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Sorrel Herb - Uses And Side Effects

Other Names : Cuckoo sorrow, cuckoo's meate, dock, garden sorrel, greensauce, green sorrel, sour dock, sourgrass, sour sauce, and soursuds.


In the 16th century, people took sorrel to treat fever-a use that continued into the late 19th century. However, concern that it was poisonous limited its use.

The type of sorrel popular for medicinal use is Rumex acetosella, commonly called sheep sorrel. Another type, R. acetosa, is more common as a garden plant. Both plants as well as related sorrel species belong to the Polygonaceae family, which is native to Europe and northern Asia and has been naturalized in North America.

Description of the herb Sorrel

Sorrel grows easily from seed planted in early spring. Plant 1/4 inch deep, cover with light soil or sand and keep moist until it germinates, which will be about a week or so. Thin when the seedlings are 2 inches high, spacing the remaining plants about 4 inches apart. You can begin harvesting the leaves when they are 4-6 inches high. Use what you need, but do not let the plant go to seed! You can cut it all the way down, and it will grow back quickly. Sorrel can also be grown in containers or indoors. Sow in the fall for harvesting in the winter. It can be placed in full or partial sun, but if it gets very hot in your zone partial sun may be better. If you live in a mild climate, sorrel will stay green all winter, but will not grow as quickly. Again, be sure to cut it back.

Herbalists use the leaves, flowers, roots, and seeds of the sorrel plant. Concentration of active ingredients in the leaves varies with the season and the plant's geographic location.

Common doses of Sorrel

Sorrel comes as tea and as juice from fresh plants. Leaves and flowers can be made into tea, and juice from the plant can be diluted in water and taken orally. Experts disagree on what dose to take.

Uses of Sorrel herb

Specifically, sorrel may help to :-

  • As an antiseptic
  • Diarrhea
  • Fluid retention
  • Scurvy

Also, the leaves are very high in vitamin C and have many uses. Young, tender spring leaves can be used as a salad green, and are also used in Cream of Sorrel soup.

Side effects of Sorrel

Call your health care practitioner if you experience any of these possible side effects of sorrel:

  • gastroenteritis (stomach inflammation leading to nausea, vomiting, abdominal discomfort, and diarrhea)
  • jaw tightness
  • skin rash.
This herb also can cause:
  • brain damage
  • kidney damage
  • heart damage
  • liver damage.

Are there any interactions?

Combining herbs with certain drugs may alter their action or produce unwanted side effects. Tell your health care practitioner about any prescription or nonprescription drugs you're taking, because sorrel can cause kidney or liver problems when taken with drugs that the kidney or liver processes.

Don't use sorrel while taking a diuretic.

Important points to remember

  • Don't take sorrel if you're pregnant or breast-feeding.
  • Don't give this herb to a child.
  • Don't take sorrel if you've had a kidney stone.
  • If you cook sorrel leaves, be sure to change the cooking water at least once to decrease the herb's potency. Otherwise, the herb is toxic.
  • Keep sorrel away from children and pets.
  • Know that it takes very little sorrel to make you sick or even to kill you. The estimated fatal dose of oxalic acid, sorrel's major component, is 15 to 30 grams. As little as 5 grams could be fatal.

What the research shows

Herbalists' claims for sorrel lack supporting evidence and the herb's toxic effects have been shown in both animals and people. For these reasons, medical experts warn against using sorrel.

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