What is Ononis Spinosa?

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  • Written By: Sara Schmidt
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 23 January 2020
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The spiny European shrub ononis spinosa, also known as spiny rest harrow, is a home herbal remedy. It can be used for treating a multitude of health ailments, including those of the skin and kidneys. The plant also has many culinary uses. When crushed or bruised, it produces a pleasing aroma.

All parts of the ononis spinosa are edible, including the roots, flowers, and leaves. Young plants are often cooked or used as a potherb. Roots serve as a licorice-like treat, while the flowers, which can be eaten raw, are presented with salad as a garnishment.

In homeopathic medicine, ononis spinosa root, also known as ononis radix, can be used to prevent skin from aging prematurely. The plant is useful in treating inflammation, a main cause of aging skin. A diuretic, ononis spinosa can also help the skin release fluid, clear congestion, and reduce puffiness. For this reason, the remedy can be found in various toners and other skin products.

Young shoots from the plant are most commonly used in herbal remedies. Kidney gravel can be treated with spiny rest harrow. The plant may also be used in ridding the body of infection, such as urinary tract infection. Traditionally, ononis radix has been used to treat ulcers of the skin when used in a wash solution. The stem and leaves can also be useful in treating skin disease.


Ononis spinosa contains cough suppressant qualities. The bark of the plant may be used to create a cough elixir. The herb remedy can also be used as a laxative. Infusions made with ononis spinosa can be helpful in treating conditions such as rheumatism, skin disorders, bladder and kidney irritation, and bodily swelling.

Spiny rest harrow can also be found growing in Northern Africa and Asia. In these areas, it usually grows on stony hillsides, open pine forests, or chalk and limestone grasslands. The plant prefers sunny meadow climates with dry or slightly moist soil, and will not bloom in the shade. The perennial grows up to two feet (.6 meters) and flowers from early summer to early fall. Its hermaphroditic pink and white flowers are pollinated by bees, and its leaves are sectioned in groups of three.

When growing in certain soils, ononis spinosa creates a symbiotic relationship with bacteria. Together with the plant's roots, the bacteria can form nodules of atmospheric nitrogen to support the plant's health. This nitrogen helps other plants within the vicinity grow as well.


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