment of febrile conditions, inflammation of the lungs and the bowels. The seeds are laxative and cooling. They have been used in the treatment of difficult breathing, inflammation of the liver and jaundice.

Description of the plant:


30 cm
(11 3/4 inch)

June to

Habitat of the herb:

Not known in the wild.

Edible parts of Spinach:

Leaves - raw or cooked. Tender young leaves can be added to salads, older leaves are used as greens or added to soups etc. The leaves contain oxalic acid (6 - 8% in young leaves, 23 - 27% in the cotyledons), see the notes above on toxicity. A nutritional analysis of the leaves is available. Seeds - raw or cooked. It can be sprouted and added to salads. Chlorophyll extracted from the leaves is used as an edible green dye.

Other uses of the herb:

A yellow dye is obtained from the leaves.

Propagation of Spinach:

Seed - sow in situ from March to June for a summer crop. Make successional sowings, perhaps once a month, to ensure a continuity of supply. The seed germinates within about 2 weeks and the first leaves can be harvested about 6 weeks later. Seed is sown in situ during August and September for a winter crop.

Cultivation of the herb:

Not known in the wild.

Known hazards of Spinacia oleracea:

The leaves of most varieties of spinach are high in oxalic acid. Although not toxic, this substance does lock up certain minerals in a meal, especially calcium, making them unavailable to the body. Therefore mineral deficiencies can result from eating too much of any leaf that contains oxalic acid. However, the mineral content of spinach leaves is quite high so the disbenifits are to a large extent outweighed by the benefits. There are also special low-oxalic varieties of spinach that have been developed. Cooking the leaves will also reduce the content of oxalic acid. 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.