Specification & Spread

Horse sorrel roots — radices rumicis conferti
Horse sorrel — rumex confertus willd.
Buckwheat family — polygonaceae.

It is a perennial herbaceous plant up to 150 cm tall.
The rhizome is short, thick, polycephalous, with a strong, slightly branched taproot.
The stems are erect, often solitary, naked, grooved and branched at the top.
The leaves are alternate and rosette. The lower stem is oblong-triangular-ovate with a heart-shaped base, obtuse, wavy along the edge, up to 25 cm long and 12-13 cm wide. The upper one is smaller and ovate-lanceolate. All leaves are petiolate, the upper are on short petioles. At the base of the petioles, the reddish membranous sockets are formed, covering the stem. The leaves below, especially along the veins, are shortly pubescent.
The flowers are small, greenish, with a simple hexamerous perianth, collected in small whorls in a narrow-cylindrical, long and dense, almost leafless paniculate inflorescence. The tepals are rounded-heart-shaped.
The fruit is a trihedral, ovoid, brown nut 4-5 mm long, enclosed in three overgrown inner tepals, one of it on the back with a large bile.

It blooms in May – June. The fruits ripen in July – September.

Spreading. It grows throughout the European part of the country (except for the northern regions), in Siberia, less often in the Caucasus, in Kazakhstan and in the Far East of Russia. The main areas of the raw material harvesting on an industrial scale are some regions of Ukraine, Bashkiria (Russia), East Kazakhstan (floodplain of the Irtysh River).

Habitat. It grows in forest and forest-steppe zones along the banks of rivers, along the edges of forest roads, in forest glades, meadows, and in weedy places. It loves wet places.


Horse sorrel roots contain:

  • up to 4% anthracene derivatives, which include:
  • chrysophanol and
  • frangulaemodin;
  • 8-12% tannins;
  • flavonoids – catechins and leukoanthocyanidins, which in experiments on animals showed antitumor effect.

Harvesting and storage of raw materials

Harvesting. The roots of horse sorrel are harvested in August – September, at the beginning of the withering of the above-ground part, or in early spring, during the period of regrowth of the plant, digging it with shovels. The raw material is washed in cold water, freed from lignified and damaged parts, cut into pieces up to 10 cm in size and stained in air for several days.

Security measures. Only large plants are subject to harvesting. To preserve the thickets, young specimens are left; in the same place, harvesting is carried out no more often than in 3-5 years.

Drying. It is dried in dry in attics with good ventilation or under sheds, spreading out a layer of 3-5 cm, occasionally turning over. The heat drying is allowed at a temperature of 50-60 ºС.

Storage. It is packaged in a dry, well-ventilated area, protected from light (raw material darkens under the influence of light).

External signs of raw materials

These are solid or longitudinally wrinkled roots cut from 3 to 10 cm long, 2-10 cm thick, partly curved, dark brown on the outside, yellowish or greyish-brown at the fracture.
The break is uneven. The smell is peculiar, the taste is bitter and astringent.


The harvesting  of other types of sorrel is not allowed. It is distinguished by the lower leaves, inflorescences and the number (or lack thereof) of galluses on the inner tepals.

Curled sorrel (Rumex crispus L.) has oblong-lanceolate leaves, sphenoid at the base, wavy along the edge; the inflorescence is sparse and leafy; there are 1-3 galls.
Thyrsus sorrel (Rumex thyrsiflorus Fingerh.) has swept leaves at the base; pyramidal inflorescence; no galls.
Long-leaved sorrel (Rumex longifolius DC.) has oblong-ovate leaves, rounded at the base or slightly cordate. The inflorescence is dense and narrow-leaved with few leaves at the base; no galls.
Rumex pseudonatronatus (Rumex pseudonatronatus (Borb.) Borb. ex Murb.) has lanceolate or linear-lanceolate leaves and wedge-shaped at base; the inflorescence is narrow; no galls.
Pond dock (Rumex aquaticus L.) has oblong-ovate leaves, weakly cordate at base, naked from below. The inflorescence is narrow-leaved, with several leaves at the base; no galls.
Rumex stenophyllus (Rumex stenophyllus Ledeb.) has oblong-lanceolate leaves, wedge-shaped or rounded at base; the inner tepals on sides are with sharp uneven teeth; there are 3 galls.
Rumex hydrolapathum (Rumex hydrolapathum Huds.) has broadly lanceolate, wedge-shaped leaves at base; the inflorescence is sprawling and leafy; there are 3 galls.

In horse sorrel, the lower leaves are triangular-ovate, deeply cordate at the base; the inner tepals are with fruits with one (!) chewing gum.

Properties and application

The pharmacological properties and application of sorrel

Anthracene derivatives have:

  • laxative effect and
  • increase intestinal peristalsis, tannins have:
  • astringent
  • anti-inflammatory and
  • antithobic effect.

The roots of horse sorrel in the form of a decoction, depending on the dose have:

  • laxative or
  • astringent action.


Sorrel preparations are contraindicated in diseases of the kidneys, pregnant women and women during lactation, as well as children and people with individual intolerance