Serpent’s bittersweet – serpent’s mountaineer

Snake gorse (Polygonum bistorta, synonym – Bistorta major); throat, coil, cancer necks; Buckwheat family (Roludopaceae); snake mountaineer


Crayfish necks are known to many, not only to collectors of healing herbs, but also to confectioners. However, it will not be about candy. Dense, pink, fluffy inflorescences of the plant attract attention on floodplain and wet meadows.

Snake gorse is a herbaceous rhizomatous perennial 40-100 cm tall. The rhizomes are thick, curved, hence one of the popular names – snake gorse. Flowering stem is straight. The flowers, collected in dense spike-like inflorescences, are pink, reddish, rarely white. The length of the inflorescence is 4-10 cm, the width is 8-12 mm. The plant blooms in June-August. The fruit is a three-sided nut. It usually grows on moist and floodplain meadows, in thickets of shrubs, near water bodies, on alpine and subalpine meadows, as well as in the tundra zone. In all the indicated places, the snake plant is a common plant in Russia and throughout the territory of Ukraine.

Medicinal properties of snake mustard have been known for a long time. Its rhizomes are collected at the end of flowering for the preparation of medicines. This is a very important moment, because after flowering, the plants are lost in the meadow thickets. After digging, the rhizomes are washed with cold water, dried (sometimes cut into parts), dried under shelter in the fresh air, then processed in dryers at an elevated temperature (50-60 °C). The finished raw material does not lose its properties for six years.

The rhizomes of snake mustard include about 25% tannins, organic acids, starch (almost 25%) and other compounds.

The substances contained in the rhizomes determine the biologically active effect of the plant. Mustard preparations have astringent, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, hemostatic and sedative (calming) properties. They are used for diseases of the mucous membranes and bladder. It is assumed that the plant helps with malignant neoplasms.

In folk medicine, snake’s bitter is used for gastric and duodenal ulcers, diarrhea, dysentery, gallstones and urolithiasis. Externally, infusions and decoctions are used for inflammatory processes in the oral cavity and throat (gingivitis, stomatitis, periodontitis). Cancerous necks also help with skin diseases – eczema of various origins, old wounds and furunculosis. Crushed mustard rhizomes are part of therapeutic gastric teas.

We should also talk about the nutritional qualities of snake mustard. The rhizomes of the plant contain a large amount of starch, but at the same time tannins, so they are soaked and dried before being used in food. After grinding, flour is obtained, which contains 25% starch and about 10% protein. It is added to rye and wheat flour. Bread baked from this mixture is completely benign. Young shoots of snake mustard are used to prepare salads, they are used in vegetable soups, they are dried (for seasoning) and fermented.

Powder from rhizomes. Take 0.5-1.0 g three times a day for diarrhea and dysentery.

Decoction of rhizomes. 20 g of crushed rhizomes are poured with 200 ml of boiling water. Heat in a water bath for 15 minutes, filter. Take 1 tablespoon 3-4 times a day for acute and chronic intestinal diseases.

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