Buckbean – characteristics, cultivation and use


Buckbean, with its extraordinary flowers, is often found on the shores of garden pond. However, the leaves and rhizomes of the plant are today recommended as a medicinal herb for indigestion and loss of appetite. However, the marsh plant can not lower the temperature, although this was previously assumed to be due to the bitter substances it contains.

Profile of buckbean:

Scientific name: Menyanthes trifoliata

Plant family: buckbean family (Menyanthaceae)

Other names: bog-bean, bogbean

Sowing time / Planting time: late winter

Flowering period: April – June

Harvest time: April – September

Location: sunny to partially shaded

Soil quality: moist and acidic soil

Use as a medicinal herb: indigestion, upper abdominal discomfort, flatulence, bloating, kidney inflammation

Use as aromatic herb: rhizomes as a flour substitute

Plant characteristics and classification of buckbean

Origin and occurrence of buckbean

The origin of buckbean can not be determined exactly. It probably evolved in Northern Europe and spread from there into the Arctic Florens all the way to Central Europe. Today it is found throughout the northern hemisphere, including Canada, the USA, Russia and Scandinavia. The plant is sporadically found in the high mountains to about 2,000 meters (6,500 feet) altitude.

Buckbean is found mainly in damp locations, such as swamps, ponds, small lakes or ditches. Since many swamps were laid dry, peats were obtained in bogs, the formerly widespread plant has become very rare. Therefore, the plant is in many countries under protection and on the red list of endangered plants. Buckbean is today a protected plant and must not be collected.

Plant order of buckbean

The buckbean (Menyanthes trifoliata) belongs to the eponymic buckbean family (Menyanthaceae). It has no relationship with the types of clover known to us, such as the rabbitfoot clover or red clover. Well-known further representatives of this family are the floatinghearts, which contain about 40 kinds. The genus Menyanthes, however, consists only of this one species. The North American form is often referred to as Menyanthes trifoliata var. minor Michx.

flower of buckbean
flower of buckbean

Look and characteristics of Buckbean


Buckbean is a perennial, herbaceous plant that is adapted to water or water-near locations. The species can grow up to 40 cm high (15-16 in), but in most cases smaller, about 20 to 30 cm (8-12 in). The roots are firm and in most cases grow shallowly, only anchored up to 10 cm (4 in) in the soil. The plants forms hibernating organs (rhizomes) that store nutrients and allow the plant to winter.


The leaves of the buckbean are long petiolate, oval hastate and always threepart. The middle of the leaf is traversed by a mostly light green to whitish line from the leaf base to the petiole. Their length can be up to 10 cm (4 in), whereas the leaf width is usually up to 6 cm (2.4 in). Both the leaves and the stems are usually colored light green.


Buckbean usually flowers between April and the end of June. During this time, the pentamerous (five-counting) white flowers appear, which are arranged in each grape-like inflorescences. A special feature of the flowers are the fringe-like hair on the petals. The petals themselves are lancet-shaped and can be up to 2 cm long (0.8 in). The flowers are hermaphrodite.


For fruit ripening, the flowers form two-part capsule fruits. Each capsule fruit contains several brownish seeds.

Buckbean – cultivation and care

Since the herb has quite special site requirements, the plant is not for beginners. Basically, the rearing of preferred plants is much easier than the rearing by seeds.


Buckbean is adapted to damp locations in sunny to partially shaded locations. The plant necessarily requires a humus, acidic (pH-value less than 5), permanently moist mud or peat soil. Buckbean can tolerate waterlogging easily. In most cases special peat soil is needed to grow the herb. Good places in the garden are the shore areas or shallow water zones of garden ponds.


Cultivating from seeds is possible, but quite difficult. It is imperative that the seeds of the buckbean do not dry out. The optimal time for sowing is late winter or early spring. The seeds should then be incorporated into a plant pot with low-nutrient and peat-containing soil. The pots must be permanently moist and stand in a cold environment. After the seedlings have outgrown, they should be transferred for a short time in a greenhouse. At the beginning of the summer, the plants can then be replanted directly in the field. When planting near the shore, it is important to ensure a sufficient planting distance.


Buckbean needs continuously smaller fertilizers between the late spring and during the summer. Since the plant is usually anchored near the pond or directly in the pond bottom, long-term fertilizers are recommended, which release nutrients slowly. Optimal are small fertilizer pellets, which are put in the soil.


If the buckbean grows in a location remote from the pond or the water, the soil should be kept permanently moist. In the pond or near the shore is always to check whether the soil has enough moisture. This applies especially for hot summer days.


Buckbean is adapted to the Arctic climate and does not require any special wintering quarters. The superficial plant constituents die off towards the fall. The plant survives as a rhizome in the soil and forms again leaves in the new season.

Diseases and pests

Infestation by pests are generally not expected.

a meadow with buckbean
a meadow with buckbean

Use of buckbean

Buckbean in the kitchen

Buckbean has no significant flavors that would be important in the kitchen. Previously, young leaves were used as a vitamin C diet on ships to prevent scurvy.

Buckbean as a medicinal herb

The use of buckbean in the Middle Ages can not be proven beyond doubt today. It therefore remains to be presumed that the herb was of little importance as a medicinal herb in the Middle Ages.

At the beginning of the 19th century there are several records that buckbean was used as a classic bittern. Tinctures, in which larger amounts were used, were administered primarily as a stomach tonic.

In today’s natural medicine, the Buckbean is used mainly for digestive problems. Mostly the leaves of the plant are used.

Medicinal properties

  • appetizing
  • anti-inflammatory
  • antipyretic (to lower temperature)
  • antispasmodic
  • blood improving
  • blood augmenting
  • cleaning
  • digestive
  • diuretic
  • purifying blood
  • sweaty

Buckbean can be used for these ailments and diseases

  • anemia
  • bile
  • bloating
  • blood purification
  • chlorosis
  • constipation
  • cough
  • dropsy
  • earache
  • eczema
  • gall stones
  • gastritis
  • gastrointestinal complaints
  • gout
  • headache
  • heartburn
  • hypochondria
  • indigestion
  • infections
  • jaundice
  • liver
  • migraine
  • muscle aches
  • muscle weakness
  • nervousness
  • rheumatism
  • senile decay
  • skin rashes
  • stomach
  • tinnitus
  • toothache
  • trigeminal neuralgia
  • upper abdomen discomfort

The usual forms of administration are hot extracts (tea) and alcoholic extracts (tinctures, medicinal wines).

Preparation of buckbean tea

  • put about 1.5 teaspoons of the herb in a cup
  • dash with hot water
  • let brew for about 10 minutes
  • the bitter tea is not sweetened
  • the tea is usually taken for about 20 to 30 minutes before lunch and dinner.
  • do not drink more than 2 cups a day

Other plant components, such as roots or rhizomes, are rarely used in today’s herbal medicine. In the Swedish naturopathy buckbean extracts are used among other things for the treatment of kidney inflammations.

In homeopathy buckbean is used for headaches and nerve disorders. Globuli and tinctures in different potencies are available to treat these conditions.

Side effects

Buckbean is mildly toxic and, if used improperly, may cause headache, nausea and diarrhea. For known gastric ulcers an application should be backed away or at least discussed wiht a doctor.


Ask your doctor or pharmacist. Visiting this page can not replace the visit to the doctor. For serious or unclear complaints, consult your doctor.

Buy Buckbean – What is there to pay attention to?

Meanwhile this plant can be found in the garden center for the local pond.

Fresh plants are sometimes offered in plant specialty markets or larger plant centers. When buying should be checked if the soil is wet. If the buckbean is in a dry environment for some time, damage to the plant can not be excluded. Optimal are smaller plants, which are immediately repotted in the garden. Smaller plants do not have pronounced rhizomes or roots and are easier to transplant.

Seeds of buckbean are difficult to obtain. Occasionally there is a specialty seed dealer, which offers few seeds.

Some specialized herbalists also offer the dried herb of Buckbean. The herbs are relatively expensive.

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