Indian sorrel is a small, hairy, annual herb with numerous branches which shoot out from the roots and creep to a length of 12 to 30 cm. It has yellow flowers and cylindrical fruits containing many tiny seeds. The stem of the plant is very thin and smooth leaflets.
The flowers of the plant are sour due to a high content of oxalic acid and potassium oxalate. Indian sorrel is rich in vitamin B1, iron and calcium. Its leaves contain a small amount of cellulose. The leaves are acrid, bitter and mildly astringent. It has a predominantly acid taste. It is advisable to mix the herb with other milder tasting herbs.
Botanical Name: Oxalis corniculata
Indian Name: Amboti ki patti
Below are some of the medicinal properties of Indian sorrel:
- Fresh leaves of the herb are used beneficially in stimulating the stomach and aiding its action. The leaves can also be eaten as an appetizer.
The leaves are useful in mild cases of dysentery and enteritis. They should be boiled in buttermilk and given twice a day. Fresh juice of the leaves, mixed with honey or sugar, is also useful in dysentery.
- The leaves are beneficial in relieving symptoms of fever. An infusion of the leaves can bring temperature down.
- The leaves of the Indian sorrel are antiscorbutic and are useful in the prevention and treatment of scurvy – a deficiency caused by lack of vitamin C. An infusion of the leaves can be taken for this purpose.
- The leaves are effective in certain skin disease like warts, corns and other excrescences of the skin. They can be locally applied in these conditions. The juice of the whole plant mixed with onion is also applied to remove warts. A poultice of the leaves applied over an inflammation relieves pain, and when applied over boils, ripens them. The juice mixed with black pepper and ghee, gives relief from red spots and eruptions on the skin caused by biliousness.
- The juice of the leaves mixed with castor oil is a useful remedy in insomnia. The juice should be mixed in an equal quantity of castor oil and heated to remove the watery content. It should then be cooled and stored in a bottle. When the scalp is massaged with this oil before going to bed, it will induce good sleep and also provide coolness to the eyes.
- Indian sorrel is beneficial in the treatment of jaundice. A tablespoon of fresh juice mixed with buttermilk made of cow's milk can be taken once daily in the treatment of this disease.
- The herb is highly beneficial in the prevention and treatment of eye disorders. A few drops of the leaf juice put into the eyes every day keeps the eyes free from strain and prevents opacity of the cornea and cataract. The leaves are quite effective when applied locally for correcting the opacity of cornea.
- It curbs excessive thirst caused by diabetes or severe heat. The same method of intake as for jaundice can be followed.
As the Indian sorrel contains high concentration of oxalic acid, its use should be avoided by persons suffering from gout, rheumatism and calculi or stone in the urinary tract.