Devil’s Bit (Succisa pratensis) is an ancient medicinal plant that has been used for centuries to relieve pain and inflammation. The herb was even found in the medicine chest of King Tutankhamun! Devil’s bit can be taken as a tincture, extract, or salve to help with muscle cramps, rheumatism, arthritis, and more. It is also known as “Devil’s shoestrings” because of its spiral stems.
Devil’s bit has many common names such as Wood Sorrel, Purple-flowered Toothwort, Cut-leaved Toothwort. The plant’s scientific name is Succisa Pratensis.
Devil’s bit is native to Eurasia and North Africa and was introduced into North America as a weed. Devil’s bit now occurs throughout all of the contiguous United States and southern Canada. It thrives in open habitats such as pastures, roadsides, hayfields, fence rows, abandoned fields, right-of-ways, roadsides, waste areas, and cultivated land.
Devil’s bit is a species of plant in the Caprifoliaceae family. A biennial or short-lived perennial plant growing to 80–100 cm tall, the stems unbranched below the flowers. It spreads by seed and roots at the nodes. The leaves are 10–30 mm long with a serrated margin, similar to common bistort but narrower and often more finely divided. The flowers are about 5 mm in diameter, with five petals. They may be blue (most common), pink or white and appear from June until September.
Devil’s bit scabious is closely related to Common Scabious (Scabiosa columbaria), which can be easily confused. They have similar bluish-purple flowers and serrated leaves, but Devil’s Bit differs in having larger, more rounded flower heads (7–10 cm diameter), with 10-30 florets. Leaf lobes are triangular and smaller, sparser leaves (3–7 cm long) that lack the white markings found on Common Scabious.
The whole plant, flower, root of the plant is used for medicinal purposes. All parts contain iridoid monoterpenes, sesquiterpenoids, and alkaloids. The leaves contain hederagenin predominantly. The stem contains mainly cobalticarposide, followed by glycosides of ursolic acid, oleanolic acid, 2-O-?-L-rhamnopyranoside oleanolic acid, 2-O-?-D’Gluco Furanosyl Sambunigrin.
Traditional Uses and Benefits
Devil’s bit has been used in traditional herbal medicine as a bitter tonic for stimulating digestion. It is also chewed to sweeten the breath and proposed as an aphrodisiac.
Organic devil’s bit is an excellent detoxifying agent used extensively to support the liver and gallbladder. Devil’s bit is recommended for all types of liver diseases, including hepatitis and cirrhosis of the liver – either acute or chronic. Long-term use helps maintain healthy liver functions.
Research has indicated that Devil’s Bit may have some cholesterol-lowering properties, reducing serum triglycerides while slightly increasing HDL cholesterol levels.
A decoction made from Devil’s Bit has been applied locally to treat scabies (skin infection caused by mites) and other itchy skin problems. It is thought that the main active compounds in Devil’s Bit that give this plant its medicinal properties are saponins, which have been found to have a beneficial effect on the immune system.
Devil’s bit helps to cure skin ulcers, open sores, wounds of any kind, and injuries. You can put on the wounded area several times a day until it healed completely.
Devil’s Bit extract has been used traditionally to treat poisonous insect bites.
Devil’s bit has been used as a traditional remedy for intestinal worms and ringworm (fungal infection which causes scaling, itching, and redness on the skin). It is also thought to be useful in treating thrush (oral fungal infection).
Devil’s bit has been used traditionally to treat epilepsy. It is thought to be useful for this condition because it contains diterpenoid alkaloids similar to the anti-seizure medication succinimide.
Devil’s bit was researched as an analgesic, with promising results. It also showed promise as an antispasmodic and sedative. Devil’s bit’s effects may be partly due to chemicals that act on the central nervous system.
Devil’s bit’s anxiolytic effects may contribute to effectiveness in treating painful menstrual cramping. This medicinal plant has also been hypothesized to relieve pain by inhibiting prostaglandin synthesis and stimulating the production of gonadotropins and oxytocin, which may help control uterine contractions.
Devil’s bit is a great herb that people with asthma or respiratory conditions can add to their herbal tea cupboard. It aids in coughs, bronchitis, and sore throats and helps with heartburn caused by acid reflux when taken as tea before bedtime.
Devil’s bit has anti-inflammatory properties, and so it acts as a good replacement for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines such as ibuprofen and aspirin. It can be used on its own, but it is especially effective when the leaves are infused in honey and made into syrup form.
Devil’s bit has a high content of isoxazoles which are beneficial in treating cancer and AIDS.
Method of Preparation
The roots can be harvested in late fall and early spring before new growth begins. Shake the dirt from the roots, then wash them thoroughly. The root can be dried or fresh can be used for making a tincture or tea.
To make a tincture, pack moistened Devil’s Bit root into a jar until three-quarters full. Then fill to the top with 100 proof vodka or vegetable glycerin. Be sure to label your devil’s bit tincture! Store the tincture out of sunlight at room temperature.
Dosage and Precautions
Tincture dosage is between 10 and 30 drops daily.
Dried root dosage is 4-6 g daily.
Powder: 1 tsp or 5-10g daily. Devil’s bit as a tea is the most common method. It can be used as a one herb remedy or combined with other herbs for specific complaints.
Devil’s bit should be taken 10-15 minutes after meals and a maximum of 3 times a day. You can mix it with fruit juice for palatable intake. You may also apply it topically as an ointment, poultice, or for the treatment of warts.
Devil’s bit is well-tolerated and has few side effects when taken as a tea or tincture. The main reported side effect is gastrointestinal upset. Devil’s bit is also thought to lower blood sugar levels, so care should be taken in patients with diabetes and should not be used without consultation with a physician by breastfeeding women.
It contains poisonous pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which can cause liver disease or fatal circulatory disorders. However, it has not been found to contain dangerous amounts of these alkaloids.
Excessive consumption can lead to nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, heartburn, thirst, and dizziness.
- Devil’s Bit Scabious Herb – Uses and Benefits. https://www.herbal-supplement-resource.com/devils-bit-scabious.html
- Succisa pratensis – Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Succisa_pratensis
- Cirsium_amplexifolium Dakiba-Hime-Azami PFAF Plant Database. https://pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Cirsium_amplexifolium
- TB, the Devils Bit Scabious and Immunity – Botanica Health. https://www.botanicahealth.co.uk/tb-the-devils-bit-scabious-and-immunity/
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