Sheep Sorrel

Sheep Sorrel

Botanical Name:

Rumex Acetosella

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 the 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 the base. Lower leaves are spade-shaped and without lobes. Flowers are green to red to rust-brown and clustered near the top of the plant. Male and female flowers are usually on separate plants with the 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 the 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.

Active Ingredients:
Sheep sorrel contains 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). The total vitamin C of the leaves varies from 750-1200mg/100g based on the 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, sulfur, 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.

Beneficial Qualities:

  • 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 the growth of new tissue
  • Increases cell oxygen content

Historically or traditionally known to support the body's function and physiology as or in:

  • Astringent
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antioxidant
  • Cellular regeneration
  • Cleansing
  • Detoxifying
  • Gum disorders (anti-scorbutic)
  • Diuretic Laxative
  • Swollen glands
  • Vascular disorders
  • Fever (anti-pyretic)
  • Scrofula
  • Cardiovascular Activity
  • Mild antiseptic
  • Diuretic
  • Nutritive

Side Effects:
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, a 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 North 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 rumicin.

The high tannin content of the tea can also provide astringent action, which is useful for issues like diarrhea and excessive menstrual bleeding.

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 inhabiting 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.