Polygonum bistorta. N.O. Polygonaceae.
Synonym ► Adderwort, Patient Dock, Snakeweed.
Habitat ► Found growing in damp meadows in many parts of Britain, and is also distributed throughout Northern Europe, as well as Northern and Western Asia.
Features ► The oval leaves, similar in appearance to those of the Dock, are blue-green above, grey and purplish underneath, and spring from the roots. The leaf stalks and blades are six to eight inches long, the slender flower stems carrying fewer and smaller leaves, reaching to a height of from one to two feet. A dense, cylindrical spike of pale-hued flowers blossoms from the top of the stem between June and September.
Part used ► The root is the part in most demand, and is reddish-brown in colour.
Action ► There is no odour, and the taste is astringent, which is the chief therapeutic action of the root—indeed it is, perhaps, the most powerful astringent in the botanic practice.
The decoction of 1 ounce of the crushed root to 1 pint (reduced) of water is used chiefly in hemorrhages and as a gargle and mouth-wash in cases of
sore throat or gums. Combined with Flag-root it has been known to give relief from intermittent fever and ague. The old-time herbalists enthused over the virtues of Bistort root in “burstings, bruises, falls, blows and jaundice.”