Herb Library

Back to Herb Menu     Back to Index

DISCLAIMER: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.

aka American Water Smartweed, Dotted Smartweed, Pepperwort, Water pepper
(Polygonum punctatum syn P. acre)

Only professionally made preparations should be used AND THEN only under the administration of a medical professional.

An annual member of the Buckwheat family which is native to North America and found in wet places and swampy ground, ditches and around rubbish piles. The leaves and outer petals (sepals) of the flowers are covered with tiny bumps filled with oil which burns the mouth. It has a smooth stem 1-2 feet. Leaves are alternate, lance-shaped and with dots of thin skin throughout. Flowers August to September.

PROPAGATION: Not recommended for the home garden.
PART USED: Whole above ground portion which is used fresh.
SOLVENT: Alcohol and water.


Bitter, pungent, acrid, antiseptic, diuretic, diaphoretic, emmanagogue, stimulant, astringent, rubefacient,and a rich source of vitamins K, P, C and rutin.
A cold infustion has been used for gravel, colds, coughs, and milk sickness. Also used for local application to the sore mouth of nursing mothers.
For suppressed menstruation it was taken internally and was used externally in the form of a fomentation wrung from hot tea and applied to the lower back.
Was used as a douche for female obstructions when there was pain, itching or leucorrhea.
For cholera the patient was wrapped in a sheet moistened with a hot decoction. It was also taken internally as long as the bowels were active.
Was combined with the fresh leaves of plantain (Plantago spp) and both bruised together and then moistened with oil of turpentine and applied to skin to relieve chronic erysipelatous inflammation (strep infection of the skin and tissues beneath skin).
Cold infusion was used as a wash for skin irritations.
Externally, the slightly bruised leaves were applied to the back of the neck for headaches.
For bleeding hemorrhoids 1/2 lb. of leaves were simmered, covered, for 1 hour and added to a sitz bath.
The Russian extract (Nastoika) was used alone or with other ingredients for female bleeding, bleeding hemorrhoids, and to stop pain.
Fresh leaves were used as poultice for pain of tumors.
A strong decoction was used forhemorrhoids, scabies, and as a gargle for toothache and problems with the larynx
The fresh juice, pure or thinned with water was used for drawing pus from sores.
In folk medicine a tea was used for bleeding of the stomach, female complaints and hemorrhoids.

All others buy commercial preparations and follow directions carefully.
INFUSION = 1 tsp finely cut herb to 1 C. warm water; taken cold 1 cupful at a time. (NOTE: decoction or infusion in hot water is not as active as the cold or warm water infusion.)
TINCTURE = 30-60 minims

Tincture of whole fresh plant is used for: amenorrhea, antrum (pain in bony cavity forming sinus in cheek), blepharitis, flatulent colic, cough, diarrhea, dysentary, dysuria, eczema, epilepsy, gonorrhea, gravel, hemorrhoids, affections of the heart, hysteria, laryngitis, nephritis, neuralgia, orchitis (inflammation of the testicle with difficult, painful urination with scanty flow), prostatitis, sciatica, pain in spermatic cord, affections of spleen, strangury, ulcers.

Plant is collected from spring to autumn for use as a dye which produces colors ranging from golden-green, gold, steel and camouflage green.

In Russia the fresh leaves have been used as food and are bitter, burning and spicy. The whole plant is harvested in late autumn when in full flower.

©2000 by Ernestina Parziale, CH