Smartweed, Water Pepper

Polygonum hydropiper - L.

Note the way the flowers bend over a bit. That is the only way I know of to tell between Water Pepper and Willow Weed.

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Leaves; Seed.

Edible Uses: Condiment; Rutin.

Leaves and stems - raw or cooked. They can also be made into an acid peppery condiment. They are very hot. The leaves contain about 7.5% protein, 1.9% fat, 8% carbohydrate, 2% ash. The leaves are said to contain rutin. Seed - raw or cooked. It is rather small and fiddly to utilize. The seed is used as a condiment - a pepper substitute. The sprouted seeds or young seedlings can be used as a garnish or added to salads, they are commonly sold in Japanese markets. They are very hot.

Medicinal Uses

Antiinflammatory; Astringent; Carminative; Contraceptive; Diaphoretic; Diuretic; Emmenagogue; Homeopathy; Stimulant; Stomachic; Styptic.

Smartweed has a long history of herbal use, both in Eastern and Western herbalism. It is not used very often, and is seen more as a domestic remedy being valued especially for its astringent properties which makes it useful in treating bleeding, skin problems, diarrhoea etc. The leaves are anti-inflammatory, astringent, carminative, diaphoretic, diuretic, emmenagogue, stimulant, stomachic, styptic. They contain rutin, which helps strengthen fragile capillaries and thus helps prevent bleeding. Use with caution. The seed is carminative, diuretic and stimulant. The whole plant, either on its own or mixed with other herbs, is decocted and used in the treatment of a wide range of ailments including diarrhoea, dyspepsia, itching skin, excessive menstrual bleeding and haemorrhoids. A poultice of the plant is used in treating swollen and inflamed areas. A homeopathic remedy is made from the leaves. It is used in the treatment of piles, menstrual pains and other menstrual complaints.

A cold water infusion is useful in gravel, colds and coughs. In combination with tonics and gum myrrh, it is said to have cured epilepsy - probably dependent on some uterine derangement. The infusion in cold water, which may be readily prepared from the fluid extract, has been found serviceable in gravel, dysentery, gout, sore mouths, colds and coughs, and mixed with wheat bran, in bowel complaints. Antiseptic and desiccant virtues are also claimed for it. The fresh leaves, bruised with those of the Mayweed (Anthemis Cotula), and moistened with a few drops of oil of turpentine, make a speedy vesicant.

Simmered in water and vinegar, it has proved useful in gangrenous, or mortified conditions. The extract, in the form of infusion or fomentation, has been beneficially applied in chronic ulcers and haemorrhoidal tumours, also as a wash in chronic erysipetalous inflammations, and as a fomentation in flatulent colic. A hot decoction made from the whole plant has been used in America as a remedy for cholera, a sheet being soaked in it and wrapped round the patient immediately the symptoms start. In Mexico, the infusion is used not only as a diuretic, but also put into the bath of sufferers from rheumatism. A fomentation of the leaves is beneficial for chronic ulcers and haemorrhoids - in tympanitis and flatulent colic, and as a wash in chronic inflammatory erysipelas.

It was an old country remedy for curing proud flesh in the sores of animals. If it is strewed in a chamber, it will soon kill all the fleas. The root was chewed for toothache - probably as a counter-irritant - and the bruised leaves used as a poultice to whitlows. A water distilled from the plant, taken in the quantity of a pint or more in a day, has been found serviceable in gravel and stone. The expressed juice of the freshly gathered plant has been found very useful in jaundice and the beginning of dropsies, the dose being from 1 to 3 tablespoonfuls. In Salmon's Herbal, it is stated: 'It is known by manifold and large experience to be a peculiar plant against gravel and stone. The Essenee causes a good digestion, it is admirable against all cold and moist diseases of the brain and nerves, etc., such as falling sickness, vertigo, lethargy, apoplexy, palsy, megrim, etc., and made into a syrup with honey it is a good pectoral. The oil dissolves and discusses all cold swellings, scrofulous and scirrhous tumours, quinsies, congealed blood, pleurisies, etc.' Waller recommends it also for 'hypochondriacal diseases.'

Preparations and Dosage - Infusion, 1 oz. to 1 pint - 1 tablespoonful three times daily. Fluid extract, 1 to 2 drachms. Tincture, 2 to 4 drachms.

Other Uses


A yellow-gold dye is obtained from the stalks.