Sheep Sorrel (Rumex acetosalla)
Identification: A slender, smooth, sout-tasting perennial; grows 4 to 12 inches. Leaves arrow-shaped. Tiny flowers in green heads, interrupted on stalk, turning reddish or yellowish.
Family: Polygonaceae (Buckwheat family)
Flowers: June – October..
Other Names: Common Sorrel, Field Sorrel, Red
Sorrel, Sheep Sorrel, Sour Dock, Sour Weed.
Habitat: Spreads rapidly through fields, roadsides, acid soils throughout North America. Alien. Native to Europe.
Parts Used: Leaves and roots.
Constiuents: Anthraquinones (chrysophanol, emodin), oxalic acid, tartaric acid, beta carotene, Vitamin C, and tannins.
Historical Uses: Throughout the centuries, the Sorrels have appeared in historical archives as an unproven folk remedy for cancer in both Europe and America. In the late 1740’s, legislation was introduced in Williamsburg, Virginia, that permitted Mrs. Mary Johnson to use this plant as a treatment for cancer. In the 1868 Canadian Pharmacy Journal, the leaves of both the Sheep Sorrel and the taller Common Sorrel (Rumex acetosa) were included in the list of Canadian medicinal plants. In 1926, the National Cancer Institute received a recipe from Canada citing an old Indian cure for cancer using a paste of this plant made with bread. Historically, Sheep Sorrel has been known to prevent the spread of contagious diseases such as the plague, and has overcome fevers caused by cholera and malaria.
Medicinal Properties: Astringent, antiseptic, diuretic, hepatic, laxative, and vermifuge (dewormer).
Uses: A tea made from the leaves & stems will act as a diuretic, and may be helpful to support problems with gravel and stones. For mouth and throat ulcers, a tea made from the leaves & flowers of this plant may provide some relief. In China, raw Sheep Sorrel is given after birthing to “cool” the reproductive area and prevent infection. This herb is highly praised as a vermifuge – intestinal worms have no resistance to the properties of this herb. Sorrel is also considered a good remedy for stomach hemorrhage and profuse menstruation. One of Sheep Sorrel’s main claims to fame is its inclusion in the herbal tea, Essiac, which is purported to be effective in the fight against cancer, though this has never been clinically proven. Additionally, a tincture of Sheep Sorrel has a very decided action in those cases where there is a tendency for tissue degeneration. Past topical applications of Sheep Sorrel are documented to be as a juice or poultice applied to acne, ringworm, boils, sores and wounds.
This herb is generally available as a tea, a tincture, or in capsule form.
Caution! The pollen of the plant is a cause of hay fever.
Caution should be used to limit the intake of this plant as the sourness comes from the oxalic acid which can cause discomfort in high doses.
This herb is also a wild food.