Herb: Cow Cockle

Latin name: Vaccaria hispanica

Synonyms: Vaccaria pyramidata, Vaccaria segetalis, Vaccaria vulgaris

Family: Caryophyllaceae (Pink Family, Starwort Family)

Medicinal use of Cow Cockle:

The seed is anodyne, discutient, diuretic, emmenagogue, galactogogue, styptic and vulnerary. A decoction is used to treat skin problems, breast tumours, menstrual problems, deficiency of lactation and sluggish labour. The seeds are also taken internally as a galactogogue. The flowers, leaves, roots and shoots also have the same properties. The sap of the plant is said to be febrifuge and tonic. It is used in the treatment of long-continued fevers of a low type. The plant is used externally to cure itch.

Description of the plant:


60 cm
(2 feet)

July to

Habitat of the herb:

A weed of cultivated fields.

Edible parts of Cow Cockle:

Leaves - used as a condiment. Seed - ground into a meal. Rich in starch. The seed contains 13.8 - 16.1% protein and 1.6 - 3.2% fat. The seed also contains saponins, see notes above on toxicity.

Propagation of the herb:

Seed - sow April in situ.

Cultivation of Cow Cockle:

A weed of cultivated fields.

Known hazards of Vaccaria hispanica:

The seeds and other parts of the plant contain saponins. Although toxic, these substances are very poorly absorbed by the body and so tend to pass through without causing harm, they are also broken down if thoroughly heated. Saponins are found in many plants, including several that are often used for food, such as certain beans. It is not advisable to eat large quantities of food that contain saponins. Saponins are much more toxic to some creatures, such as fish, and hunting tribes have traditionally put large quantities of them in streams, lakes etc in order to stupefy or kill the fish.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.