Saxifrage, Burnet

Medical Herbs Catalogue


Saxifrage, Burnet

Botanical Name: Pimpinella saxifraga (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Umbelliferae

Synonyms: Lesser Burnet. Saxifrage.
Parts Used: Root, herb.
Habitat: It grows abundantly in dry, chalky pastures, and is very generally distributed over the country.

The Burnet Saxifrage, sometimes cultivated for kitchen use, is neither a Burnet nor a Saxifrage, but has obtained the latter name because supposed to break up stone in the bladder, and the former from the similarity of its leaves to the Greater and Lesser Burnets, though its umbels of white flowers mark the difference at the first glance.

Description: The root-stock is slender, the stem also slender, round, striate, 9 inches to 3 feet high. The root-leaves are numerous, shortly stalked, pinnate, the leaflets oval or roundish, four to eight pairs, sometimes so deeply cut as to be bipinnate, sometimes merely serrated. The stem-leaves are few, with the petiole dilated, particularly in the uppermost ones, the leaflets narrower than in the radical leaves, and pinnatifid. The upper leaves are reduced to dilated sheaths, the leaflets represented by one or more linear lobes. The umbels are regular, flattopped, the umbelules many-flowered, the individual flowers 1/10 inch across, white, with notched petals. The whole plant is dark green, generally glabrous.

Parts Used: The leaves and roots. The whole herb is cut in July and dried in the same way as the Burnets.

Medicinal Action and Uses: Resolvent, diaphoretic, stomachic, diuretic. The root is very hot and acrid, burning the mouth like pepper. On drying, or on being kept long, its pungency is considerably diminished. It contains a bitter resin and a blue essential oil, which communicates that colour to water or spirit on distillation, and is said to be used in Germany for colouring brandy.

The oil and resin contained are useful to relieve flatulent indigestion.

The fresh root chewed is good for toothache and paralysis of the tongue. A decoction has the reputation of removing freckles. It is said to dissolve mucus, and on this account is used as a gargle in hoarseness and some cases of throat affection.

It is also prescribed in asthma and dropsy.

Small bunches of the leaves and shoots, tied together and suspended in a cask of beer impart to it an agreeable aromatic flavour, and are thought to correct tart or spoiled wines.

Cows which feed on this plant have their flow of milk increased. Culpepper says: 'The whole plant is binding . . . it is a cordial. In the composition of the Syrupus Altheae it is generally used instead of the Great Burnet Saxifrage.'