The bitter candytuft is still quite a young herb in herbal medicine. The plant was scientifically studied only about 50 years ago. There they found out that the slightly poisonous plant is a good herb against all sorts of ailments, especially in the gastrointestinal area.
Profile of rocket candytuft:
Scientific name: Iberis amara
Plant family: crucifers, mustard (Brassicaceae)
Other names: bitter candytuft, annual candytuft, hyacinth candytuft, wild candytuft
Sowing time / Planting time: March – May
Flowering period: May – August
Harvest time: protected plant
Soil quality: low-nutrient and more sandy soils
Use as a medicinal herb: angina, stomach cramps, nausea, gastritis, indigestion, inflammation
Use as aromatic herb: not used anymore
Plant characteristics and classification of rocket candytuft
Origin and occurrence of the rocket candytuft
The rocket candytuft is native to western and southern Europe. It is considered a classical archaeophyte, meaning that the plant was indeed introduced by humans, but could spread itself without outside help. The natural population of the plant is considered endangered today. The reason for the danger lies primarily in the way people work. Here, large-scale changes in use, utilization tasks or over-fertilization have led to the plant declining over the years.
Although the plant was first researched approximately 50 years ago, it has probably been known since antiquity. Some sources report that already Pliny the Elder knew of plant’s healing powers. However, the first mention probably goes back to the Greek physician Galen (131 – 215 AD), who is said to have treated an Iberian patient with rocket candytuft.
Plant order of the rocket candytuft
The rocket candytuft belongs to the family of the cruciferous plants (Brassicaceae). It is therefore related to other herbs such as the shepherd’s purse or watercress. To the genus Iberis belong about 40 species, most of which are native to the Mediterranean region.
Characteristics of the rocket candytuft
The flower is an annual, rarely biennial plant that can reach heights of growth up to 50 cm (20 in). The herb is a typical shallow-rooting plant.
The oblong leaves of rocket candytuft are quite fleshy, edgeless and pinnate or serrated towards the tip of the leaf. The stems look like small branches, are upright and slightly hairy.
Usually, the plant flowers from mid-May to late August. The white to pale purple colored flowers are arranged as an umbel. The flowers are usually small and have six stamens.
After pollination of the flowers, the plant forms small egg-shaped to roundish pods with slightly keeled fruit lobes. The small pods are in the extended grapes.
Cultivation and care of rocket candytuft
As the plant is highly endangered in nature and is on the list of endangered species, do not pick them and do not harvest any seeds.
Anyone who has the opportunity to grow the rocket candytuft should pay attention to a few peculiarities.
The plant loves sunny and open locations
The soil should be nutrient-poor, well-drained and calcareous. Waterlogging is definitely to be avoided.
Sowing can be done between March and May. When sowing in March and April, the seeds must be brought into trays. The seeds need about 15 to 20 ° C (59 to 68 ° F) to germinate. From May, the seeds can be scattered directly on the field. The plant needs light to germ. Therefore, the seeds should only be pressed lightly in the soil. After about 2 to 3 weeks, the first seedlings should be visible.
In the field, a distance of 25 to 30 cm (10 to 12 in) per plant should be maintained. Since it is a shallow-rooting plant and spread on poor soil, densely planting leads to nutrient competition.
The plant only requires few nutrients. It is usually sufficient to mix some compost or rotten cattle dung into the soil. Worm compost is also very suitable. Acidic soils should be slightly limed. Purchased potting soil has mostly pH levels below 6. When using this it should definitely be whitewashed. Since potting soil is usually pre-fertilized, please refrain from fertilizer.
Rocket candytuft and its use
The rocket candytuft is used almost exclusively as a medicinal plant.
Rocket candytuft as a kitchen herb
Due to the mustard oils, the plant is slightly poisonous. Although small amounts of the herb have no effect, an application in the kitchen practically does not take place.
In the past, the seeds of rocket candytuft have been processed into mustard. Since the plant is rarely found today and should not be used because of its endangered status, the plant is not used anymore.
Rocket candytuft as a medicinal herb
The rocket candytuft is a recognized herb, which is used today mainly for gastrointestinal complaints. It is often used as phytomedicine for functional digestive problems or irritable bowel syndrome. In herbal medicine, the herb is also used in angina pectoris. For the production of medicines, the dried seeds are used.
In ancient times, the components of rocket candytuft were used for the production of medicines. The Greek physician Galenos is said to have successfully used it, for example, for the treatment of lung diseases. In today’s medicine, however, it is not used in applications for lung complaints.
In early modern times, the plant was a popular home remedy. There it was found even more often in nature and could be used accordingly. The rocket candytuft was usually used in the form of a tonic, which was taken before meals. Extracts were also used, usually in conjunction with alcohol to treat cramps or inflammation.
The bitter substances in rocket candytuft are proven to stimulate digestion. In addition, the plant release tension in the gastrointestinal area and to favorably influence intestinal peristalsis. It has also been found out in some studies that the flower may be able to relieve the discomfort of ulcers. The flavonoids contained in the plant are also valuable antioxidants that have an anti-inflammatory effect. Incidentally, rocket candytuft is also one of the main ingredients of the drug Iberogast.
In homeopathy, the flower is used for various heart problems. Here, especially the seeds are used, from which a mother tincture is made.
It is reported that the plant is often used in combination with other medicinal plants to optimize the healing properties, especially in the gastrointestinal area. These include above all chamomile, angelica or lemon balm.
Buy rocket candytuft – What to Consider?
A few seed manufacturers offer seeds of the plant. Please pay attention to the botanical name Iberis amara. Seeds of rocket candytuft can be found online. The price per package (200 seeds) is about 2 EUR/$. Although plants that are called amara sempervirens are also of the genus, they have nothing to do with rocket candytuft.
If you are interested in the curative power of the herb, you can also use the herbal medicine Iberogast. This can be purchased in most pharmacies.