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Bistort Herb Description - Interactions, Dosage and Some of its Useful Properties

Alternative Names: Common Bistort, Easter Ledges, Knotweed, Oderwort, Snakeroot, snake week.

Common Forms

Available as a dried or cut root, powder, or tea.

Sources for Bistort

Different folk cultures use different parts of Polygonum bistorta, a member of the buckwheat family. Rhizomes and roots are most prized and gathered in the fall. Leaves are gathered in the spring. Bistort is native to Europe and naturalized in North America.

Chemical Components

There have been reports that P. bistorta contains phenolic compounds. Aqueous extracts are rich in tannins . Rhizomes and roots contain flavonoids, gallic acid, phlobaphene, starch, and a trace of emodin, an anthraquinone.

Actions

The pharmacokinetics of bistort have not been studied. Bistort is one of the strongest botanical astringents known. In a study with rats, bistort significantly inhibited acute and chronic phases of adjuvant and carrageenan-induced inflammation . This effect has not been confirmed in human trials.

Uses and Benefits

Extracts of underground plant parts have long been used to stop external and internal bleeding. Bistort has been used externally for hemorrhoids, insect bites, measles, snakebites, and small burns or wounds; as a mouthwash or gargle for canker sores, gum problems, laryngitis, and sore throat; and to reduce pulmonary secretions.

Internally, bistort has been used to treat dysentery, gastric and pulmonary hemorrhage, irritable bowel syndrome, jaundice, peptic ulcers, and ulcerative colitis. It has also been used as an anthelmintic, an antidote for certain poisons, and a douche for excessive vaginal discharge or bleeding.

The 1983 British Herbal Pharmacopoeia reports that bistort exerts an anti-inflammatory activity and lists it as useful in treating diarrhea in children.

Dosage to be taken

Some sources recommend that 1 tsp of the powdered root can be combined with 1 to 1 1/2 cups of boiling water and taken P.O. for diarrhea. More than 3 cups daily is not recommended.

Adverse Reactions

GI: GI irritation.

Hepatic: hepatic dysfunction.

Bistort Interactions:

None reported till yet.

Contraindications and Precautions to be taken with Bistort

Avoid using bistort in pregnant or breast-feeding patients; effects are unknown.

Special Considerations to be kept in mind

  1. Monitor the patient for signs and symptoms of GI irritation.
  2. Monitor liver function test results for signs of hepatic dysfunction.
  3. Caution the patient not to take bistort internally for longer than a few weeks at a time.
  4. Advise women to avoid using bistort during pregnancy or when breast - feeding.

Points of Interest

The rhizome of bistort is rich in starch and has been roasted and eaten as a vegetable.

Commentary

Bistort may have practical value as an astringent for poultices. Its antarthritic and anti-inflammatory properties appear promising. Overall, bistort has significant anecdotal data but few scientific studies supporting its use. The lack of scientific trials for any of the therapeutic claims should limit bistort use until such clinical trials can define more precisely bistort's role in modern medicine.

   

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