STINKING GOOSEFOOT - INFORMATION: HEALTH BENEFITS AND HOW TO USE STINKING GOOSEFOOT HERB
The name stinking goosefoot is apt for this little herb, as its leaves like other Chenopodium species slightly resembles a goose’s webbed feet, and when bruised the leaves stink, not to put too fine a point on it. They are actually edible, but no one would want to, given the stench. The seeds are also edible but as they contain saponins they have to be soaked overnight and then rinsed before roasting or dry frying, then grinding to mix with wheat flour to make bread. Culpeper, writing in the 17th century, describes the smell from the bruised leaves in this way: “It smells like rotten fish, or something worse.” It goes by a number of derogatory names, such as Dog’s Arrach or Orache, and Stinking Motherwort.
Its leaves used to be made into a conserve with sugar and used for nervous complaints for women. It was probably a good way to stop a fit of the hysterics given the smell. A tisane was made of the dried leaves with 1 ounce to 1 pint of boiling water, given in wineglass doses for obstructions in the monthly flow, or blood clots during a woman’s periods. In fact it was another Female herb along with the chaste berry tree.
It is a plant that grows up to 40 centimetres, but it might not be upright, some trail along the ground. It is rare now in southern England and the Channel isles, although it was once abundant throughout the British Isles, and is native to northern Europe. The tisane of dried leaves made from this plant is said to be antispasmodic so was good for menstrual cramps.
It should not be confused with the true Orach(e) or Arrach, which was thought to be beneficial for gout. It has small green flowers without petals but with 5 sepals and stamens. The word Chen comes from the Greek meaning goose and podi meaning foot. The other goosefoots native to Britain are known as Fat Hen and Good King Henry, but there are many others that grow in different parts of the world.
The physicians of Myddfai used it in combination with other herbs as in this remedy for profuse menstruation: -
“A woman who is subject to profuse menstruation, should take the reddish bastard balm, small burdock, orpine, stinking goose foot, pimpernel, water avens, with the ashes of a hart's horns, that has been killed with his antlers on, boiling them, as well as possible in red wine, straining the liquor carefully, and drinking it daily, till it is finished, abstaining (the while) from stimulating food. Being restrained by the above means, the blood will be habitually diverted to the thighs and ankles.”