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Buck Bean

  • Menyanthes trijoliata L.
  • Gentian family

Common Names

herbsBean trefoil
herbsBitter trefoil
herbsBog myrtle (Myrica gale)
herbsBrook bean
herbsMarsh clover
herbsMarsh trefoil
herbsWater shamrock

Parts Usually Used


Description of Plant(s) and Culture

Buck bean is a perennial water plant; the black, branching, jointed rootstock sends up a flower stem dilated at the base, as well as the dark green ternate leaves with obovate, sessile leaflets. The racemed flowers are white inside, rose-colored outside. (Note the clover-like leaves arising from the root). Flowers are 5-parted, petals have fuzzy beards; bloom April to July.

Where Found

Found on the shorelines, bogs, shallow water, in the ditches and marshy meadows of Pacific North America, Canada, Alaska, and Eurasia. Eastern and north central states of the United States have a smaller variety.

Medicinal Properties

Bitter tonic, cathartic, febrifuge, diuretic, anthelmintic, emetic

Legends, Myths and Stories

Used as flavoring and for beer making.

Native Americans cut the nicotine in tobacco by using buck bean leaves. Smoked alone or mixed with tobacco. Science confirms phenolic acids may be responsible for bile-secreting, digestive tonic, and bitter qualities.


Buck bean tea is used to relieve fever, migraine headaches, indigestion, or to promote appetite, rheumatism, scrofula, scurvy, jaundice, skin diseases, dropsy, stops bleeding, liver and kidney troubles, in large doses it is a purgative. Externally, buck bean can be used for ulcerous sores, and for herpes. Expels worms.

Formulas or Dosages

Infusion: use 1 tbsp. dried leaves with 1 cup water. Steep for 15 minutes, and take 1 cup a day, unsweetened, a mouthful at a time. To stimulate appetite, take 1/2 cup about 30 minutes before eating. Infusion may be flavored with licorice, or sweetened with honey if unable to tolerate.

Cold extract: use 2 tsp. leaves to 1 cup cold water. Let stand for 8 hours.

Powder: take 1/2 to 1 tsp., 3 times a day.

Capsules: 1 capsule 3 times a day.

How Sold

Capsules, powder


Fresh plant causes vomiting.

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