Snake weed

Snake weed

Snake weed

Specification & Spread

Snake weed rhizomes — rhizomata bistortae
Snake weed – bistorta major s.f. gray ( = polygonum bistorta l.)
Fresh-coloured snake weed – bistorta carnea (c. Koch) kom. ( = polygonum carneum с. Koch)
Buckwheat family — polygonaceae
Other names: European bistort, serpent grass, jointweed, uneven grass, bistort, maxillopod, snake root, crooked potion, wild buckwheat.
Snake weed
Snake weed is a perennial herbaceous plant is up to 50-80 cm tall with an erect unbranched hollow stem.
The rhizome is thick, serpentine curved, lignescent and with numerous thin adventitious roots.
The bottom sand leaves are with long winged petioles, oblong or oblong-lanceolate, with tubular brown sockets without cilia.
The stem leaves are alternate, oblong with a slightly wavy edge, grey, short-pubescent, bare or slightly pubescent at the bottom and always with sockets.
The flowers are small, pinkish, fragrant, gathered in a dense cylindrical racemose inflorescence.
The perianth is regular, quinquepartite and 3-4 mm long. There are 8 stamens. The pestle is with three stabs.
The fruit is a triangular dark brown shiny nut.
It blooms from late May to July, the fruits ripen in July – August.
Fresh-coloured snake weed
Fresh-coloured snake weed is close to snake weed, differing from it, first of all by a shorter and in some way tuberiform rhizome in shape and lower bracts, usually wide, with an awn coming out of the recess between its elongated edges.
Snake weed is Eurasian species and It is spread from the Far North to the steppe zone in the European part, Siberia and the Far East of Russia.
Fresh-coloured snake weeds is confined to the subalpine and alpine belts of the Caucasus.
Habitat. Snake weed grows in flood plains, grassy marshes, along rivers, ditches, ponds, forest glades, forest edges and among bushes. It often forms thickets convenient for harvesting.


The snake weed rhizomes contain:

  • tannins of the hydrolyzable group, the number of which varies from 8.3 to 36%,
  • phenolic acids and their derivatives (gallic acid, 6-galloyl glucose, 3,6-dihaloyl glucose),
  • catechins (D-catechin, catechin, epicatechin),
  • Ellagic acid, para-coumaric, chlorogenic acid.

The rhizomes are rich in starch (up to 26.5%).

Harvesting and storage of raw materials

Harvesting. The rhizomes are dug with shovels or picks in the summer after the flowering of the plants. It is possible to harvest it in the spring before the start of stitching. The stems and small thin roots are cut. It is washed in water, cut off the rotten parts of rhizomes and slightly dried in air.
Security measures. The rhizomes at the age of 15-30 years are most useful, therefore only the most developed plants are harvested for raw materials. For the resumption of thickets leave one copy for every 2-5 m2. The repeated harvests on the same areas should be carried out no more than once in 8-12 years.
Drying. For drying, the raw materials are laid out in a thin layer and dried in open air in dry weather, and in wet conditions – in warm ventilated rooms or in dryers at temperatures up to 40 ºС.  The defect in the raw material is blackened rhizomes. While slow drying, inside the rhizomes turn brown.
Storage. It is stored In warehouses – in bags, in pharmacies – in boxes, in a dry and well-ventilated area.

Whole raw materials
The rhizomes are firm, serpentine curved, somewhat flattened, with transverse annular thickenings and traces of cut roots. The length of the pieces of rhizomes is 3-10 cm, the thickness is 1.5-2 cm.
The cork color is dark, reddish-brown. The fracture is smooth, pinkish or brownish-pink.
The smell is absent. The taste is very astringent.
Milled raw materials
The pieces of rhizomes of various shapes that are passing through a sieve with 7 mm diameter holes.
The colour is brownish-pink and reddish-brown.
The smell is absent. The taste is very astringent.

Properties and application

The snake weed rhizomes possess:

  • astringent properties
  • and also have a calming effect.

Binding properties while ingesting appear slowly, as the splitting of the active substances under the influence of digestive juices.
When it is externally applied:

  • astringent,
  • anti-inflammatory and
  • hemostatic effect.

Application of snake weed
The snake weed rhizomes are used as:

  • astringent
  • anti-inflammatory and
  • hemostatic agent.

It is used with:

  • acute and chronic bowel disease with diarrhea. In the dental practice, decoction of the rhizomes of the coil is used to rinse the throat or lubricate the gums when
  • stomatitis,
  • gingivitis
  • chronic tonsillitis
  • and other inflammatory diseases of the oral cavity.
  • Pregnancy;
  • pancreatitis;
  • hypersensitivity of the digestive tract;
  • angiocholitis;
  • individual intolerance.

Such preparations do not have a toxic effect, but its prolonged use can cause constipation.