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What Are the Medical Uses of Rumex Acetosella?

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  • Written By: Lumara Lee
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 15 November 2016
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Rumex acetosella is a perennial herb that has been used as both food and medicine by many different cultures. This healing herb has diuretic, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antimicrobial and antiviral properties. Rumex acetosella has commonly been used to treat skin conditions, urinary tract disorders, diarrhea, fevers, and both viral and bacterial infections. It is also used as a folk medicine to treat cancer and to detoxify the body.

Also known as sheep sorrel, sour dock, field sorrel, red sorrel and sour grass, this herb is native to Europe and Asia, and was brought to North America by European settlers. Every part of the plant can be used, but the leaves and roots are most often employed as healing remedies. Rumex acetosella is an antioxidant powerhouse, containing more antioxidants than most other herbs.

It also is high in nutrients. Rumex acetosella contains a large amount of vitamin C, which makes it an effective treatment for scurvy. It also provides substantial amounts of vitamins A, B complex, D, E, and K in addition to beta carotene and the minerals magnesium, phosphorus and potassium. Sheep sorrell also contains an antibacterial agent called rumicin that has made it a treatment for infections including staphylococcus, E. coli and salmonella.

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Diuretic properties make Rumex acetosella a remedy often used for urinary dysfunction, kidney disorders, and edema. The bruised leaves can be applied directly to the skin to speed the healing of skin ulcers, boils, eczema, itchy rashes, and other skin disorders. Gargling with sheep sorrel can clear up mouth ulcers. Its astringent qualities make it an effective treatment for diarrhea and heavy menstruation.

American and Canadian Indian tribes used rumex acetosella as a treatment for cancer, and its use for that disease spread. Rumex acetosella is the main ingredient in essiac, a popular folk remedy now widely used to treat cancer. Essiac also contains turkey rhubarb, slippery elm and burdock. When combined according to an exact formula, these herbs work together synergistically to detoxify the body and strengthen the immune system. Some believe that essiac also breaks down tumors.

Although rumex acetosella is an edible plant packed with nutrients, it shouldn’t be ingested in large quantities. The side effects of eating too much sheep sorrel include severe headache, nausea, diarrhea, and an itching or tingling sensation on the tongue. People with kidney disorders should avoid the use of sheep sorrel due to its high oxalate content which can cause kidney stones.

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