Great burnet – characteristics, cultivation and use

great burnet
great burnet

The great burnet grows preferentially on damp meadows. In contrast to the salad burnet the great burnet is predominantly wild. Its flowers, which appear in late summer, are brightly dark red and look like bumpy buttons, which has given the plant its name. In the past, the great burnet was often used as a home remedy, but today it has almost been forgotten. It can help with mucosal inflammation and bleeding. In ancient times it was even used as a contraceptive, but this application lacks any foundation. The great burnet is a very popular plant for many insects, including butterflies, bees and ants.

Profile of great burnet:

Scientific name: Sanguisorba officinalis

Plant family: rose family (Rosaceae)

Other names: –

Sowing time / Planting time: February – April

Flowering period: June – September

Harvest time: April – May

Useful plant parts: leaves, flowers, roots,

Location: sunny to partially shaded

Soil quality: moist, nutrient rich, sandy to loamy

These information are for temperate climate!

Use as a medicinal herb: Mucosal inflammation, bleeding

Use as aromatic herb:

Plant characteristics and classification of great burnet

Origin and occurrence of the great burnet

The great burnet occurs in many countries in Europe and Asia. Thus, the herb is found in a wide band from western France to southeast China. In Northern Europe, this species is almost completely absent or at least very rare. In North America, it has been introduced by humans and therefore found sporadically. The plant grows excellently in grassland zones, but also occasionally in dry zones. It inhabits both the lowland and mountainous regions to the submontan level.

Plant order of the great burnet

The great burnet belongs to the family of the rose family and is thus related to other important medicinal herbs such as meadowsweet or agrimony. The genus Sanguisorba is about 30 species, of which the great burnet (Sanguisorba officinalis) and the salad burnet (Sanguisorba minor) are probably the most important ones.

Look and characteristics of the great burnet


The great burnet is a shrub and reaches a stature height between 30 and 120 cm (12 and 48 in). The height of growth depends heavily on the site conditions. The plant is perennial and hardy. Its roots have a dark brown to rust-like color and can grow deep into the soil.


The unpaired pinnate leaves are narrow, serrated and alternate arranged on the stem. The leaf top has a rich green color, while the underside of the leaf is blue-green.


In the flowering period, which usually lasts from June to September, the great burnet shows beautiful dark red flowers. The spike-like flower heads contain up to 40 individual flowers and are usually between 2 and 6 cm (0.8 and 1.3 in) long. The flowers are hermaphrodite.


After flowering, small light to dark brown nut fruits form to fruit ripeness, which look a bit shriveled.

dark red flower of great burnet
dark red flower of great burnet

Great burnet – cultivating and care


The great burnet has a few, but no unsolvable demands on location, soil and care. In its natural environment, the plant prefers a sunny to half shady location with nutrient rich, humus rich, moist and dense soils.


For the cultivation, sandy and light soils as well as the drying up of the soil should be avoided. Ideal are garden soils that are slightly calcareous and moist, but do not form waterlogging.


The sowing of the great burnet in the field should take place between the end of February and the beginning of April. The herb is a cold germ. Since the seeds need light to germ, these should not be pressed more than 1 cm (0.4 in) into the ground. The planting distance between the seeds should be at least 20 x 20 cm (8 x 8 in). Small distances can result in undesirable nutrient competition and increased pest infestation.


The great burnet is hardy and tolerates frost down to -20 ° C / -4 ° F.


If the plant grows on nutrient-rich soils, it is sufficient to fertilize only at the beginning of the gardening season. Good fertilizers are compost or manure that can be mixed underground in spring time. In less nutrient-rich soils, fertilizer application should be more frequent. Suitable are long-term fertilizers, such as pellets or guano.

Balcony and pot planting

Cultivation on the balcony is quite possible, but should be done in larger pots. The roots sometimes form quite stately runners. It is advisable to cultivate the great burnet on the balcony no longer than two years.


Who wants to use the plant, should harvest the young leaves in April and May for the kitchen and at the beginning of flowering for teas. For healing purposes, the root is harvested, which should be dried directly after at the air. The root can be well preserved in vinegar or oil.

Use of great burnet

Great burnet in the kitchen

The great burnet as a kitchen herb is rather of little importance. Occasionally young shoots of the herb are used for wild herb salads. More commonly found in the kitchen is the salad burnet (Sanguisorba minor), which is commonly found under the name pimpinella. This has a strong and cucumber-like taste. Due to the tannins it tastes slightly bitter.

Roots: In the fall, winter and spring of the first year you can grind the roots into a kind of spice flour for vegetable pies / purees or bread doughs. A vegetable-like use is conceivable. For this the roots are cleaned and peeled and then grated on salads or uses it as mixed and baking vegetables.

Leaves, shoots and inflorescence: From April to June these parts are raw excellent as an addition to various salads or cooked in soups. They offer as well as mitigating addition to other more stringent vegetables. Also, simply raw nibbled or finely-cut on butter bread, the plant is an asset. Leaves can be preserved by slow drying (to preserve the aroma) and brewed as tea.

Great burnet as a medicinal herb

The great burnet works in different ways. The ingredients of the herb have a hemostatic, anti-inflammatory, diuretic, antioxidant and astringent effect. Following these properties, the herb is used in natural medicine as a gentle means of wound healing, as a blood suppressant and for the treatment of mucosal inflammation in the mouth and throat. Other uses include digestive problems such as bloating and diarrhea and spring fatigue.

The great burnet was already known in antiquity and in the Middle Ages. In most historical herbal books, the plant is mentioned. Even at this time, the hemostatic effect of the herb and the positive effects of wound healing were known. Even today, the great burnet is still used by rural residents in Russia and southern China for exactly these purposes.

The great burnet is given as tea, as homeopathic remedy or as fresh herb. Purely the great burnet is usually used for hemostasis, sometimes in conjunction with field horsetail. Occasionally fresh leaves should provide relief for heartburn. The tea is used in inflammation of the throat, where only the herb is used.

Great burnet can be used for these ailments and diseases

  • bleeding
  • boil
  • chronic skin disorders
  • diarrhea
  • fever
  • gastritis
  • intestinal mucosal inflammation
  • kidney weakness
  • oral mucositis
  • sore throat
  • tonsillitis
  • too much menstruation
  • wounds

Medicinal properties

  • analgesic
  • antibacterial
  • anti-inflammatory effect
  • astringent
  • diuretic
  • hemostatic
  • toning

The Great burnet is occasionally used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). There it is administered, for example, for bleeding hemorrhoids or bloody diarrhea. As an organ reference TCM indicates the connection between the large intestine and the liver.


An overdose with a great burnet or a treatment over a longer period should be avoided, as this may lead to nausea or other stomach problems. If the situation is unclear, a doctor or naturopath should be consulted.


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

Buying a great burnet – What is there to pay attention to?

The great burnet is found in plant centers and online. The salad burnet is sometimes to buy as a fresh herb in some regional markets. Prices are around 3.50 to 6 EUR / 6 per potted plant.

You can also find seeds. The prices therefor are around 2 to 3 EUR / 6 per 50 seeds.

For use as a medicinal herb, some smaller manufacturers also offer dried and cut great burnet. The prices are with 5 to 7 EUR per 100 grams.

Insofar as the importance of this herb is on the healing effect, the great burnet (Sanguisorba officinalis) should definitely be purchased, because the ingredients differ from the salad burnet (Sanguisorba minor). For use in the kitchen or as an ornamental plant usually the small great burnet is used, which is usually found in the trade under the name pimpinella.

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