Black Bryony (Tamus communis)

Perennial Climber
Common Name Latin Name Plant Family
Black Bryony
Tamus communis
Dioscoreaceae

None known

  • Medicinal Use

    The root is antiecchymotic, diuretic, emetic, haemolytic and rubefacient[4, 7, 9]. Use with caution, the plant is rich in saponins, has a very powerful cathartic affect and ranks as a dangerous irritant poison[4, 7]. It is not normally used internally, but the macerated root is applied externally as a poultice to bruises, rheumatic joints etc[4, 7]. This should not be done without expert advice since it can cause painful blisters[9]. The root is used fresh[9] or can be harvested in the autumn and dried for later use[7].

  • Edible Use

    Young shoots – cooked[2, 4, 61, 65]. A decidedly bitter flavour[7]. An asparagus substitute, it is best if the water is changed once whilst cooking[115]. See notes at top of the page regarding possible toxicity.

  • Cautionary Notes

    The whole plant is poisonous due to its saponin content[7]. Although toxic, saponins are very poorly absorbed by the body and so tend to pass through without causing harm. They are also broken down by thorough cooking. Saponins are found in many plants, including several that are often used for food, such as certain beans. It is advisable not to eat large quantities of food that contain saponins. Saponins are much more toxic to some creatures, such as fish, and hunting tribes have traditionally put large quantities of them in streams, lakes etc in order to stupefy or kill the fish[K]. The toxic effect of this plant is not caused by saponins, but by calcium oxalate crystals which are found mainly in the fruit[65].

Cultivation & Habitat

Seed – sow in a cold frame in early spring or as soon as the seed is ripe in the autumn. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots once they are large enough to handle, and plant out in the summer or in late spring of the following year.
Requires a moist well-drained fertile soil[17]. A climbing plant, the weak stems support themselves by twining around other plants and are capable of growing quite high up into shrubs and trees[4]. Dioecious. Male and female plants must be grown if seed is required.
Europe, south and east from Britain and Belgium to N. Africa, Hungary, E. Mediterranean, W. Asia.

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.