The University Gardens
Historical plants of Bergen

Bistorta officinalis (bistort)

An ancient medicinal herb that occasionally establishes in the wild.

Bistorta officinalis
Bjørn Moe, UiB

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Bistort was cultivated as a medicinal herb in the Middle Ages. In Bergen, pollen of the genus Bistorta has been found in deposits from the period 1250–1400, and the species is found naturalised around the city, including at Milde.

The root has been used as a stimulant and to stop bleeding and diarrhea. It was also considered a remedy for snake bites, as documented in a medicinal book from Ulvik (from 1574 and 1626) in which is written "drager ederen til sig aff saaret“. From the philosophy of the time it might be supposed that because the root looks like a bulging snake it should act against its venom.

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