Yellow loosestrife (the Latin name Lysimachia vulgaris) is a perennially growing herb that grows up to a height of five feet and produces runners (stolons) from which straight, branched stems emerge. The leaves of this herb are narrow and oval-shaped with pointed ends and they appear in bunches of three or in opposed pairs and rarely have stalks. The flowers of yellow loosestrife are yellowish and bloom during the period between June and September. The flowers appear in clusters atop long stalks from the upper axils of the leaves.
Garden loosestrife or yellow loosestrife was brought from Europe into North America as a decorative plant in the 1900s and has currently naturalized in the lakeshores and wetlands in regions of the Midwest, northeast as well eastern United States as well as Canada. In fact, garden loosestrife has displaced the indigenous vegetation that grows naturally along the banks of streams, in wetlands as well as the shorelines and decreases the habitation needed by fish and waterfowl, counting various important species of salmon.
Bunches of golden yellow flowers of yellow loosestrife are widespread during the summer beside the roads as well as in swamps and addition damp locations across most regions of eastern North America. Although it is said that this species is indigenous to the Old world, it has been integrated in European herbal medication for about 2,000 year or even more. Pedanius Dioscorides, a Greek pharmacologist and medical writer of first century A.D., had documented that the juice extracted from the leaves of yellow loosestrife is given as a drink or an enema (an injection administered in the rectum to encourage bowel movement) as an effectual remedy for people having dysentery or have been vomiting blood. In addition, he also described yellow loosestrife as an herb for treating wounds and a medication to stop hemorrhage, and recommended its use for treating profuse menstrual bleeding as well as nosebleed. When this herb is burnt, it exudes sharp smelling smoke, which Dioscorides stated that would repel snakes as well as eliminate flies.
Roman philosopher, naturalist and author Gaius Plinius Secundus, better known as Pliny (23 A.D. to 79 A.D.) had documented that the Latin name of yellow loosestrife, lysimachia is in honor of King Lysimachus of Sicily, who discovered the therapeutic benefits of the herb. On the other hand, the name 'loosestrife' denotes the plant's reputation to avert conflicts, especially between animals, as well as to keep away insects.
In contemporary times, traditional herbal teas or infusions prepared with the entire dried plant are still prescribed to stop bleeding in the nose and mouth, to facilitate healing of cuts as well as in the form of a gargle for tender throats. A yellowish concentrated extract obtained from the herb is occasionally used in the form of hair bleach.
Being an astringent, yellow loosestrife is basically used to cure gastrointestinal problems, for instance dysentery and diarrhea, to cleanse wounds and cuts as well as to stop internal and external hemorrhages. This herb is also helpful as a mouthwash, especially to heal canker sores and tender gums. In many cases, yellow loosestrife is also used internally as an expectorant.
As mentioned above, yellow loosestrife is an astringent herb, which also possesses expectorant and demulcent (any substance that soothes irritated mucus membranes) properties. The whole plant is harvested between the period June and September when the plant is in bloom and subsequently dried for future use. This herb can be safely used internally as well as externally for controlling bleeding of the mouth, nose, cuts and injuries. In addition, it is effective in restricting any type of hemorrhages. Yellow loosestrife can also be used as an effective mouthwash for curing ulcers in the mouth.
Among the different varieties of lysimachia, Lysimachia vulgaris is known to be the largest. Lysimachia vulgaris is also known by other different names, such as willow wort, willow herb and wood pimpernel. In effect, herbalists have recommended the use of yellow loosestrife as a remedy for profuse menstrual flow and hemorrhage. The fumes that come out when the dried herb is burnt work as an excellent insect repellent. In effect, the growing plant also keeps flies and gnats away and people have also burnt the dried plant in their homes to get rid of these insects. In some regions of the world, the smoke exuded by the burning yellow loosestrife is used by people to keep off snakes. The herb is also reputed to possess sedative or tranquilizing properties and this perhaps elucidates as to why traditional customs advocate the use of yellow loosestrife for preventing conflicts.
It may be mentioned that the term 'loosestrife' denotes taming strife. The herb yellow loosestrife is also employed to prepare a yellow hair dye. A yellow colorant is also obtained from the flowers of the plant, the rhizomes of the herb yields a brown dye.
Yellow loosestrife is indigenous to Europe and is generally found growing beside the roads and in the region of water. In addition, this herb is also cultivated in the form of a garden plant. The herb is harvest in summer when the plant is in full bloom.
Yellow loosestrife can be grown without much difficulty and the plants thrive well in damp or soaked loamy (clay) soil. Although the plant has a preference for shady locales, it succeeds in sun as well as partly shaded positions. Clay soils are most appropriate for the robust growth of yellow loosestrife. This plant has the aptitude to tolerate extreme cold conditions and can survive even in low temperature as -25°C. Majority of the species of this genus appear to be unaffected by invasions by rabbits. Yellow loosestrife is an extremely decorative plant. In Japan and China, the sub-species of yellow loosestrife, L. vulgaris davurica, is used as a foodstuff.
Yellow loosestrife may be propagated by its seed, basal cuttings, root cuttings as well as root division. Ideally, the seeds need to be sown in spring or autumn in a cold frame and when the seedling have grown large enough to be handled, prick them individually and plant them into separate pots indoors. The young plants may be planted into their permanent position in the summer.
Propagation by root division should be done in spring or autumn. It is very simple to propagate the herb in this manner as the larger clumps may be directly replanted in their permanent position outdoors. However, it is advisable that you pot the minor clumps and raise them on in a cold frame till they have rooted properly. They ought to be planted outdoors in the following spring.
Alternately, you may also propagate yellow loosestrife by means of basal cuttings done between March and April and grow them in a cold frame. When the shoots are about 8 cm to 10 cm high over the ground, harvest them with lots of underground stem. Plant these harvested stems in separate pots and position them in slight shade in the greenhouse or a cold frame till they start rooting properly. Plant them outdoors in the following summer.
It is essential to divide the yellow loosestrife plants once in every two to three years during spring or the fall with a view to regulate their growth.
It is also possible to propagate yellow loosestrife by means of root cuttings taken either in spring or summer. It is advisable to cut a vigorous, plump portion of a root into segments of 2 inches each and position them compactly in a superficial flat of potting soil prior to covering them with about half inch of soil. Ensure that the soil remains damp till the time two to three leaves have emerged from the cuttings. Subsequently, you can shift these root cuttings into pots or plant them in your garden provided all threats of frosts have gone by.
It may be noted that yellow loosestrife actually readily produces seeds by itself. Besides, it is very easy to transplant the seedlings of this species. However, the plants will not bear flowers until they are two years old.
In addition, the herb can also be used as a gargle or eyewash. To prepare the gargle or eyewash add half teaspoonful of salt into two cups of steaming water. Subsequently, put in one to two teaspoons of the dried herb or one to two tablespoons of the fresh herb. Allow the mixture to soak for about 10 to 15 minutes and then strain the solution. Use the solution when it is cool. If you want to use the medication as eyewash, it should be kept covered with a view to avert infectivity.
Yellow loosestrife has a propensity to contain rich content of tannins and by itself, this herb should not be used as a medication for prolonged periods, since it may result in deficiency of essential minerals within the body.