Spiny Restharrow

Spiny restharrow

Ononis spinosa Leguminosae

This herbaceous perennial grows throughout Europe in dry grassland, hedgerows and by roadsides. Spiny restharrow's scientific name comes from the Greek word onos (donkey), suggesting that donkeys and other grazing animals like to eat it. It grows to a height of 30-60cm, its spiny branches held erect from a woody base. The woody roots emit an unpleasant aroma and have a sickly sweet taste similar to liquorice. Pinkish white butteiflyshaped flowers emerge in summer, followed by hairy, oval-shaped pods, containing up to three round seeds.

Parts used

  • Roots
  • The roots can be collected at any time of year, although spring and autumn are best.
  • After drying, the roots are crushed into fragments for use in infusions, liquid extracts or tinctures.
  • Spiny restharrow is often combined with other diuretic plants, such as juniper and parsley.


The root contains a small amount of essential oil. Other constituents of the root are phenols, which reduce inflammation, lectins, medicarpin and triterpenoids such as onocerin.


No adverse side effects have been reported when taking spiny restharrow in therapeutic doses.

However, the plant must not be used to treat fluid retention arising from cardiac and kidney disorders, except under the supervision of a medical herbalist as complementary to any prescribed medical treatment.


For internal use

TO TREAT urine retention, gout, nephritis, cystitis, rheumatism INFUSION Add 1 heaped teaspoon of the root to 1 cup of boiling water. Infuse for 15 minutes, then strain. Drink 1 cup three times a day. TINCTURE Put 40 drops into a glass of water and take three times a day between meals.

For external use

TO TREAT eczema and other skin complaints
DECOCTION Simmer 20g of dried root with 750ml of water until it has reduced by roughly a third. Allow to cool. Apply topically two to three times a day.


Medicinal uses

Spiny restharrow has a diuretic effect, which is thought to be due to the essential oil, flavonoid derivatives including a-onocerin. Taken orally, the spiny restharrow root is used to treat fluid retention, nephritis (kidney inflammation) and cystitis, as well as to prevent bladder and kidney stones.

The plant also has an antiinflammatory action and is used for treating rheumatism and gout.

Decoctions of the root can be applied to the skin to treat eczema and other skin disorders.


Spiny restharrow can be grown from seed. It prefers a well-drained soil in full sun.


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