Traditional and Modern Use of Purple Loosestrife

Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) can be used as food and medicine. Below you’ll learn the parts used, harvest time, nutrition and other ways humans use this amazing plant.

Common Name

Purple Loosestrife

Scientific Name

Lythrum salicaria



Botanical Description

Stems erect, 2-4 feet high, slightly branched, glabrous or softly downy; leaves opposite, or in threes, sessile, clasping the stem, lanceolate, entire; flowers reddish-purple or pink, in rather dense whorls, forming handsome terminal spikes, more or less leafy at the base, the upper floral leaves reduced to bracts.


Perennial. Native

Habitat and Distribution

Fens, marsh and river banks.

Purple loosestrife is widely distributed in Europe, North America, Asia, northwest Africa and southeastern Australia.

Parts Used For Food

Flowers and leaves.

Harvest Time


Food Uses

Young leaves eaten in small amounts. There are claims that the root is edible, although this is questionable as I can find no reference in the ethnobotanical record. Note: It is illegal to dig up roots without landowner’s consent.

Nutritional Profile

Contains flavonoids, polyphenols and tannins REF.

Herbal Medicine Uses

Purple loosestrife has been used in traditional (folk) medicine as a treatment for diarrhoea, chronic intestinal catarrh, haemorrhoids, eczema, varicose veins and bleeding of the gums REF.

Other Uses

A red hair dye was once made from the flowers REF. The dye can also be used as a food colouring.


The plant is high in tannins, so moderate use of the edible leaves and shoots is advised.

About The Author

Robin HarfordRobin Harford is a plant-based forager, ethnobotanical researcher, and wild food educator. He is the author of Plantopedia: The Past and Present Uses of Wild Plants.

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  1. Yes. It now do you prepare the flowers for medicinal use. Eat them as they are, how many or grind them down and mix with water. Is there a book to advise on this?

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