Evergreen, insectivorous perennial growing to 6 in (15 cm). Has small white flowers. The hinged, spoon-shaped leaves edged with spines secrete a sticky fluid (“sundew”), which traps insects. They are digested when the leaf closes.
Habitat & Cultivation
Sundew grows in Europe, Asia, and North America, and is found in marshy ground at altitudes up to 5,900 ft (1,800 m). Formerly it was picked while in flower in summer. As it is now rare, it should not be gathered from the wild.
Sundew contains naphthaquinones, enzymes, flavonoids, and volatile oil. The naphthaquinones are antimicrobial, antispasmodic, and also cough-suppressing.
History & Folklore
In the 16th and 17th centuries, sundew was thought to be a remedy for melancholy. In his Irish Herbal (1735), K’Eogh advised using sundew to “eat away rotten sores.”
Medicinal Actions & Uses
Sundew is of greatest value in the treatment of spasmodic chest conditions such as whooping cough, bronchial asthma, and asthma. In relaxing the muscles of the respiratory tract, the plant eases breathing, relieves wheezing, and lessens the spasms of whooping cough. Commonly mixed with thyme in a syrup, sundew is a helpful remedy for coughs in children. The herb is also prescribed for gastric problems.