Purple Loosestrife

Lythrum salicaria

Herbs gallery - Purple Loosestrife

Common names

  • Purple Loosestrife
  • Rainbow weed
  • Spiked Loosestrife

Purple loosestrife (botanical name, Lythrum salicaria) is a perpetual herb that grows up to a height of five feet. The stem of this herb is square-like, while the leaves are slender and lance-shaped, which appear either in pairs or vortexes of three. The color of purple loosestrife flowers, which bloom between June and September, vary from rose to profound purple. Each flower of this species has four to six petals that appear at the top of extended spikes. Grown up or established plants each may have anything between 30 to 50 stems that grow from a solitary rootstock.

In fact, the flowers of purple loosestrife are so attractive that motorists usually take delight in seeing them from their cars. In summer, the expansive bright patches of purple loosestrife having long, ostentatious flashy flowers whose hue varies between rose to profound purple, which gives it the common name rainbow weed, can be seen from the roads as well as highways close to the banks of rivers, in damp grasslands as well as other swampy regions in the states along the Atlantic Coast as to the extreme farther till Minnesota.

Charles Darwin as well as several other naturalists as well as botanists have found purple loosestrife to be among the most remarkable plants growing in the wild. This herb bears three dissimilar types of flowers; however, only one form of the flower is borne on any one plant of the species.

Since the ancient times, man has been aware of purple loosestrife and used it for different purposes. For instance, the Greeks believed that hanging garlands wreathed with the flowers of this herb around the neck of oxen provided encouragement to the team to cultivate or till a field in concord. In addition, they prepared a hair dye with the plant and also burnt the plants to repel pests and insects. Since purple loosestrife has rich tannin content, later herbalists used the plant for its astringent qualities in the form of eyewash. This herb was also used to treat diarrhea. The Greeks also used purple loosestrife to stop bleeding - a use of the herb which is explained by its botanical name Lythrum, which has been derived from a Greek term which translated into English, literally denoted 'gore'.

Parts used

Aerial parts.


Lythrum salicaria or purple loosestrife is primarily cultivated for its therapeutic uses. Similarly, beekeepers also grow this herb since the flowers of purple loosestrife produce sufficient nectar. Once upon a time, the leaves of purple loosestrife were employed to cure ulcers, wounds and lesions.

Since purple loosestrife possesses astringent properties, it is basically used to treat dysentery and diarrhea. In fact, this herb may be safely used by people of any age and there are a number of herbal medicine practitioners who advocate the use of purple loosestrife to stop diarrhea in babies who are being breast-fed. In addition, this herb may also be employed to cure profuse menstrual bleeding as well as for inter-menstrual hemorrhages. It is also applied externally in the form of a poultice or salve to wounds, eczema, leg ulcers and even to cure too much vaginal discharge plus vaginal itchiness. Although people seldom use purple loosestrife as eyewash these days, experiences of the English botanist, herbalist, physician, and astrologer Nicholas Culpeper hints that this herb might be of importance for more research and investigation as a remedy for eyes as well as vision.

Used along with other species of lysimachia, the entire purple loosestrife plant is believed to possess astringent as well as demulcent (any medicine or substance that causes soothing) attributes. According to herbalists, it is very atypical for any herb to possess these two properties together.

Herbalists have often employed purple loosestrife for cleansing the lymph. Many other attributes of this herb are analogous to those possessed by other species. This herb may especially be effectual for treating several of the contemporary diseases of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, for instance irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn's disease, leaky gut syndrome and many others, since purple loosestrife is a helpful remedy for diarrhea. In addition, it possesses healing properties and has an anti-inflammatory effect.

Besides the attributes discussed above, purple loosestrife also possesses properties that facilitate in lowering blood glucose levels and, hence, the herb is very useful in the form of an add-on in treating diabetes. Purple loosestrife has also been employed in the form of an astringent herb to cure dysentery. As mentioned earlier, this herb is considered to be safe for internal use by people of all age groups, counting infants.

In addition to its therapeutic uses, purple loosestrife is also grown as an ornamental garden plant. The flowers of this plant are attractive and several cultivars of this species have been chosen for distinction in the color of their flowers. For instance, the cultivar 'Atropurpureum' bears deep purple flowers, while the blooms of 'Brightness' deep pink in hue. Another cultivar 'Happy' produces red flowers that emerge on short (approximately 60 cm) stems, 'Roseum Superbum' has big pink flowers and 'Purple Spires' bears purple flowers that grow on a long stem. Although native to Europe, bee keepers have introduced purple loosestrife in several regions of North America, since this plant not only produces a profusion of flowers, but they also yield substantial nectar.

Habitat and cultivation

Purple loosestrife is indigenous to Europe, but has been naturalized in the wild in various regions of North America. Purple loosestrife grows well on swampy land along river banks and even at altitudes of 3,300 feet (1000 meters). This herb is harvested in summer when the plants are in bloom.

The most favourable habitat of purple loosestrife comprises banks of streams, swamps, sedge meadows, alluvial flood plains as well as damp prairies. This herb has the aptitude to endure damp soil as well as shallow water locations, for instance meadows and pastures, while plants that are mature and established are able to endure more arid conditions. In addition, people also grow purple loosestrife in their gardens and lawns and this has more frequently led to the introduction of the plant to several lakes, rivers and wetlands in North America.

Purple loosestrife has the ability to fruitfully germinate on substrates having an assortment of pH. The optimum or most favourable substrates for the growth of the plant includes damps soils having neutral to somewhat acidic pH, but it has the aptitude to survive on a variety of soil conditions. Generally, the seedlings of purple loosestrife are transplanted to the permanent positions during the later part of spring and early summer when the warmth is good.


Purple loosestrife encloses a glycoside (vitexin), salicarin, tannins, mucilage, a volatile oil, and plant sterols.

How it works in the body

Chemical analysis of purple loosestrife has revealed that this herb encloses astringent chemical substances known as salicarin and tannin. These astringents have dehydrating results. The astringents enclosed by purple loosestrife may have the aptitude to facilitate in lessening inflammation and diarrhea. In addition, salicarin is especially helpful in combating bacteria in the intestine.


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