Medical Herbs Catalogue



Botanical Name: Sagittaria sagittifolia (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Alismaceae
---Synonyms: Wapatoo. Is'-ze-kn.

The Alismaceae group of plants in general contain acrid juices, on account of which, a number of species, besides the Water Plantain, have been used as diuretics and antiscorbutic.

Several species of Sagittaria, natives of Brazil, are astringent and their expressed juice has been used in making ink.

The rhizome of Sagittaria sagittifolia (Linn.), the Arrowhead, Wapatoo, and S. Chinensis (Is'-ze-kn) are used respectively by the North American Indians and the Chinese as starchy foods, as are some other species.

The Arrowhead is a water plant widely distributed in Europe and Northern Asia, as well as North America, and abundant in many parts of England, though only naturalized in Scotland.

The stem is swollen at the base and throws out creeping stolons or runners, which produce globose winter tubers, 1/2 inch in diameter, composed almost entirely of starch.

The leaves are borne on triangular stalks that vary in length with the depth of the water in which the plant is growing. They do not lie on the water, like those of the Water Lily, but stand boldly above it. They are large and arrow-shaped and very glossy. The early, submerged leaves are ribbonlike.

The flower-stem rises directly from the root and bears several rings of buds and blossoms, three in each ring or whorl, and each flower composed of three outer sepals and three large, pure white petals, with a purple blotch at their base. The upper flowers are stamen-bearing, the lower ones generally contain the seed vessels only. The root tubers are about the size of a small walnut. They grow just below the surface of the mud. The Chinese and Japanese cultivate the plant for the sake of these tubercles, which are eaten as an article of wholesome food. Bryant, in Flora Dietetica, writes of them: 'I cured some of the bulbs of this plant in the same manner that saloop is cured, when they acquired a sort of pellucidness, and on boiling afterwards, they broke into a gelatinous meal and tasted like old peas boiled.'

The tubers, it has been stated, may also be eaten in the raw state.

Medicinal Action and Uses: Diuretic and antiscorbutic.