Purple Loosestrife (lythrum salicaria)

Purple Loosestrife is a hardy perennial that grows to about 2 m (6.6 ft).  It has tall stems with many small leaves and small purple-red starry flowers along stem, a very striking plant.  Its name comes from the Greek “inthron”, meaning “blood” (referring to the colour of the flowers).  Its name may also come from the Greek “lythrum” meaning “gore” and may refer to the plant’s ability to stop bleeding.  Purple Loosestrife is also known as Red Sally and Long Purples.

Where to Find Purple Loosestrife

In the wild, Purple Loosestrife is found along the margins of rivers, canals, lakes and ponds. It also likes boggy ground.

Wildlife Value of Purple Loosestrife

Purple Loosestrife is ver popular with butterflies and bees.  The caterpillars of the Emperor and Small Elephant Hawk Moths feed on the leaves.  It is also the food plant of the Powdered Quake moth.  A mature plant can have as many as 30 flowering stems producing  2 – 3 million seeds per annum.

Medicinal Value of Purple Loosestrife

*This is not a prescription for use. Always consult a qualified herbalist before using, especially if pregnant or you have underlying health issues*

Purple Loosestrife’s high tannin content led to it being used as an alternative to oak bark for tanning leather.  It also makes a strong anti-bacterial and is useful in cases of diarrhoea and mild food poisoning.  It also stops bleeding and is alleged to brighten eyes, preserve eyesight and sooth sore eyes..  Used to treat cholera in the nineteenth century.  Red dye obtained from the flowers has been used in sweets.  Tannin from the roots is used to preserve fishing nets in some countries.  The whole plant can be made into a gargle for sore throat.  Medieval herbalists believed the plant to be good for external bleeding, bad menstruation and nosebleeds.  It has been used to sooth ill-behaved animals and for repelling flies and gnats.  Purple Loosestrife can also make an ointment for ulcers and sores. 

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