Cyprus Mail

Plant of the week: Poisonous plant used by the ancients to induce sleep

Name: Sedum (Sedum acre)

Otherwise known as: Wall Pepper, Stonecrop

Habitat: A perennial member of the Crassulaceae family growing to no more than 12cm in height with fibrous roots that form mats on rocks stones and roofs in Europe. Sedum has tiny succulent leaves that are topped by clusters of bright yellow flowers. All parts of the plant are poisonous.

What does it do: Other members of this family may be eaten as a famine food and have a variety of medicinal uses but this one, according to Culpepper, ‘is directly opposite to other Sedums, and more likely to raise inflammations that cure them’ but this did not prevent him prescribing it for scurvy (Vitamin C deficiency), The King’s Evil (tuberculosis) and other scrofulous afflictions. Gerrard recommended it for dropsy and used it to create his celebrated Worm Treacle’ – not to taken lightly.

The most common use of Sedum was among country-people who would extract the juice and apply it to warts and corns. The ancients believed that by wrapping Sedum in a black cloth and placing it under a pillow would induce instant sleep.

Modern research indicates that the plant could be valuable in treating blood pressure and topical cancers.


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