Traditional uses of Scurvy Grass – Cochlearia officinalis

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Scurvy Grass Quick Facts
Name: Scurvy Grass
Scientific Name: Cochlearia officinalis
Origin Europe and temperate regions of Asia and North America
Shapes Small almost globose pod containing small reddish brown seeds
Taste Warm acrid bitter taste
Health benefits Beneficial for scurvy, ulcers, nosebleed, bleeding wounds, dropsy, kidney stones, pimples, spots, spongy gums and canker sores
Scurvygrass scientifically known as Cochlearia officinalis is a flowering plant of the genus Cochlearia in the family Brassicaceae. It is a member of the large brassicaceae family, which includes sea kale, bitter cress, common and greater cuckoo flower, sea radish, mustard and of course all the very familiar cultivated vegetables that go towards “meat and two veg”. The plant is native to Europe and temperate regions of Asia and North America. Common scurvy-grass, Scurvy-grass, Spoonwort, Common scurvy grass, Scurvey grass, scorbute grass and scurvy weed are few of the popular common names of the plant.  The plant acquired its common name from the observation that it cured scurvy, and it was taken on board ships in dried bundles or distilled extracts.

Though the herb is known as scurvy grass, in reality it is not a grass, but belongs to the cabbage family. Interestingly, this plant is also found growing in the wild in alpine environments. The plant derives its common name from the reality that its leaves have rich content of vitamin C and sailors suffering from dearth of vitamin C when they spend prolonged periods at sea would sail ashore and consume the leaves of scurvy grass to get relief from their condition – scurvy. Cochlearia, the generic name, comes from the Greek noun kochlarion, meaning a spoon; it is a reference to the spoon-shaped lower leaves of plants in this genus. The specific epithet officinalis is Latin and translates to ‘official’ – a description that was applied to many plants that were thought to be of high pharmaceutical value. The common name is occasionally written as Scurvygrass or occasionally as Scurvy Grass.

Scurvy Grass Facts

Name Scurvy Grass
Scientific Name Cochlearia officinalis
Native Europe and temperate regions of Asia and North America
Common Names Common scurvy-grass, Scurvy-grass, Spoonwort, Common scurvy grass, Scurvey grass, scorbute grass, scurvy weed
Name in Other Languages Arabic: تودري
Bulgarian: Kohlearia
Catalan: Cocleària, Cocleària menor, Culleretes d’aigua, Herba de l’escorbut, Herba de les culleres, cocleària alpina
Czech: Lži, lžičník lékařský
Danish: Foder-spergel, Konellike, Vellugtende gåsefod, Læge-Kokleare,  Lægekokleare
Dutch: Engels lepelblad en echt lepelblad, Echt lepelblad, Echt en Engels lepelblad, gewoon lepelblad, gewoon lepelkruid
English: Common scurvy-grass, Scurvy-grass, Spoonwort, Common scurvygrass, Scurvey grass, scorbute grass, scurvy weed
Esperanto: Skorbutherbo
Finnish: Rohtokuirimo, ruijankuirimo
French: Cranson, Herbe aux cuillère, Cochléaire Officinale, Cranson Officinal, Herbe aux Cuillères, Cranson, Cochléaria, cochléaria officinal, cranson officinal,
German: Echtes Löffelkraut, Löffelkraut, Löffelblättchen, Löffelkresse, Skorbutkraut
Hungarian: Orvosi kanáltorma  
Icelandic: Skarfakál
Irish: Biolar tra, biorphiobar        
Italian: Coclearia medicinale, Rafano, cren, barbaforte, erba cocchiara,
North Frisian: Greens saloot, skorbükskrüüs
Norwegian: Finmarke-kaal, Cochleare, Skiørbugs-græs, Stort-ericsgræs, Skjørbuksurt
Polish: Warzucha Lekarska, Warzucha
Portuguese: Cocleária, Cocleária-maior, Erva-das-colheres, armorácia
Russian: krupka lozhechnytsevydnaya (крупка ложечницевидная), lozhechnitsa al’piyskaya (ложечница альпийская), lozhechnitsa aptechnaya (ложечница аптечная), lozhechnitsa atlanticheskaya (ложечница атлантическая), lozhechnitsa dushistaya  (ложечница душистая), lozhechnitsa kamchatskaya (ложечница камчатская), lozhechnitsa kruglolistnaya (ложечница круглолистная), lozhechnitsa lekarstvennaya (ложечница лекарственная), lozhechnitsa Linneya (ложечница Линнея), lozhechnitsa obyknovennaya (ложечница обыкновенная), tsingotnaya trava (цинготная трава), evtrema Rossi (эвтрема Росси)
Scottish Gaelic: Biolar trá
Serbian: Kašikara (Кашикара)
Shambala: Kašikara
Slovak: lžičník lékařský
Spanish: Cucharita, Coclearia, Hierba de Cucharas, hierba de las cucharas
Swedish: Citronmålla, Foderspärgel, Silvermålla, Vårtsärv, Rohtokuirimo, Skörbjuggsört, Åkernejlika, Vanlig Skörbjuggsört, skörbjuggsört 
Turkish: Kaşık out
Ukrainian: Lozhechnytsya likarsʹka (Ложечниця лікарська)
Upper Sorbian: Lěkarski chrěn
Welsh: Llwylys cyffredin
Sr Ec: Kašikara (Кашикара)
Sr EI: Kašikara
Plant Growth Habit Small, low-growing, very variable annual or perennial plant
Growing Climates Sea cliffs, coastal marshes, salt mines, saline springs, saltmarshes, coastal cliffs, walls, rocky, muddy seashores, gravel beaches, crevices in beach cliffs, grassy cliffs, coastal roadside lanes, mountain rock ledges and gullies
Soil Preference for sandy or light, loamy or medium and clay (heavy) soils that have an adequate drainage. In addition, this plant has a preference for basic (alkaline), acidic and neutral soils. It also has the aptitude to grow in saline soils.
Plant Size 10–50 cm (3.9–19.7 in) tall
Stem Stems are hairless and long stalked with fleshy leaves
Leaf Radical leaves are heart or kidney-shaped, fleshy, succulent, and stand upon long footstalks; the stem-leaves alternate, rhomboidal, blunt, and dentated on each side
Flowering season May to August
Flower Flowers are cruciform, and stand upon short peduncles, terminating the branches in thick clusters. The calyx consists of four leafits, which are oval, blunt, concave, gaping, deciduous, and whitish at the margin
Fruit Shape & Size Small almost globose pod containing small round seeds are reddish brown
Propagation By Seed
Flavor/Smell Unpleasant smell
Taste Warm acrid bitter taste
Plant Parts Used Leaves, aerial parts
Seed Small, round seeds are reddish brown
Season July to September

Plant Description

Scurvy Grass is a small, low-growing, very variable annual or perennial plant that normally grows about 10–50 cm (3.9–19.7 in) tall. The plant is found growing in sea cliffs, coastal marshes, salt mines, saline springs, salt marshes, coastal cliffs, walls, rocky, muddy seashores, and gravel beaches, crevices in beach cliffs, grassy cliffs, coastal roadside lanes, mountain rock ledges and gullies. The plant has a preference for sandy or light, loamy or medium and clay (heavy) soils that have an adequate drainage. Additionally, this plant has a preference for basic (alkaline), acidic and neutral soils. It also has the ability to grow in saline soils. Stems are hairless and long stalked with fleshy leaves.

Leaves

Radical leaves are heart or kidney-shaped, fleshy, succulent, and stand upon long footstalks. The stem-leaves are alternate, rhomboidal, blunt, and dentated on each side. Top the leaves are sessile, or embracing the stem, but towards the bottom they are frequently upon short broad footstalks.

Flowers

Flowers are cruciform, and stand upon short peduncles, terminating the branches in thick clusters. The calyx consists of four leafits, which are oval, blunt, concave, gaping, deciduous, and whitish at the margin. Petals are four, white, oval, spreading, and twice the length of the calyx. Filaments are six, four long and two short, greenish, tapering, and crowned with yellow anthers; it has no style. Flowering normally takes place from May to August. The flowers are hermaphrodite and are pollinated by bees, flies, and beetles. It is also noted for attracting wildlife and not being frost tender.

Fruits

Fertile flowers are followed by small almost globose pod containing small round seeds are reddish brown. The seeds ripen from July to September. It has an unpleasant smell and a bitter, warm, acrid taste, very pungent when fresh.

History & Folklore

As the common name suggests, this plant has long been used for its high vitamin C content. It was used by sailors and others to prevent the onset of scurvy, a potentially fatal vitamin C deficiency marked by bleeding of the gums. The 17th century English physician Robert Turner recommended scurvy grass taken in ale as a remedy for a range of conditions, including “ague.” Prior to the discovery of vitamins, the effectiveness of the plant in preventing scurvy was credited to its volatile oil.

Traditional uses and benefits of Scurvy Grass

  • The herb is antiscorbutic, aperient, disinfectant, diuretic and stimulant.
  • This plant was highly valued by sailors of the past and was taken in the diet daily as a preventative for scurvy on long sea trips.
  • It is best used when fresh though it can also be harvested in late spring or early summer and dried for later use.
  • It was once used as herbalists as a cure for scurvy, as the plant consists of Vitamin C.
  • Essential oil is beneficial in paralytic and rheumatic cases; scurvy-grass ale was a popular tonic drink.
  • Scurvy grass is astringent and may be applied to lessen or stop a nosebleed or other types of bleeding wounds.
  • It is also known to be an effective diuretic and is recommended by herbalists for treating health conditions like dropsy and kidney stones.
  • Use of the juice extracted from the leaves of scurvy grass helps in cleaning up blotches on the skin.
  • Common scurvy grass possesses diuretic attributes and is helpful in treating any type of health condition wherein malnutrition is an issue.
  • Juice extracted from the leaves of the common scurvy grass may be used as an antiseptic mouthwash to treat canker sores.
  • Juice can also be applied topically on the skin to treat pimples as well as spots.
  • Applied externally, the crushed leaves of the plant are applied topically to cure ulcers.
  • In the present times, herbalists recommend the topical application of the common scurvy grass leaves to treat ulcers and wounds that heal very sluggishly.
  • The juice, when diluted with water, makes a good mouth-wash for spongy gums.
  • It can be used in the form of a juice as an antiseptic mouthwash for canker sores, and can also be applied externally to spots and pimples.

Culinary Uses

  • Leaves can be consumed raw.
  • An acrid tarry flavor, it can be added in small quantities to salads for its high content of vitamin C.

Precautions

  • The plant also has the potential to cause skin irritation when it is applied straight away on the skin.
  • When this herb is taken orally in large amounts it may result in stomach and intestinal pain.
  • They should not use this herb during pregnancy or while breast feeding.

References:

https://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=22816#null

https://pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Cochlearia+officinalis

https://www.cabi.org/isc/datasheet/113397

http://www.floracatalana.net/cochlearia-officinalis-l-subsp-pyrenaica-dc-rouy-et-fouc

https://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=COOF4

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cochlearia_officinalis

https://npgsweb.ars-grin.gov/gringlobal/taxonomydetail.aspx?id=11010

http://www.theplantlist.org/tpl/record/kew-2729901

https://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/s/scurvy35.html

https://gd.eppo.int/taxon/CCLOF

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The content and the information in this website are for informational and educational purposes only, not as a medical manual. All readers are urged to consult with a physician before beginning or discontinuing use of any prescription drug or under taking any form of self-treatment. The information given here is designed to help you make informed decisions about your health. It is not intended as a substitute for any treatment that may have been prescribed by your doctor. If you are under treatment for any health problem, you should check with your doctor before trying any home remedies. If you are taking any medication, do not take any vitamin, mineral, herb, or other supplement without consulting with your doctor. If you suspect that you have a medical problem, we urge you to seek competent medical help. The Health Benefits Times, authors, publisher and its representatives disclaim responsibility for any adverse effects resulting directly or indirectly from information contained in this website www.healthbenefitstimes.com