Highlander snake – hіrchak serpent (harvesting and storage)

Highlander snake (crayfish necks) – Polygonum bistorta L. The Ukrainian name is snake hіrchak, popular names are crayfish necks, serpentine, crustaceans, rachinets, crooked potion, wild buckwheat, wild grouse, etc.


The buckwheat family is Polygonaceae.

The rhizomes are used for medicinal purposes.

It occurs in the northern and western regions of Ukraine (Carpathians, Polissya, less often the northern regions of the Forest-Steppe), also in the mountains of Crimea. Grows in damp and wet meadows, damp forest edges and clearings, among rare shrubs. In places, in the form of spots among other plants, it forms thickets on tens of hectares. Industrial blanks are produced mainly in the Transcarpathian, Lvov, Ivano-Frankivsk, Chernivtsi, Ternopil, Volyn, Rivne, Zhytomyr regions, in the north of Khmelnitsky,. Kyiv, Chernihiv, Sumy, Kharkov regions, where thickets of this plant are mainly found.

Stocks of raw materials are quite large (several tons of rhizomes can be harvested annually), but due to the drainage of swampy meadows and forests, they are rapidly decreasing.

Highlander serpentine is a perennial herbaceous plant with a thick, slightly flattened, woody rhizome, on which the remains of leaves and stems form numerous scars. The rhizome has the appearance of cancerous necks (this similarity explains one of the names of the plant), it is serpentine-shaped (hence the name serpentine), dark red on the outside with a brown tint, and brown-pink on a fresh break. Thin threadlike roots depart from the rhizome. Stem one, rarely several, 30-100 cm long, glabrous, unbranched, with bells at the locations of the leaves. Basal and lower stem leaves have long winged petioles. They are oblong-lanceolate in shape, wedge-shaped or slightly heart-shaped at the base. From below they are gray-gray, shortly pubescent, from above glabrous or slightly pubescent with curly hairs. The upper leaves are sessile, small, narrow. The inflorescence is a dense spike at the top of the stem. The flowers are pink with a simple five-lobed within the flower bed. The fruits are trihedral, chestnut-brown, shiny nuts. The plant blooms in May – June. The fruits ripen in July.

Harvested rhizomes in the fall after the death of the above-ground parts (September-October) or early spring before regrowth in the latter (April). They dig up the rhizomes with shovels or diggers, shake off the ground, cut off the aerial parts and roots with knives and wash in cold water. Then cut off the rotten parts of the rhizomes.

After the raw material dries in the air, it is dried in attics under an iron roof or under sheds with good ventilation, also in dryers at a temperature of 50-60 °, spreading in one or two layers on paper, cloth or sieves. With slow drying, the rhizomes inside turn brown and moldy. The yield of dry raw materials is 25%.

According to GF-X Art. 580, OST NKVT 7904/367 raw material consists of slightly flattened, heavy and hard rhizomes 2-10 long and 1-2 cm thick, with transverse annular thickenings and traces of roots. Outside, the rhizomes are dark red with a brown tint, inside – pink or brown-pink. There is no smell. The taste is very tart. Humidity is not higher than 13%. Not more than (percent) is allowed in raw materials: dark and blackened rhizomes at a break – 10; rhizomes with roots and individual roots – 5; organic impurities – 0.5; mineral – 1. The content of tannins must be at least 15; more than 10%.

Raw materials are packed in bales of 100 kg. Store in dry, well-ventilated areas on pallets or racks. Storage period up to 6 years. Not subject to oversight.

Rhizomes contain up to 25% tannins of the pyrogallic group, gallic and ellagic acids. It is used as an astringent for acute and chronic bowel diseases in the form of a decoction and liquid extract. Included in the astringent gastric fees. Used in the leather industry for tanning leather. The rhizomes also give yellow and black dyes, suitable for dyeing cloth.


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