Arrachs or Oraches

Medical Herbs Catalogue


Arrachs or Oraches

Botanical Name: Chenopodium olidum (LINN.)
Chenopodium vulvaria (S. WATS.)
Family: N.O. Chenopodiaceae

Synonyms: Stinking Motherwort. Wild Arrach. Stinking Arrach. Stinking Goosefoot. Netchweed. Goat's Arrach.
Part Used: Herb.
Habitat: The Wild Arrach, or Netchweed (Chenopodium olidum, Linn.), (syn. C. vulvaria S. Wats.), one of the common Goosefoots, is an annual herb, found on roadsides and dry waste ground near houses, from Edinburgh southward.

Description: Its stem is not erect, but partly Iying, branched from the base, the opposite branches spreading widely, a foot or more in length.

The stalked leaves are oval, wedge-shaped at the base, about 1/2 inch long, the margins entire.

The small, insignificant green flowers are borne in spikes from the axils of the leaves and consist of five sepals, five stamens and a pistil with two styles. There are no petals and the flowers are wind-fertilized. They are in bloom from August to October.

The whole plant is covered with a white, greasy mealiness, giving it a grey-green appearance which when touched, gives out a very objectionable and enduring odour, like that of stale salt fish, and accounts for its common popular name: Stinking Goosefoot.

Medicinal Action and Uses: The name of 'Stinking Motherwort' refers to the use of its leaves in hysteria and nervous troubles connected with women's ailments: it has emmenagogue and anti-spasmodic properties. In former days, it was supposed even to cure barrenness and in certain cases, the mere smelling of its foetid odour was held to afford relief.

An infusion of 1 OZ. of the dried herb in a pint of boiling water is taken three or four times daily in wineglassful doses as a remedy for menstrual obstructions. It is also sometimes used as a fomentation and injection, but is falling out of use, no doubt on account of its unpleasant odour and taste.

The infusion has been employed in nervous debility and also for colic.

A fluid extract is prepared, the dose being 1/2, to 1 drachm.

The leaves have also been made into a conserve with sugar. Dr. Fuller's famous Electuarium hystericum was compounded by adding 48 drops of oil of Amber (Oleum Succini) to 4 oz. of the conserve of this Chenopodium. A piece of the size of a chestnut was prescribed to be taken when needed and repeated as often as required.

Constituents: Chemical analysis has proved Trimethylamine to be a constituent, together with Osmazome and Nitrate of Potash.The plant gives off free Ammonia.

Culpepper speaks of two kinds of 'Arrach.' One he calls Garden Arrach, 'called also Orach; and Arage,' giving its Latin name as Atriplex hortensis. The other kind he calls 'Wild and Stinking Arrach' (A. olida), 'called also Vulvaria, Dog's Arrach, Goat's Arrach and Stinking Motherwort.' He is emphatic in his commendation of this 'Stinking Arrach' for every kind of women's diseases and troubles, though he describes its odour in his usual unvarnished language, saying: 'It smells like rotten fish, or something worse.'

The names 'Dog's Arrach,' 'Goat's Arrach' and 'Dog's Orache' point to a contemptuous scorn of its unfitness as a pot-herb compared with the true Orache (Atriplex), closely allied to it.