Herb: Gorse

Latin name: Ulex europaeus

Family: Leguminosae

Medicinal use of Gorse:

Gorse has never played much of a role in herbal medicine, though its flowers have been used in the treatment of jaundice and as a treatment for scarlet fever in children. The seed is said to be astringent and has been used in the treatment of diarrhoea and stones. The plant is used in Bach flower remedies - the keywords for prescribing it are "Hopelessness" and "Despair".

Description of the plant:


150 cm
(5 feet)

January to


Habitat of the herb:

Moors, commons and heaths, preferring dry soils.

Edible parts of Gorse:

The flower buds are pickled in vinegar and then used like capers in salads. A tea is made from the shoot tips.

Other uses of the herb:

A beautiful yellow dye is obtained from the flowers. It is orange according to another report. Gorse is very tolerant of maritime exposure, it can be used as a windbreak hedge in the most exposed positions, making an impenetrable barrier with its vicious thorns. Planted for soil stabilization on sandy substrates, it is very good for stabilizing roadside banks on poor soils. Gorse is an excellent pioneer species for poor soils and areas with maritime exposure. It is fast-growing, feeds the soil with nitrogen and provides good conditions for woodland trees to become established. These trees will eventually out-compete the gorse, which is unable to reproduce well in the shady conditions and will thus gradually die out. The plant has an old reputation as a pesticide, the soaked seed being used against fleas. The wood burns very well, it was much used in the past for kindling, heating bakers ovens etc. The ashes from the burnt wood are rich in potassium and can be used in making soap. This soap can be made by mixing the ashes with a vegetable oil, or mixing them with clay and forming them into balls. The ashes are also an excellent fertilizer.

Propagation of Gorse:

Seed - pre-soak 24 hours in hot water and sow in individual pots in a greenhouse in late winter to early spring. Germination should take place within 2 weeks. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Plants are very intolerant of root disturbance and so should be planted into their permanent positions as soon as possible, though not until after the last expected frosts. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 7cm with a heel, July/August in a frame. Pot up in spring as soon as rooting commences and plant out into their permanent positions as soon as possible.

Cultivation of the herb:

Moors, commons and heaths, preferring dry soils.

Known hazards of Ulex europaeus:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.