There are several different species of lysimachia (Lythrum salicaria), which is of the Primulae family. The various species are known by a variety of common names, such as willow herb, purple willow herb, long purples, moneywort, rainbows, soldiers, creeping Jenny, and purple and yellow loosestrife. It is also known through out the world as salicaire, braune, and rother. Other common names include flowering Sally and soldanella, trientalis, and alvet. It has no smell but a slightly bitter taste, with astringent properties.
Lysimachia is a perennial found throughout Europe, Russia, central Asia, Australia, and North America. It is an attractive low-growing plant, with a creeping habit, and deep taproots. Some species can grow to about 4 ft (1.2 m) high. It mainly grows in a damp habitat, preferring riversides and swamps. It flowers from June to August. The species known commonly as yellow loosestrife is generally larger than purple loosestrife.
The flowers, which can be either yellow or purple, are very pretty, and are generally about 1 in (2.54 cm) across, arranged in cone shaped clusters. The leaves of the loosestrife species are downy, yellowish, and about 1 in (2.54 cm) long, although in some species they can be 3-6 in (7.62-15.24 cm). The stems are square and hairy.
All species of lysimachia are commonly used as an ornamental plant. They prefer shade, but all grow and multiply readily. Purple loosestrife is so successful, that in parts of the United States, it has been declared a danger to wetlands, as it tends to quickly dominate and force out other species of local flora.
Loosestrife was once widely used as a medicinal herb, but it has become less popular in modern times. The different species have various medicinal uses.
Lysimachia vulgaris is the largest of the lysimachia varieties, and is also known as willow herb, willow wort, and wood pimpernel. Its yellow flowers have red stems. Yellow loosestrife has been recommended as an antidote to hemorrhage and excess menstruation. The smoke created by burning the plant can be used as an insect repellent. In other parts of the world, its smoke is also used to keep snakes away. It is also credited with having a sedative effect, which may explain why some folk customs recommend its use for banishing discord. Looses-trife
The whole herb, in common with other species of lysimachia, is said to have astringent and demulcent properties. Herbalists say that it is unusual to find both these properties in any one herb.
Purple loosestrife has been used as a lymphatic cleanser. Many of its other properties are similar to those attributed to other species. It may be particularly valuable as a remedy for many of today's gastrointestinal (GI) tract diseases, such as Crohn's disease, irritable bowel syndrome, leaky gut syndrome, and others, as it is an effective cure for diarrhea and is also an effective anti-inflammatory, with healing properties.
It also has properties that enable it to lower blood-glucose levels, so it is valuable as an adjunct to diabetes treatment.
Creeping jenny (Lysimachia numularia) is one of the smaller species of lysimachia, reaching only about 4 in (10.16 cm) in height. It is also known as moneywort, herb tuppence, string of sovereigns, wandering jenny, wandering sally, creeping charlie, and creeping john. Its leaves are smooth, and it is a leafy trailing plant. The stems may grow to about 4 ft (1.2 m) long. It has small bright yellow flowers that will last all summer if conditions are right.
Like yellow and purple loosestrife, it is known as a deterrent to vermin and insects when burned. In common folklore, it symbolizes peace.
It may be used as a decoction, ointment, or as a poultice for infected wounds.
The various species of lysimachia are common to the British Isles, and are well known to folk medicine. In Irish folklore, lysimachia was known as lus na s'iochana, earball cait'in, and cr'eachtach. It was believed that its use would discourage bad feeling and discord between the inhabitants of a house. They also used it as a dye and as a medicinal tonic.
It is an effective antidote to diarrhea and has also been used effectively to counter outbreaks of dysentery in Switzerland. It is said to be particularly suitable for treating diarrhea in infants. Other medicinal uses include leucorrhea, tuberculosis, fevers, liver disease, and even cholera and typhoid. It can also be used as an antiseptic, healing wash for wounds and sores. Made up into an ointment, it is said to be useful for fading scars.
Lysimachia has a reputation for healing eye ailments, and is said to be able to restore sight in certain conditions. Some practitioners say it is superior to eyebright for these purposes. It is recommended as a treatment for macular degeneration.
It can also be used as an antiseptic gargle to cure throat infections and is said to be good for quinsy, which is an infected and very painful throat condition. Loosestrife has astringent properties, and has been used in the leather tanning process.
It is said to be useful for the treatment of whooping cough when boiled with wine or honey.
The dried herb may be used as an infusion or decoction. Generally, the whole herb is used. It used to be commonly made up into an ointment for the treatment of cuts and bruises.
To make a useful gargle or eyewash, mix half a teaspoon of salt into two cups of boiling water, adding 1-2 tsp of the dried herb or 1-2 tbsp if fresh. Let the mixture steep for 10–15 minutes, and use when cool. The mixture should be kept covered if used as an eyewash, to avoid contamination.
Purple loosestrife may be taken up to three times daily for short periods.
Lysimachia tends to have a high tannin content, and as such should not be used as a remedy over long periods of time, as it may lead to deficiencies in valuable minerals.
Lysimachia is not known for its toxicity, and no records of any interaction have been found.
Culpeper, Nicholas Complete Herbal. London: Bloomsbury Books, 1985.
Grieve, Mrs M. F.R.H.S. A Modern Herbal. Great Britain: Tiger Books, 1992.