The name Bistort is from the Latin bis meaning ‘twice’ and torta, ‘twisted’ because of its twisted, creeping nature. Bistort is native to northern Europe, Siberia, western Asia and Japan.


Other common names: Adderwort, Patience Dock, Snakeweed, Dragonwort, Easter Giant, Red Legs, Sweet Dock, English Serpentary, Twice Writhen, Easter Mangiant, Knotweed, Snake Root

Bistort is said to contain tannin, and lot of starch. It also contains some gallic acid and gum. Bistort grows in Europe and the Rocky Mountains.

American bistort (polygonum bistortoides) is an important source of food used by American Indians living in the mountain west. Its roots are edible either raw or fire roasted. Its flavor is similar to chestnuts.

In the past, Bistort was used to treat stomach disorders such as dysentery, diarrhea and as to reduce menstrual bleeding. Herbalists may suggest this herb for people who suffer from diarrhea, hemorrhoids, water retention or edema.

Using Bistort as an Herb for Medicinal Uses

Bistort root tincture, when ground and mixed with echinacea, myrrh, and goldenseal, has developed a great reputation as a remedy for wounds.

Bistort is also a powerful astringent – one of the strongest astringent medicines in the vegetable kingdom – used by mixing a teaspoon in a cup of boiled water, and drunk several times a day, as a treatment for diarrhea and dysentery.

The same mixture can be used as a gargle for sore throats. Bistort is used with other herbs to rid the body of infectious disease, and is effective for stopping all internal and external bleeding. The leaves are high in vitamins A and C.

Bistort root may be used to advantage for all bleedings, whether external or internal and wherever astringency is required. Although its use has greatly been superseded by other astringents of foreign origin, it is of proved excellence in diarrhea, dysentery, cholera and all bowel complaints and in hemorrhages from the lungs and stomach, and is a most effectual remedy for bleeding from the nose and exceedingly useful in dealing with hemorrhoids.

Bistort is used as a medicine, injection and gargle and in mucous discharges. The root was also employed externally as a poultice.

The powdered leaves were employed to kill worms in children.

Hemorrhoid Treatment

  • 1/2 ounce marshmallow root powder
  • 1/2 ounce bistort root powder
  • 1/2 ounce cranesbill root powder

Mix the powders thoroughly and then form into a stiff paste with treacle. Preserve in a jar and take a small quantity (about the size of a bean) three times a day. When constipation is present, 1/4 ounce turkey rhubarb powder may be added to the other powdered roots. For the blind piles, 1/2 ounce Barberry bark should be added.

Pile Ointment should be applied at the same time, made as follows: 1/2 ounce bistort root, 1/2 ounce cranesbill herb, cut up fine.

Simmer gently for an hour with 2 ounces lard and 2 ounces mutton suet. Strain through a coarse cloth and squeeze out as much strength as possible. Add 1 ounce Olive oil and mix well. Allow to cool gradually. This is equally good for chapped hands, sore lips, etc.

Decoction for Piles

1 ounce marshmallow root, 1 ounce bistort root, 1 ounce comfrey root, 1 ounce White Poplar bark, 1 ounce Cranesbill, 1 ounce yarrow, drachms each cloves and cinnamon.

Bruise the roots, add 2 quarts of water and boil 20 minutes, then add the herbs, cloves and cinnamon and boil 10 minutes longer. Strain and sweeten with brown sugar. Dose: A wineglassful four times a day. (Medical Herbalist)

Compound Bistort Wash

1 drachm Tincture of bistort, 1/2 ounce bayberry powder.

Infuse the powder in 8 ounces of boiling water let it remain until cold, strain the liquid off clear, add the tincture and use freely morning, noon and night. In inflamed mucous discharges from the ears, nose, vagina, urethra or any other part, this wash is exceedingly useful. (National Botanic Pharmacopoeia)

Culinary Uses of Bistort


Seeds of bistort herb are dried and used in ground flour to make bread. They are also roasted and eaten as cracked grain.

Herb Pudding is still eaten in Cumberland and Westmorland. Bistort is a very wholesome dish and was welcomed most in the month of May, when ordinary green vegetables were scarce.

In Lancashire and Cumberland, the leaves and young shoots were eaten as a green vegetable under the name of Patience Dock and Passions.

The roots of bistort contain much starch, and after being steeped in water and subsequently roasted have been largely consumed in Russia, Siberia and Iceland in time of scarcity and are said after such preparation to be nutritious and a useful article of food.

Leaves and young shoots were widely used in the spring as a vegetable, and still in the north of England as an ingredient in Herb Pudding, under the name of Easter-mangiant…here’s a recipe.

Bistort Herb Pudding Recipe

Allow about 1-1/2 pound of Bistort to 1 pound of Nettles. A few leaves of Black Currant and Yellow Dock may be added and a sprig of parsley. Wash the vegetables thoroughly (in salt and water in the last rinsing), then chop them fairly fine. Place them in a bowl and mix in about a teacupful of barley (washed and soaked), half a teacupful of oatmeal, salt and pepper to flavor, and if liked, a bunch of chives mixed.

Boil the whole in a bag for about 2-1/2 hours, to allow the barley to get thoroughly cooked. The bag should be tied firmly, for while the greens shrink, the barley swells. Turn out into a very hot bowl, add a lump of butter and a beaten egg: the heat of the turned-out pudding is sufficient to cook the egg.

Folklore & Magical

Magical Properties: Psychic powers, fertility. Bistort is a feminine plant associated with Saturn and the element of earth.

Magical Uses: Burn bistort with frankincense to improve psychic powers. Carry it with you if you wish to conceive; use in sachets and incenses for this purpose.


Excessive use of Bistort (many times the recommended dosage) is not recommended because of the herb’s high tannin content, and longterm use of highly astringent herbs (two-three weeks at a time) is not recommended. There has been little clinical research into Bistort, but there have been reports of nausea and stomach upset and possible liver toxicity with overuse.

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