Herbs & Plants

Alisma plantago-aquatica

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Botanical Name :Alisma plantago-aquatica
Genus: Alisma
Species:A. plantago-aquatica
Kingdom: Plantae

Synonyms: Alisma parviflorum – Pursh.,Alisma subcordatum – Raf.,Alisma triviale – Pursh.

Common Name :Mad-dog weed

Habitat :Alisma plantago-aquatica is native to northern temperate regions of Europe, including Britain, Asia and America. It grows in ditches, damp ground and shallow pond margins in water up to 15cm deep

Alisma plantago-aquatica is a perennial hairless plant growing to 0.9m by 0.45m. It grows in shallow water, consists of a fibrous root, several basal long stemmed leaves 15–30 cm long, and a triangular stem up to 1 m tall.

It has branched inflorescence bearing numerous small flowers, 1 cm across, with three round or slightly jagged, white or pale purple, petals. The flowers open in the afternoon. There are 3 blunt green sepals, and 6 stamens per flower. The carpels often exist as a flat single whorle. It flowers from June until August.


The word alisma is said to be a word of Celtic origin meaning “water”, a reference to the habitat in which it grows. Early botanists named it after the Plantago because of the similarity of their leaves

It is hardy to zone 6. It is in flower from June to August, and the seeds ripen from July to September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Flies.
The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It requires wet soil and can grow in water.

Similar species  :Narrow leaved water plantain Alisma lanceolatum differs only in that the leaf tips are acuminate and shape is narrow lanceolate.

Cultivation :
Succeeds in a sunny position in boggy ground or shallow water up to 25cm deep. Plants often self-sow aggressively when in a suitable position. The subspecies A. plantago-maritima orientale. Sam. is the form used medicinally in China. The subspecies A. plantago-maritima parviflorum (Syn A. parviflorum, A. subcordatum) is the form used medicinally in America. Plants are very attractive to slugs.

Seed – best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe. Place the pot in about 3cm of water to keep the soil wet. Pot up the seedlings when large enough to handle and keep in the cold frame for the first winter, planting out in late spring. Division in spring or autumn. Fairly easy, the divisions can be planted straight out into their permanent positions.

Edible Uses:
Edible Parts: Leaves; Root.

Root – cooked. Rich in starch. Caution is advised, the root is acrid if it is not dried or well cooked before use[2, 183]. Leaves and petioles – must be thoroughly cooked. They require long boiling and have a salty flavour.

Chemical constituents:   Alismatis—rhizomes of Alisma orientale (syn. Alisma plantago-aquatica var. orientale) as a traditional Chinese medicine—include alisol A 24-acetate and alisol B 23-acetate. The content of these two compounds are significantly different in Rhizoma Alismatis of different areas.

Medicinal Uses:
Antibacterial; Anticholesterolemic; Astringent; Contraceptive; Diaphoretic; Diuretic; Hypoglycaemic; Hypotensive; Rubefacient.

The leaves are antibacterial, anticholesterolemic, diaphoretic, diuretic, hypoglycaemic and hypotensive. They are used in the treatment of cystitis, dysentery, renal calculus, gravel etc. The fresh leaf is rubefacient. It is used in the treatment of leprosy and is also applied locally to bruises and swellings. Dried stem bases eaten, or grated and taken with water in treating digestive disorders such as heartburn, cramps and stomach flu. The powdered seed is an astringent, used in cases of bleeding. The seed is also said to promote sterility. The root contains an essential oil and has a wide range of medicinal uses. It is antibacterial, anticholesterolemic, diuretic and hypotensive. It is said to lower blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels whilst it also has an antibacterial action on Staphylococcus, Pneumococci and Mycobacterium. The root is used in the treatment of oliguria, oedema, nephritis, acute diarrhoea, cholesterolaemia and fatty liver. It has been thought of as a cure for rabies, though this has not been substantiated. The whole plant is believed to promote conception. The root is harvested before the plant comes into flower and is dried for later use. A homeopathic remedy is obtained from the fresh root.

According to Flora of the U.S.S.R. (1934, translated 1968), “A powder prepared from dried roots is used in popular medicine as a cure for rabies and crushed leaves are used against mammary congestion; fresh leaves are employed in homeopathy. Since this species is often confounded or identified with others of the genus, the reported data may also refer to [Alisma orientale or Alisma lanceolatum].” Indeed, Alisma plantago-aquatica is also known as mad-dog weed, as if it could be used to cure rabies. Do not confuse this with Scutellaria lateriflora (mad-dog skullcap), which is also sometimes called mad-dog weed.

Alisma orientale was initially—and is occasionally still—treated as a variety of this species (Alisma plantago-aquatica var. orientale). The rhizomes of A. orientale have been used as a traditional Chinese medicine, ze xie. Several scientific studies indicate that ze xie does have medicinal properties such as anti-allergic effects. However, like many other medicines, it could also have serious side effects or even toxic effects

Known Hazards:The fresh leaves and roots are toxic but the toxic principal is destroyed by heat or by drying .

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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