Sour grass, field sorrel, red top sorrel, garden sorrel, greensauce, kliener ampfer, oseille
An herbaceous perennial in the buckwheat family (Polygonaceae)
growing to a height of 4 to 12 inches. The stems are upright, branched
at top, slender and reddish in color. The green arrow-shaped leaves are
simple, 1-3 Inches long, and smooth with a pair of horizontal lobes at
base. Lower leaves are spade-shaped and without lobes. Flowers are green
to red to rust brown and clustered near the top of plant. Male and
female flowers are usually on separate plants with male being yellow to
red and female flowers greenish. Flowers bloom May to October. Seeds are
reddish or golden brown with rust brown hulls that adhere to seeds.
Seeds can remain viable in soil for 10 to 20 years. The root system is
made up of shallow fibrous roots and extensive horizontal roots that can
reach depths of 5 feet. Sheep sorrel reproduces by seeds and creeping
roots that produce new shoots.
Sheep sorrel contains the vitamins A, B complex, C, D, E, K, minerals
calcium, chlorine, iron, and magnesium. In addition, sheep sorrel
contains small amounts of sodium, sulfur, silicon, and traces of copper,
iodine, manganese, and zinc. Sheep sorrel dried aerial parts contain:
rutin (0.53%), flavone glycosides (i.e. hyperoside or
quercitin-3d-galactoside) 0.05%, and hyperin (12mg/100g). Total vitamin C
of the leaves varies from 750-1200mg/100g based on dry weight. The ash
(8.1%) contains, in the oxide form, 20.0% calcium; 13.9% phosphorus;
13.4% magnesium; 28.3% potassium, and 11.5% silicon, along with iron,
sulphur, copper, iodine, manganese, and zinc. The leaves and stems
contain beneficial carotenoids, chlorophyll, organic acids (i.e., malic,
oxalic, tannic, tartaric, and citric) and phytoestrogens. The plant
also contains health supporting anthraquinones including emodin, aloe
emodin, chrysophanol, rhein, and physcion.
- Stimulates the excretion of urine (diuretic)
- Stimulates transpiration (sudorific)
- Tonic for kidneys and urinary passages
- Refreshing, lessens thirst
- Lessens gall production
- Invigorates the heart during fever
- Counteracts decay
- Strengthens the immune system
- Strengthens cell walls
- Helps cleans the blood vessels
- Stimulates growth of new tissue
- Increases cell oxygen content
Historically or traditionally known to support the body's function and physiology as or in:
- Cellular regeneration
- Gum disorders (anti-scorbutic)
- Diuretic Laxative
- Swollen glands
- Vascular disorders
- Fever (anti-pyretic)
- Cardiovascular Activity
- Mild antiseptic
Large doses of sheep sorrel taken by itself may cause gastric
disturbance, nausea, and diarrhea due to anthraquinones-type laxative
compounds. Large doses of the raw herb may even cause poisoning due to
high oxalic acid and tannin content.
Sheep sorrel and other plants of the polygonaceae family contain
oxalates in their fresh form and oxalates in the cooked leaves (similar
to spinach or rhubarb) and may be contraindicated in cases of kidney
stones or weak kidney function.
Sheep Sorrel is mainly applied as a decoction (the extraction of an
essence or active ingredient from a substance by boiling). But it can
also be consumed raw, for instance in a salad. The seeds have a
detoxifying effect. Because of the presence of oxalic acid one should
not exceed the recommended amount.
Historical archives of folk medicine in both Europe and the US
repeatedly mention sheep sorrel. As early as 1740, medicinal use of the
herb for patients was legally sanctioned.
Nurse Rene Caisse, prominent user of a group of herbal formulas she
called Essiac, considered sheep sorrel to be a key herb in the protocol
for breaking down unwanted tissue and excess substances in the body.
Sheep sorrel also activated cellular detoxification and cleaning, but
worked better in synergy with other herbs in the blend.
Sheep Sorrel contains abundant chlorophyll, the green pigment of plant
blood, and contributes to the transport of ample oxygen to the cells.
This can be wonderful in helping to maintain cell integrity in
situational exposed cell damage (incurred for example from radiation
from use of x-rays). Powerful anti-oxidative effects of carotenoids in
sheep sorrel have also been demonstrated.
Sheep Sorrel provides oxygen to tissue at the deep cellular level. It
also provides strong structural immune support. Sheep sorrel has a long
history of traditional use as an astringent, diuretic and mild laxative.
Sheep Sorrel contains constituents including beta carotene, tartaric
acid, oxalates (oxalic acid), anthraquinones (chrysophanol, emodin, and
rhein), glycosides like hyperoside, the quercitin-3d-galactoside. The
plant is native to Eurasia but has been introduced to most of the rest
of the northern America it is considered a common weed in fields,
grasslands, and woodlands.
At least ten Native tribes of Canada and the United States have used
this plant, also known as sour grass or sour weed, as a food and
medicine. Sheep sorrel is a popular ingredient of many folk remedies and
the tea was used traditionally as a diuretic and to helping fevers,
inflammation and gum disorders. Interestingly, even though it is not a
legume, sheep sorrel contains significant levels of phytoestrogens with
notable estrogen receptor binding activity, similar to the isoflavone
phytoestrogens common to red clover, licorice, and soy, all legumes
known for their strong health restorative properties. The herb also
contains several anthraquinones that are effective antioxidants and free
radical scavengers. Although research is limited on sheep sorrel,
closely related species contain a powerful antibacterial compound called
The high tannin content of the tea can also provide astringent action,
which is useful for issues like diarrhea and excessive menstrual
The high tannin content of the tea can also
provide astringent action, which is useful for issues like diarrhea and
excessive menstrual bleeding. At low doses, most Rumex species are
useful in habiting diarrhea; however at higher doses they stimulate
peristalsis due to the presence of anthraquinones that directly affect
the neuromuscular tissue, increasing the mucous production of colonic
mucosa cells and promoting the secretion of water into the intestinal
lumen, thereby exerting a cleansing effect.