Cyprus Mail

Plant of the week: Juice of insect eating plant was used to fight ageing

Name: Sundew (Drosera rotundifolia)

Otherwise known as: Dew Plant, Red Rot, Herba Rosellae

Habitat: A small, herbaceous perannial member of the Droseraceae family growing up to 10cm in peaty soil on the edges of ponds, bogs and rivers. It has orbicular leaves on long stalks lying flat on the ground. The surface of the leaves are covered with red hairs, each having a small gland at the top containing fluid that looks like a dew drop.

What does it do: Sundew is one of the few insectivorous plants to be found in northern Europe. Because the shallow roots atrophy in the soil they inhabit, which is barren of elements essential to healthy growth, the plant suffers from nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium starvation. This is why they entrap small insects in the globules formed at the end of the hairs – which contain formic and benzoic acid that make up the digestive pepsin enzymes which break down the easily assimilated insect proteins. When the insect is captured, the hairs and leaves envelop it, preventing escape. Non organic matter is rejected.

Medieaval herbalists made tinctures from the plant’s juice to treat whooping cough, bronchitis, asthma and incipient tuberculosis. The fresh juice was believed to prevent ageing and as a specific against warts and corns. Currently, some herbalists mix it with colloidal silicates to treat arteriosclerosis.

Culpeper states that ‘the leaves outwardly applied to the skin will raise blisters; but there are other things which will also draw blisters, yet nothing dangerous to be taken inwardly. There is a usual drink made thereof with aqua vitae and spices frequently and without any offence or danger but to good purpose used in qualms and passions of the heart’.


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