Benefits And Nutrition Of Bistort Herb For Health

Benefits Of Bistort Herb For Health

What is Bistort Herb

Botanical Name: Bistorta officinalis, Polygonum bistorta.

Other Common Names: Common bistort, snakeweed, poor man’s cabbage, snakeroot, oderwort, meadow bistort, adderwort, osterick, pink pokers, English serpentary, dragonwort, easter mangiants, easter-ledges, easter giants, easterman giants, pudding grass, passion dock, sweet dock, patience dock.

Benefits And Nutrition Of Bistort Herb For Health
Bistort Herb Picture

Bistort has a circumpolar distribution. It’s found from the Iberian Peninsula and Britain in the west, through the Pyrenees and the Alps, Central Europe, also in the Caucasus, Turkey, Russia and further east in northern China, Japan, Siberia, the U.S. sate of Alaska and the Yukon in Canada.

Bistort is a perennial plant. It has tall, slender stems, topped by a cylindrical cluster of small pink-rose to white colored flowers. Bistort is in bloom from May to August. Leaves are produced near the lower end of the flowering stems. They are lanceolate, oblong-ovate or triangular-ovate in shape. They are bluish green, longer near the base, and becoming smaller higher up the stem. The bistort seeds  are shiny, dark brown and triangular. The leaves taste sour, while the roots or rhizomes have a bitter and very astringent taste. The roots contain a large amount of starch, which has made this plant a useful source of food in times of famine.

Benefits And Nutrition Of Bistort Herb For Health

The main active ingredients in bistort are tannins (oligomeric proanthocyanidins, galloyl and catechol tannins) which are present in very large quantities in the rootstock (15 to 36 percent). In addition, the rootstock contains flavonoids, flobafen (a reddish-brown pigment), starch (ca. 30 percent), calcium (1 percent), sugar and proteins. Laxative anthraquinones, which are often found in many plants of the Polygonaceae family, are present in small quantities in bistort.

The herb has been used internally to treat diarrhea (especially in children), dysentery, cholera, gastritis, cystitis and heavy menstrual bleeding.

All parts of this herb are used for medicinal purposes. Traditionally, boiling the roots made a wine, which was then used for curing dysentery and diarrhoea, impeding vomiting, controlling excessive menstruation, and curing inflammation of the mouth and throat.

Bistort was used to treat infectious diseases, to stop bleeding and to treat snake bites. The herb is still popular as an herbal medicine, especially for diarrhea and inflammation of the mouth and throat.

Benefits And Nutrition Of Bistort Herb For Health
Bistort Herb Flower Picture

External uses include the treatment of inflamed mucous membranes and skin disorders, burns, sore nipples, gingivitis, bleeding gums, inflammation of the pharynx (pharyngitis), vaginal discharge, hemorrhoids and anal fissures.

Bistort is also used to treat urinary tract disorders such as cystitis and incontinence.

To treat diarrhea, bistort may be used with other astringent herbs such as agrimony (Agrimonia eupatoria), spotted geranium (Geranium maculatum) or English oak (Quercus robur).

Because of the high amount of tannin content in the herb it has strong astringent (constricting) and anti-inflammatory properties. Bistort is actually one of the most astringent herbs there is. In addition to having astringent properties, bistort also has an antibacterial effect. Thus, the use of the plant can help in reducing the need for antibiotics.

The dried rootstock, used in the form of extracts, a decoction or a powder, has been used to stop both internal and external bleeding. The herb can be useful as an herbal remedy for ulcers, gastritis and enteritis and irritable bowel syndrome.

Culinary Uses

Bistort does have some tradition as use for food, with Russia, Iceland and Siberia in particular using the plant as a food source during famine. However, it is not one of the main reasons for growing the plant. All parts of the plant are edible and may be used either raw of cooked. The rhizome is known to have high starch content and is said to be very tasty and nutritious. Bistort was used during periods of famine to provide a high calorie meal when other food was scarce.

The reddish coloured roots may be treated like potatoes and used in soups, stews or roasted. Alternatively, they may be dried into a powder and used to make bread flour. Before roasting the roots may be steeped in water to reduce the tannin content. The leaves taste bitter, the young leaves of the herb can be consumed fresh or cooked. They are excellent when added to salads. The leaves of the bistort plant contain an excellent amount of vitamins A and C.

Bistort may also be used to make a tea for use as a general tonic and health benefits.

Benefits And Nutrition Of Bistort Herb For Health
Bistort Herb Flower Picture

Possible Side Effects and Interactions of Bistort

There are no reports of contraindications or side effects when bistort is used properly and in small dosages. Large dosages of the herb may cause irritation of the digestive tract, constipation, nausea and vomiting.

The tannins in bistort may absorb and reduce the effectiveness of some medications by binding them while in the stomach. Take medications at least one hour prior to consuming bistort. Consuming many bistort may aggravate rheumatism, gout, arthritis and kidney stones.

Before collecting any herb from the wild be sure to seek advice from an expert since herbs can be easily confused for poison. When using any herb as a health remedy, then be sure to seek advice from a health care provider since some herbs are known to interfere with certain prescribed medications.