Herbs & Plants

Bergenia cordifolia

Botanical Name:Borne on thick red stems in early spring, erect clusters of deep-pink flowers rise above a rosette of leathery, shiny, heart-shaped leaves.
Family: Saxifragaceae
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Saxifragales
Genus: Bergenia

Common Names: Siberian-tea, Pigsqueak, Heartleaf Bergenia

Habitat: Bergenia cordifolia is native to E. Asia – Siberia, northern Mongolia, western China, northern Korea. It grows on shady north-facing rocks, stony slopes, rock streams and old moraines in the forest and alpine zones.

Bergenia cordifolia (Heartleaf Bergenia) is a clump-forming evergreen perennial noted for its incredible hardiness and vigor.It is low-growing plant forming a rosette of leaves up to 35cm long and 30cm wide from a thick, rhizomatous rootstock. The plant spreads slowly at the roots to form a colony. Colonies covering many hectares have been reported in Siberia. Borne on thick red stems in early spring, erect clusters of deep-pink flowers rise above a rosette of leathery, shiny, heart-shaped leaves.

The plant is a popular medicine and source of a tea within its native range. It is commonly harvested from the wild and is cultivated for medicinal use in some areas outside its native range. The plant is also often grown as an ornamental, where it can be used as a ground cover.


Bergenia crassifolia is hardy to about -20°c. The young growth in spring, even on mature plants, is frost-tender and so it is best to grow the plants in a position sheltered from the early morning sun. Succeeds in full sun or light shade in most soils, but prefers a deep fertile soil that does not dry out fully. Established plants are drought tolerant according to another report. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Plants are at their best in a medium-heavy soil. Requires a position sheltered from cold drying winds and from the early morning sun. The leaf colour is best when plants are grown in a poor soil in a sunny position. A very ornamental plant. Plants seem to be immune to the predations of rabbits. The different species of this genus will hybridise freely when grown near each othe.

Seed – surface sow in a greenhouse. Make sure that the compost does not dry out. Two weeks cold stratification can speed up germination which usually takes 1 – 6 months at 15°c. Fresh seed, sown as soon as it is ripe in late spring is liable to germinate better than stored seed. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in light shade in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts.

Division in late spring after flowering or in autumn. Very easy, larger divisions can be planted straight into their permanent positions whilst smaller clumps are best potted up and kept in a cold frame until they are growing away well.

Edible Uses
The leaves are used as a tea substitute, mainly for its health-promoting properties. A single plant usually contains young green leaves produced that growing season, brown leaves that have survived the previous winter, and black leaves that have gone through two winters. In Altai the old blackened wintered leaves, known as chagirsky tea, are preferred for making a tea because the green leaves contain higher amounts of tannins and are more astringent.

Medicinal Uses:
Bergenia crassifolia is a popular herbal remedy in much of Russia, Mongolia and northern China where the leaves and roots are traditionally considered to be anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, anti-ulcerous, antidiarrheal and astringent. The taste is sweet and astringent, and the potency is hot and light. The plant is used in the treatment of conditions such as typhoid and lung fever; disorders of the stomach and intestine; diarrhea, and inflammation of the lung. It is also an ingredient of various traditional prescriptions. Modern research has also shown the plant to be adaptogenic, antitumor, diuretic, hepatic, hypoglycaemic, hypotensive and stomachic. In addition, the tea has been shown to reduce the appetite and improve the metabolism of people who have become obese through a high-calorie diet.

Infusions of the rhizomes have been used in Russian traditional medicine for the treatment of cold, gastritis, enterocolitis, head-ache, diarrhoea and fever. The rhizomes are known for the treatment of oral diseases: periodontal disease, stomatitis, gingivitis and bleeding gums. An infusion is recommended in gynaecology for the treatment of excessive menstruation, bleeding after abortions, and cervical erosion treatment. The infusion is also said to strengthen capillary walls, to have local vasodilatation activity, to decrease arterial blood pressure and to increase heart rate.

In Russian ethnomedicine the leaves are widely used as a beverage. The thick leaf is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to supplement vacuity and stanch bleeding; to relieve cough and settle asthma; and to treat dizziness, blood ejection, and hemoptysis. In Tibet, a mashed paste of the fresh green leaves is applied to the skin in order to prevent sunburn and skin damage from UV radiation.

The rhizome contains tannins, phenol carboxylic acids and their derivatives, (+)-catechin and catechin gallate, isocoumarin: bergenin.
Leaves contain 6 – 30% tannins, 12.18% arbutin, hydroquinone, rododendrine, pectin: bergenan, catechin: gallocatechin, catechin gallate, flavonoids: quercetin, kaempferol, leucoanthocyanidin: leucocyanidin, leucdelifinidin, coumarin: ellagic acid, isocoumarin: bergenin.

Other Uses::
Agroforestry Uses: A useful ground cover plant. though rather slow to spread. It forms a clump.
Tannin is obtained from the plant. The roots contain 15 – 22% tannin, exceptionally 26%. The leaves and stems contain 17 – 25% tannin

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


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