Tormentil is a small growing herb that produces numerous branches. The leaves of this herb have very thin hair and have radiating divisions. They are digitately divided into four or five leaflets having toothed margins. These leaflets appear directly from the stems as the plant does not have leaf stalks. The flowers of tormentil appear solitarily and are comparatively small and have a yellow hue. Tormentil flowers have a marked difference from the flowers produced by all other Potentilla species as well as most other Rosaceae species, as they have four petals instead of the regular five petals in the flowers borne by other plants of the species.
Tormentil is low, clumb-forming plant having slender, lying on the ground to curved upright stalks and growing up to 10 cm to 30 cm in height. The plant has non-rooting runners. This herbaceous plant is found growing throughout Asia as well as northern Europe, usually in a wide diversity of locales, including meadows, clearings, dunes and sandy soils.
The tormentil plant is in bloom during the period between May and August/ September. One plant produces a solitary flower, which is 7 mm to 11 mm wide, yellow in color and grows at the apex of a long stalk. Each flower generally has four indented petals, each of them growing to a length of 3 mm and 6 mm. In effect, four petals is something uncommon in flowers of the Rosaceae species or rose family. The yellow petals of the flowers are slightly longer compared to the sepals. Each flower contains around 20 to 25 stamens. The leaves of the plant are glossy and pinnately compound (having leaflets arranged on both sides of a common stalk). The stipules resemble leaves and are palmately lobed.
This herb is a very ordinary plant that is found growing in abundance in the meadows and on hills. Tormentil can be distinguished by the small yellow flowers borne by it. The roots of the plants are rhizome-like and are used for medicinal purpose. These rhizomes are dug up in summer or early part of autumn.
In Irish, the herb tormentil is known as Néalfartach. The Irish name of the plant has been derived from two Irish words - ‘Neal' denoting depression or gloom, while ‘Fartach' means injury or hurt. In Co Cork, the plant is known as ‘Lus an Chodlata', denoting a ‘herb for sleep' and ‘Neal Codladh' denoting snooze or wink of sleep which indicates that this herb was once used to promote rest and induce sleep.
Long back, there was a time when people boiled the roots of tormentil in milk and used the mixture to cure diarrhea. Tormentil is also a beneficial herb for treating some problems endured by cattle. Peasants in Kilkenny County in Ireland used this herb to treat scour in cattle. Decoctions prepared with this herb were also used to cure foot rot in sheep.
The herb tormentil possesses rich tannin content and the tannins hold or bind the proteins together. Owing to this attribute of the plant, tormentil is a suitable herbal medication for treating all types of diarrhea caused by inflammations or infections as well as for providing relief from enteritis and gastritis. The rhizome of the plant possesses antiseptic properties. Tormentil is a valuable herbal remedy for severe cases of burns. The rich tannin content in tormentil helps to form a protective antiseptic shield which temporarily protects the flesh from any type of infection.
Decoctions prepared with the tormentil root are used as a gargle to cure sore gums, mouth ulcers as well as to bind loose teeth together. While an exceptionally potent decoction was used to cure piles, a poor decoction is good for treating conjunctivitis. Long back, people in Ireland prepared a calming mixture by blending tormentil with St. John's wort. This mixture was given to treat insomnia and induce sleep.
The sliced and dried rhizomes, with the roots removed.
The herb tormentil is used to treat a number of health conditions, especially those related to the gastro-enteric tract. Medications prepared with this herb are taken orally to treat dysentery, diarrhea, gastroenteritis and enterocolitis (inflammation of the colon and small intestine). In addition, tormentil is used as a gargle or to wash the inflammation of the mucus membranes in the mouth and throat. This herb is also applied externally to cure sores, wounds and different skin complaints.
The rhizome-like root of the tormentil herb is chubby. A salve prepared with the dehydrated rhizome of tormentil plant has been traditionally used as a medication to cure several ailments, including stopping hemorrhages or treating diarrhea. At the same time, the lotion is also used as a food during emergencies and also to dye leather red.
In herbal medicine, the tormentil plant is especially used as an astringent owing to its rich tannin content, which is exceptionally high for any type of herbaceous plant. In effect, this is related to the herb's use as a red dye, which is mainly attributed to its structurally similar phlobaphene content.
In herbal medicine, tormentil is known to be a safe and helpful astringent medication, especially pertinent to the gut wall, and is used to cure severe or nervous diarrhea, enteric irritation and/ or for providing relief from the symptoms of ulcerative and mucus colitis (inflammation of the colon). Using tormentil helps to prevent worsening of gastritis and peptic ulceration owing to consumption of food.
As aforementioned, tormentil is an extremely useful astringent gargle for treating the inflammation of the mucus membranes in the mouth and throat. In addition, this herb is also effective in treating conditions, such as pharyngitis (inflammation of the mucus membranes of the pharynx), laryngitis (inflammation of the larynx), mouth ulcers and bleeding gums. The lotion prepared with the dried rhizomes of the tormentil helps in alleviating hermorrhoids and a douche prepared with the dried rhizomes of the herb may be applied to treat infections of the vagina. Whether this herb it used in the form of a lotion, ointment, poultice or compress, it helps to hasten the healing of cuts, wounds and pus emitting sores. In effect, a weak decoction prepared with the tormentil rhizome is effective for treating conjunctivitis. It is believed that the red pigment enclosed by the herb's rhizome possesses extraordinary attraction for bacteria. This red dye slows down the growth of bacteria much in the same manner as the aniline dyes are known to do.
Habitat and cultivation
Tormentil is indigenous to central and eastern regions of Europe. The herb is basically wild-harvested, especially in Eastern Europe.
Chemical analysis of the rhizome of tormentil has shown that it encloses great quantities of tannins, almost up to 22 per cent, chiefly of the catechol type. It also contains non-hydrolysable tannin in the form of oligomeric proanthocyanidins, which constitutes around 20 per cent of the chemicals in the herb. While agrimoniin is the primary hydrolysable tannin found in tormentil, the tormentil rhizome also encloses catechol gallates and ellagitannins. In addition to these, tormentil rhizome also contains tormentoside, a triterpene saponin called glucoside of tormentillic acid.
The herb tormentil may be taken in the form of an infusion or even in its tincture form. An infusion of the herb is made by adding two to three grams of dried rhizome of the plant in a cup of boiling water. Take one cup of the infusion twice or thrice every day between meals to cure diarrhea and other associated problems. In addition to drinking it, the infusion prepared with dried rhizome of tormentil may also be applied topically.
The tincture of tormentil may be watered down by adding 10 to 20 drops in a glass of water to clean the mouth and throat. It may be noted that tormentil forms an important ingredient in a number of stomachic, anti-diarrheal preparations and mouth sprays available commercially.
The herb tormentil may be used independently or combined with hamamelis (witch hazel) water to prepare a lotion meant for treating hemorrhoids. In addition, this herb also mixes excellently with Acacia and is used to treat diarrhea. Combining tormentil with soothing herbs, for instance, plantago (plantain) or althaea (marshmallow), is given to alleviate inflammation of the gut.