Do not mistake the poisonous black briony plant with sarsaparilla, a creeping plant with red berries (those of sarsaparilla are edible). The difference between both plants is that the black briony stems do not have spikes and are darker in color.
Black Briony Scientific Facts
- Scientific name: Tamus communis L.
- French: Tamier, herbe aux femmes batues.
- Spanish: Nueza Negra.
- Environment: It grows in shady forests and slopes in Central and South Europe.
- Description: Climbing plant of the Dioscoreaceae family (which receives its name after Dioscorides), growing up to 4 m high. It has a fine, stretched stem which sticks to other plants and heart-shaped leaves, and its fruit is bright red berries.
- Parts of the plant used medicinally: The root.
Black Briony Healing Properties
The root is enormous (up to 10 kg) and flour-like. It contains an alkaloid, diosgenin, which makes the plant extremely irritant when taken orally. However, in local applications, black briony has remarkable vulnerary properties: It heals bruises and makes hematoma under the skin disappear. Therefore, in France, it is known as herbe aux femmes batues (herb of beaten women).
The entire plant is poisonous when used internally, and its fruits. In the case of poisoning, induce vomiting and administer charcoal.
How to use Black Briony
- Poultices with the root, ground, and boiled are applied up to three times a day on the bruised area or the hematoma.
George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. “Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants.” George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants. Ed. Francesc X. Gelabert. vols. 2 San Fernando de Henares: Editorial Safeliz, 2000. 679. Print.