Spiny restharrow or bugrane, stay plough, wild liquorice, and stinking tommy, botanically referred to as ononis spinosa, is a flowering shrub native to Europe. The plant occurs mostly on roadsides, forests and dry meadows.
[Note: The Right Flowers is not a medical site. Knowledge of and information about the therapeutic benefits and applications of flowers, while known through the ages, does not constitute medical advice. If you are having health issues, you should consult with a physician.]
Spiny restharrow’s genus, ononis, is derived from a Greek word, ono, meaning donkey. The genus is so named due to the nasty odor given off by the young leaves of plants in this family. The word spinosa is derived from the herb’s spiny branches. Another school of thought led by a Spanish botanist and doctor, Andres Laguna, claims that the plant’s genus name is borrowed from a Greek word meaning donkey because these members of the horse family love using the plant to scratch their itchy skin and feeding on it. There are also those who hold that the plant was named restharrow or stay plough due to the ability of its roots to hold on animal-driven plows.
Spiny restharrow blooms from June and September, bringing forth purple-pinkish flowers that are either in pairs or single. The flowers are pollinated by bees, making the plant great for attracting and sustaining wildlife.
Wild liquorice blossoms have a sticky feel when touched due to the presence of the essential oils including menthol, carvone anethole and transanethole enclosed in tiny glands that can only be seen with the help of a magnifying glass. Apart from the essential oils, spiny restharrow has citric acid, salicylic acid, ferulic acid, and gallic acid. The flowers, leaves and roots of the plant are aperient, antitussive, diuretic and lithontripic. They also contain sufficient levels of sterols, triterpenes, and isoflavones.
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Spiny restharrow flowers and leaves are mainly used to treat people with fluid retention problems as they have diuretic effects. Curiously, the roots have a fixed oil that is anti-diuretic.
To make a diuretic solution, you put about ¼ cup of dried flowers or 1 cup of fresh flowers in a pan containing 4 cups of water and bring it to a boil. Once it boils, allow the mixture to steep for 10-15 minutes while stirring it. Strain out the flowers and allow the infused solution to cool down before use.
Apart from being an effective diuretic, spiny restharrow is great for skin toning and treating skin problems. In addition, it works effectively for alleviating bladder, kidney, muscle pain, and joint problems while its antitussive properties make it ideal for relieving coughs.
While the advancement of farming technology has eliminated the possibility of spiny restharrow entangling plows, the plant has not fallen out of favor as a great medicinal shrub.