Sheep sorrel (Rumex acetosella)

Sheep sorrel (Rumex acetosella)

Other common names: Sourweed, sour grass, field sorrel, red sorrel.


Photo courtesy of Andreas Rockstein/Flickr Creative Commons

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Family: Polygonaceae


Diuretic, antimicrobial, alterative, anti-carcinogenic/antioxidant, anti-tumorigenic, anti-inflammatory, immune stimulant, anti-catarrhal, vermifuge, mild laxative.

Harvest: The roots are harvested in fall, the aerial parts in spring or early summer.


Photo courtesy of Matt Lavin/Flickr Creative Commons

Part used: All parts

Constituents: Tannins, vitamins (A, B complex, C, D, E, and K), oxalates, rumicin, silicon, glycosides (hyperoside, quercetin-3d-galactoside), anthroquinones (emodin, aloe emodin, chrysophanol, rhein, physcion.


Cancer support, pain, urinary tract infections, sinusitis, tumours/cysts, inflammation in general, excess mucous production, rashes, eczema, itching, detoxification, internal parasites, infections such as escherichia, salmonella, and staphylococcus.

Medicinal preparations:


Standard infusions, capsules and fluid preparations are available – it is also one of the ingredients in the famous ESSIAC cancer support remedy.

Leaves – raw or cooked (use in small quantities, especially if raw, due to oxalate content). Can be used as a thickener in soups or other recipes.

Roots – cooked – grind into powder, then make into noodles or other food items.


Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/user:Rasbak

Seed – raw or cooked.


Sheep sorrel can be used in washes for itching, eczema, rashes and other skin conditions. It can also be applied in a poultice to cysts and tumours.


Do not use if pregnant or nursing, and do not administer to children without the guidance of a physician/naturopathic doctor. Do not take in large doses, as it can be toxic due to its oxalic acid content. Do not use if you have any pre-existing kidney condition, or a history of kidney stones. Even when used for culinary purposes, you should not eat too much, and cook the leaves first to reduce the oxalic acid. Signs of overdose include tingling tongue, severe headache and nausea. Do not use if you are suffering from diarrhoea – the diuretic effect of sheep sorrel can lead to increased potassium loss (something that people with diarrhoea already have to be mindful of).

Sheep sorrel has also been known to aggravate certain other conditions, including endometriosis, arthritis and gout. If during treatment you notice a flare-up of symptoms, stop using sheep sorrel and talk to your herbal medicine practitioner for alternatives.

Please do not use sheep sorrel as a cancer treatment, without the advice, full knowledge


Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Forest & Kim Starr

and monitoring of a qualified healthcare practitioner (and offer full disclosure to any professional who is treating you for cancer). A herbal remedy could affect the success of conventional treatments, so don’t risk it unless a doctor can verify its safety for you.

I suggest consulting a pharmacist or physician before starting any herbal supplement if you are taking a prescription medication or have serious underlying health concerns.

Energetic/traditional use:

While it tends to be seen as a noxious weed (and has resulted in a number of livestock illnesses, due to oxalate toxicity), sheep sorrel has long been used in dishes for adding a


Photo courtesy of James Lindsey/Wikimedia Commons

tart flavouring, in salads, and even in cheese-making processes.

It is popular among wildcrafters, as it has a pleasantly tart taste and can quench thirst when you’re out on a hike. Some call it a “herbal jolly rancher” as it tastes like green apple candy.

It has a dry, sour constitution.

Disclaimer: The information on this website is intended as general education on herbs and is not intended to take the place of medical care. Please consult a health care professional before embarking on any health regime.

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