Milkwort plant - Polygala Vulgaris (Polygalaceae)

Medicinal Use of Milkwort – Polygala Vulgaris (Polygalaceae)


Short perennial with pointed lance-shaped leaves and spikes of small blue, mauve, or white flowers.

Habitat & Cultivation

Milkwort is common in grassy and moorland areas in much of western and northern Europe. It is gathered from the wild when the plant is in flower in summer.

Parts Used

Aerial parts, root.


Milkwort contains triterpenoid saponins, a volatile oil, gaultherin, and mucilage.

History & Folklore

Milkwort has been most often used to treat chest problems such as pleurisy and dry coughs. In larger doses, the plant acts as an emetic. In his Irish Herbal (1735), K’Eogh states that “it has a hot dry nature, and it encourages the production of milk in nursing mothers.”

Medicinal Actions & Uses

While milkwort is infrequently used in European herbal medicine today, it—like Seneca snakeroot (P. senega)—is a valuable herb for the treatment of respiratory troubles such as chronic bronchitis, bronchial asthma, and convulsive coughs, including whooping cough. Milkwort is also thought to have sweat-inducing and diuretic properties.