Scurvy grass was not known to early botanists like Dioscorides in the 1st century, nor to his commentators in the renaissance. Being native to the Atlantic coast, it was ignored by all great herbalists and physicians of the Latin areas of Europe. However, in the 17th and 18th centuries, the scurvy grass was extensively cultivated in France and Great Britain to help sailors and explorers who came back from their journeys suffering from ailments caused by the unknown lack of vitamin C.
Scurvy Grass Scientific Facts
- Scientific Name – Cochlearia officinalis L.
- Other Names – Scrubby grass, spoonwort.
- French – Cochléarie.
- Spanish – Coclearia.
- Environment – The plant grows in rocky, humid soils near coastlines or water streams. Seldom found in Central and northern Europe and North America.
- Description – Vivacious plant of the Cruciferae family, which grows from 10 to 25 cm high, with fleshy, heart-shaped, dark-green leaves growing in a long petiole, and white or pink flowers growing in terminal clusters.
- Parts of the plant used medicinally – The whole fresh plant.
Scurvy Grass Benefits
All aerial parts of the plant contain a sulfured glycoside (glycoclearine) and an enzyme called myrosine, which transforms the glycoside into butylisosulphocyaninde, a substance similar to the mustard essence, which gives the plant a flavor similar to that of mustard or watercress. Moreover, it contains vitamin C, tannin, and mineral salts. Its properties are as follows:
- Antiscorbutic – Due to its vitamin C content and ability to stimulate the metabolism, it is recommended for weakened people and those whose diet lacks fruit and vegetables.
- Appetizer and digestive – The scurvy grass stimulates the secretion of gastric juices and the activity of the digestive system. It is thus recommended for people suffering from lack of appetite, gastric atony (sensation of being bloated after meals), and, as a rule, for those who suffer from a bloated stomach for slow digestion.
- Diuretic and depurative – It promotes the elimination of acid waste substances such as urea and uric acid. It is helpful for some people who suffer from rheumatism, arthritis, and gout and those who follow a diet based on meat products.
- Rubefacient – Externally applied, like mustard, this plant attracts blood towards the skin, thus reducing the congestion of internal organs. It is used as a compress on the affected area (for instance, in the case of inflamed joints).
How to use Scurvy Grass
- As a vegetable – The fresh stems and leaves of the scurvy grass can be eaten in salads or mixed with other vegetables.
- Juice – Pure juice, mixed with orange juice, is an excellent refreshing drink against asthenia. It must be drunk immediately after being made so that the vitamins it contains do not become corrupted. Drink a glass in the morning every day.
- Compresses soaked in an infusion of scurvy grass, prepared with 50 grams of plant per liter of water, then applied to the painful areas.
Ancient sailors had a diet based on fish, meat, and flour, which lacked vitamin C. In the past, scurvy grass, which contains a high amount of vitamins, as mentioned above, saved the lives of many sailors who suffered from scurvy. It is currently used because of its digestive and refreshing properties.
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. 1 San Fernando de Henares: Editorial Safeliz, 2000. 356, 357. Print.