Rumex acetosella | Sheep Sorrel
Sheep sorrel, also known as Red Sorrel, is a perennial herb that many folks consider a common weed, It grows particularly well in areas where blueberries are grown (since they thrive in acidic, sandy soils in the same pH range). Sheep Sorrel grows in rosette clumps of arrow-shaped leaves that are joined underground by a creeping root system. In spring, each rosette forms a reddish upright flower stem that starts flowering from May to July. The flowers are small and rather insignificant. Rumex acetosella is unisexual/dioecious so all flowers on one plant are either male or female. The female flowers tend to be greenish, while male flowers are yellowish. The whole plant is generally reddish-green to brownish in color. Sheep Sorrel can be invasive as plants reproduce via seed and by spreading its horizontal roots underground.
Although this plant can be invasive, we have learned to embrace it because it’s so incredibly important and well recognized within the alternative treatment community as one of the 4 primary ingredients in the Essiac tea formula. Historically, Sheep Sorrel has been used to treat a variety of issues. Every single part of this plant can be used. It’s considered to be a rich source of vitamin C, E, beta-carotene, and other carotenoids. Although the leaves are small and time-consuming to gather, they are delicious to eat and have a lemony, tangy, or nicely tart flavor. The leaves can treat the stings of nettles, bees, and ants since Rumex plants contain an alkali that neutralizes the acidic bite, removing the pain. Seeds can be eaten raw or cooked.
The original 4 herb Essaic formula consists of:
Sheep Sorrel (Rumex acetosella),
Burdock Root (Arctium lappa),
Slippery Elm Bark (Ulmus flilva),
Turkish Rhubarb Root (Rheum palmatum)
Sun exposure: Full sun to part shade
Height: 4-16 inches
Hardiness zones: 3-10