Like so many plants that we tend to ignore or value only for their aesthetic appearance, there may be more to biting stonecrop than meets the eye. Maybe the plant grows wild near your home or maybe it adorns your garden so if you would like to find out more about this plant and how it has been used traditionally you have come to the right place.
When it comes to herbal medicines, biting stonecrop is not among the most popular or useful. It does not have the long history of use among herbal practitioners that many of the herbs we cover has enjoyed. Having said that, the plant does have several traditional uses but none have been proven scientifically and there are concerns over the plant’s safety.
What is Biting Stonecrop?
Known botanically as Sedum acre, biting stonecrop is a perennial evergreen plant that belongs to the crussulaceae family of plants in the sedum genus. Other common names for the plant include golden carpet sedum, common stonecrop and wall-pepper.
There are actually over 300 members of the sedum species and they can be found thriving in the wild often growing on rocky outcrops and ledges. The plant is native to much of the Northern hemisphere and can be found growing in many countries of the world. It is mostly a perennial plant noted for its striking yellow flowers and succulent leaves.
Plant Description and Habitat
The plant is native to large swathes of the Northern hemisphere and can be seen growing in the wild in nearly all of Europe, North Africa and Asia. Because of its beautiful star-shaped flowers, it has become a very popular garden plant with gardening enthusiasts around the world.
The plant is a relatively small perennial evergreen that reaches a height of between five and ten centimeters. The plant grows and spreads from its creeping shoots forming thick clumps on rocks, stone walls and dry, rocky ground.
The plant which flowers in mid summer produces bright yellow star-shaped flowers. The plant’s leaves are succulent, oval and smooth.
The herb can be used as a culinary ingredient or drunk in the form of a tea. When consumed, it has a strong, peppery flavor. The leaves are also sometimes crushed to make extracts that can be applied externally to the skin.
Potential Benefits of Biting Stonecrop
Biting stonecrop gets its common name because of the very strong, peppery flavor as well as its reputation for toxicity. It is not commonly used by herbal practitioners today and even in ancient times, the plant was avoided by healers because of its noted poisonous effects on animals.
Unlike many herbs that have a long tradition of medicinal use, biting stonecrop has only been used since relatively recently for its potential medicinal benefits. Even once it became used medicinally, traditional doctors made sure to warn people of its potential adverse side effects.
There is still a lot we do not know about the chemical contents of the plant with studies into its chemical makeup proving challenging for the experts. Studies done to date have however found the plant is fairly high in tannins, certain alkaloids, rutin and various organic acids.
The interaction of these compounds is believed to be responsible for its potentially dangerous toxicological effects. However, the potency of the plant may be reduced as long as the plant is first dried before use.
Biting stonecrop has been used traditionally to combat a number of conditions. However, there is no scientific evidence regarding its efficacy for any of its traditional uses.
Biting stonecrop may have certain effects against intestinal parasites. During the 16th century, traditional healers started to prescribe the herb to treat parasites finding that the toxic properties of the plant could prove deadly to harmful organisms in the body.
Because of its effects against parasites, healers also used the herb as a natural diuretic to flush toxins from the system and as a natural laxative to help expel waste products from the body. However there is no scientific evidence regarding the use of biting stonecrop as a natural diuretic or treatment for parasites and traditional healers found that consuming excessive amounts of the herb resulted in often painful gastrointestinal side effects including stomach upset and diarrhea.
The plant has also been traditionally used to treat diptheria and ringworm and as a remedy for scurvy because of its vitamin content. Records also indicate that it was used to trigger abortion and a study from 1830 looked at its use as a treatment for epilepsy. (1)
The plant was also used traditionally to help reduce blood pressure and to improve circulation and blood flow but once again, there is no evidence to prove that these benefits exist.
The plant has also been applied topically to treat a range of conditions. It was applied topically to boost blood flow and for pain killing purposes.
According to online sources, it was also used to treat a very wide range of skin complaints. It has been applied topically to treat ulcers, rashes, dermatitis, corns, warts and ulcers. It was even used in the form of a tincture to help relieve hemorrhoids.
Unfortunately, there is no evidence to suggest that the herb can help treat any of these conditions when it is applied topically and we have nothing in the way of safety data to confirm that it is safe for topical use.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is biting stonecrop used for?
Biting stonecrop is no longer recommended as a herbal medicine. There is no scientific evidence that it has any beneficial effects but there are many concerns about its safety especially when taken orally.
Traditionally, biting stonecrop was used to treat a fairly broad range of internal and external conditions but it is very rarely used these days.
Is biting stonecrop safe to use?
Biting stonecrop is likely unsafe for internal use. We have little information regarding the safety of the plant but potential side effects include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and fatigue. When applied to the skin, it may cause blistering or ulceration.
Should I use biting stonecrop?
Given the lack of evidence regarding its effectiveness and the concerns over its safety, you should not use biting stonecrop. If you are planning to use it either internally or externally, please speak to a doctor first.
Precautions and Potential Side Effects
- We have very little modern data regarding the safety of biting stonecrop as a medicinal herb. However, it is believed to be toxic when taken internally especially in large amounts.
- Potential side effects include nausea, vomiting. headaches and fatigue.
- Biting stonecrop is likely unsafe when applied topically. It may cause irritation to the skin and blistering.
- Avoid direct contact with your eyes because it may result in permanent damage.
- Biting stonecrop is a plant that was traditionally used to make medicine.
- it has been used to treat a range of internal illnesses including parasites, ringworm and scurvy.
- it was also used as a natiural laxative and diuretic.
- Tinctures and extracts made from the plant have also been used to treat skin conditions like acne and dermatitis and to treat hemorrhoids.
- There is no scientific evidence regarding the beneficial effects of biting stonecrop.
- There are a number of potential adverse side effects whether the plant is used internally or externally.