The stonebreaker plant (Lepidium latifolium)

Lepidium latifolium is established as another plant traditionally used as medicinal thanks to the properties that we will see later. Its common name as stonebreaker has its reason and has to do with the medicinal part. It requires little care, grows well but is invasive in some places.

ORIGIN AND CHARACTERISTICS OF LEPIDIUM LATIFOLIUM

The stonebreaker plant is one more species of the genus Lepidium that currently contains 234 accepted species. There are many more names (about 450) that are synonymous with each other. In fact, Lepidium latifolium itself has more than 10 taxonomic names that are considered synonymous, such as Cardaria latifolia (L. ) Spach or Crucifera latifolia (L.) EHL Krause.

It is a plant of the Brassicaceae family as are many of the garden products (Broccoli, cauliflower, red cabbage, collard greens, rapeseed …)

It is of European and Asian origin, from the Mediterranean region to India and China. Described by Carlos Linneo, it was introduced in America and according to the sampling data in GBIF.org it extends through the western United States and northern Mexico (areas of Arizona, Texas, California, etc.) The problem is that it is considered an invasive plant in the American continent.

If you live in America do not plant this species in any way. It is a matter of individual responsibility, and if you identify it and see it growing in your garden or near where you live, pluck it up before it spreads.

MORPHOLOGY

It is a plant that can grow exceptionally up to 2 meters in optimal conditions but remains between 30 cm and 1 m in height. It is a fairly woody plant, which forms a basal rosette (like many of the family) with green or grayish green, lanceolate, large and waxy leaves that grow directly from the thallus with hardly any petiole and a cluster flowering without too attractive but very abundant to start from a large flower stalk. It has a very powerful root system and that gives it a lot of resistance and rusticity.

Flower detail. Photo by Matt Lavin

PROPERTIES AND MEDICINAL USES OF THE STONEBREAKER PLANT

PRESENCE OF GLUCOSINOLATES IN LEPIDIUM LATIFOLIUM

To begin we must know what this plant contains. The glucosinolates are a broad group molecules from the secondary metabolism of many plants although mainly concentrated in the Brassicaceae . They are the ones that give the spicy touch to mustard or radishes like Wasabi.

In particular, the stonebreaker herb contains sinigrin , a glucosinolate that is also contained in Broccoli or Brussels sprouts, among others.

This group of chemicals are also responsible for some thyroid disorders. This is why people with thyroid gland imbalances sometimes have a lot of brassicas restricted in their diet. With this we come to say that, due to the presence of glucosinolates, if you suffer from a thyroid problem it is necessary that you consult a specialist if you intend to take infusions of Lepidium latifolium.

Details of the vegetative part and the basal rosette. Photo from wikimedia commons

ITS COMMON NAME COMES FROM ITS MEDICINAL PROPERTY. HE DESERVES IT?

Where can we have stones? Indeed, in the urinary system, and it is traditionally used the extract of the aerial part of the plant (shoots, leaves and flowers) in infusion to dissolve and expel kidney stones . Is this really beneficial its use as a medicinal plant ? Let’s see it. Consulting various studies and reviews we can reach ambiguous conclusions.

Apparently there are significant results in the increase of urine excretion after ingestion of the aqueous extract (infusion) in tests with rats that are perfectly extrapolated to man. The increased excretion of urine corroborates the diuretic effect, and in principle it could help dissolve, mobilize and eliminate kidney stones. However, we understand that depending on the nature of the kidney stone (not all kidney stones are made up of the same elements) it may or may not be effective.

We have not found studies that determine that this plant can be considered as the main treatment for this type of ailments. In fact, in a review (meta-study) on several medicinal plants, results are reached if not ambiguous, at least inconclusive and with the final tag that many times we find in research papers : «We need to continue researching».

A RECENT DOCTORAL THESIS DOES NOT GIVE GOOD RESULTS EITHER

And more recently, a doctoral thesis by Inés Mª Laso García from the University of Alcalá de Henares in 2017 shows in a medical study treating patients with oxalocalcic lithiasis (calcium oxalate kidney stones, the most common) with Lepidium latifolium and Orthosiphon stamineus in which he does not reach reliable conclusions about it. It does mention a certain trend in the conclusions but not with sufficient statistical strength to take it as a positive result.

However, there are no contraindications and you can enjoy an infusion of the stonebreaker plant as a natural diuretic without problem.

  • In addition to the diuretic effect, it is also attributed properties as a stomach tonic .
  • Antioxidant property. In complete analysis of its composition, sufficient amounts of phenols and flavonoids, well-known antioxidants, were determined .
  • The recommended amount per infusion is between 3 and 5 g of dried leaf infusion .
Although Lepidium latifolium has earned the name of stonebreaker plant, we still have to start considering renaming it after this little scientific review.

Even so, at Gardenprue we are here to grow plants and we are going right now.

GROWING AND CARING FOR LEPIDIUM LATIFOLIUM

It is a very rustic plant, which supports wide ranges of soil and climate. It is a rosette-shaped perennial that generates new buds every early spring, forming new rosettes. The flower stalk is developed weeks later and flowering occurs in late spring. The setting and subsequent formation of the seed occurs during the summer period. It generates a multitude of seeds which makes its control difficult in areas where it is considered invasive .

Photo by Rob G. Wilson.

TEMPERATURES AND EXPOSURE

It can grow in full sun with direct exposure and tolerates semi-shade well. The thermal range is very wide. It supports intense cold very well since if the aerial part dies it can sprout from the root buds. Up to -20ºC in winter it is able to endure without much inconvenience.

SOIL AND FERTILIZER

Supports a large number of soils. It has no specific pH limitations. It can grow in neutral, slightly acidic or basic, even very basic. In fact it develops without any problem in coastal saline soils and more specifically sodium and with a loamy or slightly silty texture. It supports heavy soils worse due to waterlogging problems but not because it cannot develop since the root system makes its way without difficulty. It practically does not need a subscriber.

IRRIGATION

The watering should be enough so that at 10cm it does not dry out completely but it should not be kept wet or flooded continuously. Only slightly damp .

García, IL (2017). Metabolic alterations in patients with oxalocalcic lithiasis in the Community of Madrid. Efficacy of alternative treatments in patients with hypercalciuria  (Doctoral dissertation, Universidad de Alcalá).

Kaur, T., Hussain, K., Koul, S., Vishwakarma, R., & Vyas, D. (2013). Evaluation of nutritional and antioxidant status of Lepidium latifolium Linn .: a novel phytofood from Ladakh. PLoS One ,  8 (8), e69112.

Navarro, E., Alonso, J., Rodriguez, R., Trujillo, J., & Boada, J. (1994). Diuretic action of an aqueous extract of Lepidium latifolium L.  Journal of ethnopharmacology ,  41 (1-2), 65-69.

Wright, CI, Van-Buren, L., Kroner, CI, & Koning, MMG (2007). Herbal medicines as diuretics: a review of the scientific evidence. Journal of ethnopharmacology ,  114 (1), 1-31.

Welcome to The GardenPure! My name is Ryan Heagle, and I’m the founder of The GardenPure, I spent the first part of my adult life teaching and then living in Australia in various business ventures, the first of which was a business devoted to the sale of house plants.  I am now a full time blogger. I am a self taught gardener.

Ryan Heagle

Welcome to The GardenPure! My name is Ryan Heagle, and I’m the founder of The GardenPure, I spent the first part of my adult life teaching and then living in Australia in various business ventures, the first of which was a business devoted to the sale of house plants.  I am now a full time blogger. I am a self taught gardener.

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