Bitter-Root (Lewisia rediviva)

Perennial
L. alba.
Common Name Latin Name Plant Family
Bitter-Root
Lewisia rediviva
Portulacaceae

None known

  • Medicinal Use

    The root is cardiac and galactogogue[257]. An infusion of the root has been used to increase the milk flow in nursing mothers, to relieve heart pain and the pain of pleurisy and also as a blood purifier[257]. The root has been eaten raw to counteract the effects of poison ivy rash and as a treatment for diabetes[257]. The pounded dry root has been chewed in the treatment of sore throats[257]. A poultice of the raw roots has been applied to sores[257].

  • Edible Use

    Root – cooked[2, 4, 94, 161]. The root was a staple food of some native North American Indian tribes[257]. It is said to be extremely nutritious, 50 – 80 grams being sufficient to sustain an active person for a day[4, 207]. The root is, however, rather small and tedious to collect in quantity[207]. It is easiest to use when the plant is in flower in the spring, because the outer layer of the root (which is very bitter) slips off easily at this time of the year[85, 95]. Whilst being boiled the roots become soft and swollen and exude a pink mucilaginous substance[183]. The root swells to about 6 times its size and resembles a jelly-like substance[105]. The root has a good taste though a decided bitter flavour develops afterwards[85]. If the root is stored for a year or two the bitterness is somewhat reduced[183]. The root can also be dried, ground into a powder and used as a mush or a thickener in soups etc[212, 257].

  • Cautionary Notes

    None known

Cultivation & Habitat

Seed – best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame in a very freely draining soil[129]. Sow stored seed as soon as possible in a cold frame. One months cold stratification should improve germination, though this is still likely to be very slow. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first two winters. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Division in March/April. Very difficult.
Requires a very well-drained gritty humus-rich deep soil in a sunny position[1, 200]. This species is not reliably hardy in Britain. It can withstand consistently very cold weather but does not like alternating periods of mild and cold conditions, nor does it like winter wet[1]. The plant is very susceptible to rotting at the neck in a damp soil[200]. The plant is easy to kill by over-watering but extremely difficult to kill by under-watering. Roots that have been dried and stored for a number of years have been known to come back into growth when moistened[95]. The plant dies down after flowering and re-appears in September. It must be kept dry whilst dormant[129]. It is best grown in a greenhouse or bulb frame[200]. A very ornamental plant[1], it is the state flower of Montana[85, 95]. Very apt to hybridize with other members of this genus[1].
Western N. America – Montana to British Columbia, south to California and Colorado.

Become ungovernable, break the chains of the matrix; grow and forage your own food and medicine.

*None of the information on this website qualifies as professional medical advice. Take only what resonates with your heart and use your own personal responsibility for what’s best for you. For more information [brackets] [000], see bibliography.