Eryngium campestre is a plant of the Umbelliferae family that looks like a thistle. It is sometimes called “Watling street” thistle as in fall when the wind blows, its dry stems and leaves are blown with the wind and carried away to populate other soils. However, its stem and root remain firmly fixed to the land, and near them, the delicious eryngo mushrooms grow.
The medicinal properties of the Eryngium campestre were already mentioned by the Greek botanist Dioscorides in the 1st century A.D. As with other plants, Eryngium campestre was supposed to have more medicinal properties than it has. Once its chemical composition is known, we can ascertain its actual indications.
Eryngium Campestre Scientific Facts
- Other names: Eryngo, Watling street thistle, field eryngo.
- French: Chardon roulant.
- Spanish: Cardo corridor, eringio.
- Environment: Common in dry meadows, sunny slopes, and fields left fallow all over Europe. It also can be found in America.
- Description: Plant of the Umbelliferae family, growing from 40 to 60 cm high, with slim stems and prickly leaves. Many small, white, greenish flowers form its flower chapters. The whole plant gives a smell to that of carrot, except its root, which is a bit sour.
- Parts of the plant used medicinally: The root (which is gathered in spring or fall), young buds, and leaves (which are collected in summer).
Healing Properties and Uses
Eryngium campestre root contains saponins, tannin, sugar, and essential oil. Saponins decrease the surface tension of liquids and produce foam like soap does (their name comes from the Latin saponem, soap). These substances give this plant unique diuretic properties. Therefore, its use is recommended in the following cases:
- Edema (retention of liquids), especially those occurring on legs and ankles.
- Excess of uric acid (arthritis) and sand in urine when cleansing kidneys is recommended.
The diuretic properties of the Eryngium campestre saponins are pretty intense but not constant and decreasing day after day. In one week, they will practically disappear. Thus, it is not recommended to be used for more than two or three days. After resting some days, it once again becomes effective.
How to use Eryngium Campestre
- Salad. Its bud and young leaves are highly appreciated by people fond of wild vegetables.
- Infusion with a handful of ground root (30-40 grams) per liter of water. Steep until cold, and drink two or three cups daily. Please do not keep this infusion for more than twenty-four hours since it loses its properties.
Sea Holly (Eryngium maritimum L.)
Sea holly is similar to Eryngium campestre though it has broader leaves. It grows in sandy soils near the coastline all over the Iberian Peninsula. It has the same properties, though it is believed to act with higher intensity.
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. 573, 574. Print.