Common scurvygrass – characteristics, cultivation and use

common scurvygrass
common scurvygrass - by Karelj

300 years ago the common scurvygras was a very commonly cultivated garden herb. Due to its high vitamin C content, sailors took it with them as an anti-scurvy drug. Meanwhile, common scurvygrass has almost been forgotten, although you can harvest the healthy herb into the winter and thus refine soups, salads and quark dishes.

Profile of common scurvygrass:

Scientific name: Cochlearia officinalis

Plant family: crucifers, mustard family (Brassicacea)

Other names: –

Sowing time / Planting time: March to April and August to September

Flowering period: May – June

Harvest time: May – Dezember

Useful plant parts: leaves, flowers, herb

Location: sunny to partially shaded

Soil quality: fresh to moist, nutrient-rich, humus-rich

These information are for temperate climate!

Use as a medicinal herb: spring fever, rheumatism, gout

Use as aromatic herb: soups, salads, quark dishes

Plant characteristics and classification of common scurvygrass

Origin and occurrence of common scurvygrass

The genuine common scurvygrass (Cochlearia officinalis) belongs to the family of the mustards (Brassicaceae).

Plant order of common scurvygrass

It is one of the few spice plants native to the north, more specifically the marshy and salty coastal areas of Norway, Finland and Sweden. Belgium, Germany and France also belong to its distribution area.

Characteristics of the common scurvygrass


It is a herbaceous, biennial to perennial herb that produces a thin spindle-shaped root and numerous sub-roots. The edged and grooved stem is glabrous, as are the remaining plant parts. It reaches a stature height of 20 to 40 cm (8 to 16 in).


Common scurvygrass carries the German trivial name “spoon herb” thanks to its dark green, smooth and spoon-shaped basic leaves. The stem leaves are egg-shaped.


The hermaphrodite white and slightly honey-scented flowers of the common scurvygrass are in loose racemes on the end of the stem. During the flowering period, which lasts from May to June, they attract numerous insects.


The about 5 mm (0.2 in) long fruit stalks stand almost horizontally from the main axis of the inflorescence. This is followed by small ovate pods, which contain the almost 1 mm (0.04 in) long seeds.

common scurvygrass flowering
common scurvygrass flowering – by Karelj

Common scurvygrass – cultivation and care


The spice and medicinal herb prefers shady to partially shaded locations, but also copes with sunny spots in the garden – if sufficient water supply is provided.


The plant grows best on moist, sandy-stony soils according to its natural habitat. A high proportion of humus is an advantage.

Sowing / Planting

Common scurvygrass can be easily propagated by sowing. The periods from March to April and from August to September are ideal for sowing in shallow grooves in the field. Keep a row distance of 20 cm (8 in). The seeds germinate with consistent watering within two to three weeks and should be separated after sprout to a distance of about 15 cm (6 in).


Young plants should be watered sufficiently. Once they have reached a height of 10 to 20 cm (4 to 8 in), you can mulch all around – so the soil remains weed-free and stores enough heat.


Add some compost before sprouting in spring.


If you cover the plant with spruce branches in winter, you can harvest the leaves until the cold season.

Diseases and pests

The plant is largely insensitive to plant diseases and pests.

Harvest and conservation

A big plus of the common scurvygrass is its long harvest period: the fresh leaves of the spring sowing can be harvested already in the summer, the late sowing in the autumn and in the winter. Pluck the spoon-shaped leaves as needed.

Usually the herb is not dried, but only used fresh. For preservation, pickling of the leaves in salt has proven itself – a method that has already used the sailors to cure the herb.


Common scurvygrass is hardy.

Use of the common scurvygrass

In the kitchen

The spicy and at the same time slightly bitter as well as salty flavor spices salads and potato dishes as well as quark and egg dishes. Green smoothies become a veritable vitamin bomb. In addition, common scurvygrass is a welcome change to chives and cress, refined sandwiches but at least as delicious and healthy as this.

If you need some leaves in the kitchen, you can pick individual leaves under the snow, because it stays wintergreen.

As a medicinal herb

Cochlearia officinalis contains mustard oil glycosides, mineral salts, tannins, bitter substances and a great deal of vitamin C. Previously, the herb was considered an anti-scurvy cure par excellence, but today it is valued above all for its metabolism-stimulating, digestive and blood-purifying effects. It is an integral part of spring cures with herbs and is also often used as a natural remedy for spring fatigue. A tea from the dried leaves helps with rheumatism and gout.

Preparation of a common scurvygrass tea

Add 1 tablespoon spoonful of ½ liter (1 pint) boiling water, infuse for 10 minutes, then strain

Common scurvygrass can be used for these ailments and diseases

  • gigestive
  • gout
  • rheumatism
  • scurvy
  • spring fever
  • stomach discomfort

Medicinal properties

  • antibacterial
  • antioxidant
  • appetizing
  • blood purifying
  • diuretic, mild
  • hemostatic
  • skin-irritating

Side effects

There is not enough information available to tell if common scurvygrass is safe and harmless. When taken orally in large quantities, it can cause gastrointestinal irritation. It can also cause skin irritation if applied directly to the skin.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding: There is not enough known about the use during pregnancy and lactation. For this reason, pregnant and breastfeeding women should abstain from eating common scurvygrass.


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

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