Indian sorrel is a small, hairy, annual herb. It has numerous branches which shoot out from the roots and creep to a length of 12 to 30 cms. The stem of the plant is very thin, delicate and hairy. It has pale green compound leaves, with delicate, very thin and smooth leaflets. It also has yellow flowers and cylindrical fruits containing many tiny seeds.
The herb is indigenous to India. Thriving in moisture, it grows wild during monsoon and on wet grounds. The flowers of the plant are sour due to a high content of oxalic acid and potassium oxalate. The herb is rich in vitamin B l' iron and calcium. The leaves contain a small amount of cellulose.
The leaves are acrid, bitter and mildly astringent. It has a predominently acid taste. It is advisable to mix the herb with other milder tasting herbs. The juice of 15 grams of this herb, mixed with five grams of basil (tulsi) juice, may be taken with 100 ml of tender coconut water. This raw juice can also be mixed with cooked greens. The leaves have a cooling effect and act as an appetizer.
The leaves are useful in relieving symptoms of fever. An infusion of the leaves can bring temperature down.
The leaves are antiscorbutic and are useful in the prevention and treatment of scurvy-a deficiency caused by lack of vitamin C. An infusion of the leaves can be taken for this purpose.
Fresh leaves of the plant are useful in stimulating the stomach and aiding its action. The leaves can also be eaten as an appetizer.
The leaves are beneficial in mild cases of dysentery and enteritis. They should be boiled in butter-milk and given twice a day. Fresh juice of the leaves, mixed with honey or sugar, is also useful in dysentery.
The herb is beneficial in the treatment of jaundice. A tablespoon of fresh juice mixed with butter-milk made of cow's milk can be taken once daily in the treatment of this disease.
Indian sorrel curbs excessive thirst caused by diabetes or severe heat. The same method of intake as for jaundice can be followed.
The leaves are useful in certain skin diseases like warts, corns and other excrescences of the skin. They can be locally applied in these conditions. The juice of the whole plant mixed with onion is also applied to remove warts. A poultice of the leaves applied over an inflammation relieves pain, and when applied over boils, ripens them. The juice mixed with black pepper and ghee, gives relief from red spots and eruptions on the skin caused by biliousness.
The herb is very useful in the prevention and treatment of eye disorders. A few drops of the leaf juice put into the eyes every day keeps the eyes free from strain and prevents opacity of the cornea and cataract. The leaves are quite effective. When applied locally for correcting the opacity of cornea.
The juice of the leaves mixed with castor oil is useful in insomnia. The juice should be mixed in an equal quantity of castor oil and heated to remove the watery content. It should then be cooled and stored in a bottle. When the scalp is massaged with this oil before going to bed, it will induce good sleep and also provide coolness to the eyes.
Precautions: As the Indian sorrel contains high concentration of oxalic acid, its use should be avoided by persons suffering from gout, rheumatism and calculi or stone in the urinary tract.