Botanical: Rumex acetosella
Family: Polygonaceae (buckwheat)
Other common names: Sour Dock, Field Sorrel, Meadow Sorrel, Red Top Sorrel, Sour Grass,
Sour Weed, Dock
Sheep Sorrel is an effective astringent that has been used to reduce internal and stomach hemorrhages, including the effects of stomach ulcers and excess menstrual bleeding. It is also said to effectively detoxify the blood, improve the look and health of the skin and help regenerate tissue. Sheep Sorrel is an old-time vermifuge that helps to kill intestinal parasites and expel intestinal worms. Sheep Sorrel is gaining popularity as an immune system stimulant, antioxidant and free radical scavenger with much potential for combating serious invasive infection and disease.
The information presented herein by Herbal Extracts Plus is intended for educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.
Sheep Sorrel is a hardy perennial with running rootstocks with a vigorous creeping habit that has sometimes made it a troublesome, noxious weed in lawns and gardens. The roots grow deeply and may be difficult to eradicate when well established. It is a small herb that usually grows to a maximum of one or two feet in height (much smaller than either French or Garden Sorrel) with highly acidic-tasting, lance-shaped leaves and tiny yellowish or reddish/maroon flowers that are clustered on branching stalks. The botanical genus, Rumex, is derived from the Latin word meaning "lance," referring to the shape of the plant's leaves. It thrives in damp meadows and pastures (but may also grow in gravelly places) in moist soil in sun or partial shade and fares poorly in extremely hot weather. It is often one of the first species to take hold in disturbed areas, such as abandoned mining sites, especially if the soil is acidic. Livestock will graze on the plant, but it is not very nutritious and contains oxalates, which can make the plant toxic if grazed in large amounts. It is said that Sheep Sorrel was naturalized in North America, where it grows wild, and is thought to have its origins in Europe and Asia. The herb may be found in most parts of the globe, except in the tropics, even penetrating into arctic and alpine regions. It is an acidic, astringent, cooling herb that has been used historically to treat inflammation, scurvy, cancer, liver ailments and diarrhea. The famed herbal physician, Nicholas Culpeper recommended it as a diuretic and tonic for the kidneys and urinary tract and said the plant was exceedingly strengthening for the liver and "as wholesome a pot herb as any" in his English Physitian Enlarged of 1653. In North America, Sheep Sorrel was an old folk remedy for the treatment of cancer and was even officially condoned by the Government of Colonial Virginia for such treatments. At least ten native tribes in Canada and the United States used Sheep Sorrel in herbal recipes for cancers, and the herb was even included in the extremely controversial tea that was derived from an Ojibwa remedy called "Essiac Tea." It was developed by Rene Caisse (Essiac spelled in reverse) of Canada and employed by her for years, although there are no published clinical trials to scientifically validate the efficacy of her claims, and its use is not approved as an official cancer treatment in the the United States. Before the flowers bloom, the aerial parts of the plant are harvested for both their food value and as an important ingredient in herbal medicines. As a food, Sheep Sorrel is rich in nutrients, and the fresh, young leaves are added to salads, sauces, soups and cheeses and puréed to add color and acidity to mayonnaise and to curdle milk for the making of cheese. As a vegetable, it is cooked in the same way as spinach, and the very acidic and bitter taste may be reduced by parboiling it before cooking or changing the water once during the cooking process (which reduces the taste of oxalic acid). The juice of the leaves is said to remove rust, mould and ink stains from linen and wicker, and the roots provide a dark gray dye. Some of the chemical consitituents in Sheep Sorrel include anthraquinones (emodin, aloe emodin, chrysophanol, rhein, physcion), oxalates, chlorophyll, tannins, glycosides (hyperoside, quercetin-3d-galactoside), B-vitamins, vitamins A, C, E, D, K and P, plus iron, potassium, manganese, zinc, calcium, magnesium, tartaric and oxalic acid (which gives the herb its bitter taste).
Sheep Sorrel is said to be an excellent vermifuge, or agent that works to destroy and expel worms from the intestinal tract, as the plant allegedly contains compounds considered toxic to intestinal parasites.
As a diaphoretic and refrigerant, Sheep Sorrel has been used to promote perspiration and reduce fevers and, thus, cool the body and also eliminate toxins through the skin. With its tangy, tart lemony flavor, it was even included in refreshing and cooling drinks, as well as teas.
Sheep Sorrel's herbal astringent properties (tannins) have been useful in treating hemorrhages, including the effects of internal bleeding ulcers and other stomach hemorrhages, as well as excessive menstrual bleeding. Sheep Sorrel is also thought to be an effective treatment for hemorrhoids and diarrhea.
Considered a diuretic, Sheep Sorrel is said to promote the flow of urine and benefit the kidneys and bladder by loosening and helping to dissolve gravel and expelling it through the urine. It is also said to help treat a variety of urinary complaints.
Sheep Sorrel is believed to be fine blood cleanser and detoxifier and is thought to destroy putrefaction in the blood. As a general detoxifier, the herb it not only helps to clear the entire system of poisons, but is also good for skin problems of all kinds, which may sometimes be associated with impure blood. Taken internally, it is believed to help the skin look clearer and healthier and when used externally (as a poultice), it helps to relieve boils, herpes, eczema, itchy rashes and tumors.
The chlorophyll in Sheep Sorrel is used to promote healthy liver function. It is said to purify the liver and decrease swelling of the pancreas and has been used in cases of jaundice.
As an effective laxative, the anthraquinones (including emodin, rhein and physcion) in Sheep Sorrel are believed to increase the secretion of mucus and water into the intestine and stimulate peristalsis (muscular contractions of the bowel), thus encouraging movement of waste from the body. (The herb should never be used with other laxatives.)
Sheep Sorrel is gaining popularity as an immuno-stimulant that helps to enhance the body's natural defense against invasive material and other infections, including malignant diseases. The beta-carotene content is said to act as an antioxidant, increasing the production of white blood cells and the key immune, T-cells. The anthraquinones, aloe emodin, rhein and physcion, are also considered antioxidants and free radical scavengers that fight free radical damage in the body and help protect cells from free radical damage that attacks healthy cells and tissue. Sheep Sorrel is also believed to strengthen the permeability of cell walls, thereby further building defense against invasive attack, and the herb is believed to help reduce the side effects of chemotherapy and promote regeneration of tissue.
Children and pregnant and nursing women should not used Sheep Sorrel Herbal Supplement. The herb is not recommended for people with kidney stones, arthritis, rheumatism, endometriosis, gout and hyperacidity, since it may aggravate those conditions, due to its high acidic content. Large amounts of Sheep Sorrel (many times the recommended dosage) should be avoided, as it may result in diarrhea and renal and liver damage (from the oxalates and anthraquinones), gastroenteritis, abdominal cramps, severe diarrhea and may even be toxic. Do not take with diuretics or laxatives, as it may result in serious potassium loss. Anthraquinones can cause discoloration of the urine, interfering with urinalysis.