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  • Polygonum bistortia L.
  • Polygonaceae
  • Buckwheat family

Common Names

herbsEaster giant
herbsEnglish serpentary
herbsPatience dock
herbsRed legs
herbsSweet dock

Parts Usually Used


Description of Plant(s) and Culture

Bistort is a mountain perennial; The rootstock is thick, knobby, twisted into an S or double-S shape, up to 3 feet long, black on the outside and red on the inside, and ringed with old leaf scars. The basal leaves are bluish-green, long-petioled, and oblong-lanceolate. The few leaves on the simple, glabrous stem are lanceolate to linear, short-petioled to sessile, and have a dry leaf sheath at the base. The red to rose-colored flowers are borne in a dense, spike-like raceme, appearing from May to August.

Where Found

Found at higher elevations west of the Rocky Mountains and in Europe, in damp soil such as wet meadows and streambanks.

Medicinal Properties

Alterative, astringent, diuretic, styptic

Biochemical Information

Up to 20% tannins


Bistort is an excellent remedy for diarrhea, even for bloody diarrhea, cholera, and dysentery. The decoction can also be used as a mouthwash for gum problems, canker sores, and for inflammations of the mouth (stomatitis), and as a wash for external sores, wounds, ulcers, and hemorrhage (or use the rootstock to make a poultice). When directly applied to a wound, the powder will stop the bleeding. Once used to resist all poison, the plague, jaundice, pimples, insect bites, snakebites, gonorrhea, smallpox, measles and expels worms. Externally, helps relieve bruises.

Second to none to soothe sore throats. While most antibiotics kill germs good and bad, this herb removes all local discomfort and lets the body fight its own battle.

It is often claimed that bistort will heal internal ulcers. Since new research has discovered internal ulcers are caused by an organism, perhaps there is something to the claim.

Formulas or Dosages

Decoction: use about 2 tsp. rootstock with 1 cup of water. Boil for 5-10 minutes. Take 1 cup a day.

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