South African Journal of Botany

Volume 125, September 2019, Pages 149-160
South African Journal of Botany

Wild vegetable Rumex acetosa Linn.: Its ethnobotany, pharmacology and phytochemistry – A review


The importance of Rumex acetosa beyond ordinary nutrition is succinctly discussed.

Phenolics and Polyphenols are two-thirds of the over 70 isolated compounds from R. acetosa.

This study shows scientific evidences against oral diseases of its isolated compounds.

Its registered therapeutic formulations are common Europe, employed against acute and chronic respiratory viral infections.


Ethnopharmacological relevance

Rumex acetosa Linn belongs to Polygonaceae, the species is distributed worldwide (African, Asian, American and European countries). Rumex acetosa is used traditionally as vegetables and for its medicinal uses. Its diverse uses in traditional and cultural applications, have geared much research towards its phytochemical and pharmacological activities. This review intends to offer and give up-to-date knowledge cum research on its ethnopharmacology, chemical constituents, pharmacological activities, reactions with other drugs, and safety concerns, so that the medicinal uses and new research trends can be recognized.


The literature related to the title i.e. R. acetosa Linn was effected by a search using the keywords like “Rumex acetosa, sorrel, garden sorrel and biological activity of R. acetosa” in “Google Scholar,” “PubMed,” “ScienceDirect” “Scopus” and “Web of Science” databases. Plant taxonomy was queried by the databases “The Plant List,” and Many publications' sites were queried like Springer, Elsevier, and dissertation search engines like Open-thesis, OATD, ProQuest and EthOs were put to use.


This study argues the huge advantages that this plant species possesses and further highlights the up-to-date knowledge of chemistry, the invitro and invivo biological studies, phytochemistry and scientific basis for the use of the plant R. acetosa. Many cultures around the world uses the leaves and aerial parts as vegetables, other parts of this medicinal plant are employed in the management of a number of ailments such as constipation, diarrhea, jaundice, mild diabetes and as an analgesic, antihypertensive, against gallbladder, liver and skin disorders and inflammation. The phytochemistry of this wild vegetable showed that over 60 compounds were reportedly isolated, these includes anthraquinones, naphthalene, polyphenols and other compounds. Furthermore, this manuscript depicts the high level of oxalic acid in R. acetosa though cooking reduces oxalic acid concentration to negligible amount.


This review confirms the dangers that R. acetosa possesses when eaten uncooked in large quantity orally especially for some populace though there are strong evidences that it can serve as a functional food. It is clear that the medicinal value of its phytochemistry is yet to be explored fully. There are indications of enormous traditional uses, the pharmacological facts are satisfying though few, it is relieving that scientific evidences against oral diseases are obvious. There is need for more studies to validate these medicinal claims, this review tends to connect the research gap hence provide enough information for upcoming research on its use as a functional food.


R. acetosa
functional food
oxalic acid
oral diseases
View full text