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(Bogbean family


About 40 species of aquatic or helophytes plants in 5 genera are of cosmopolitan distribution (Mabberley 1987). Some are grown as ornamentals. The family is closely related to the Gentianaceae.

Occasional unsubstantiated references to the external use of members of this family in folk medicine may be found in the literature.

Menyanthes trifoliata L.
Bogbean, Buckbean, Marsh Trefoil, Water Shamrock

The genus comprises a single species of circumboreal distribution (Mabberley 1987).

Folia Trifoli Fibrini — a herbal preparation of the leaves of this plant — is used as a bitter tonic (Reynolds 1996). Felter & Lloyd (1898) note that: " … a strong tincture of the fresh leaves may be given in doses of from 1 to 10 minims. It has … been highly recommended in … some cutaneous diseases, and as a tonic in scrofula [= scrofuloderma ?], and various cachectic affections. " This implies administration via the oral route. Stuart (1979), by contrast, asserts that the root has been used externally to treat obstinate skin complaints.

Nymphoides cristata Kuntze
[syns Limnanthemum cristatum Griseb., Menyanthes cristata Roxb., Villarsia cristata Spreng.]
Crested Floating Heart

Usher (1974) records that in India, the stems and leaves are ground with oil and used as a poultice for ulcers and insect bites.

Villarsia ovata Vent.
[syn. Menyanthes ovata L.f.]

Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk (1962) record that the plant, prepared as an ointment, has been used in traditional medicine as a remedy for haemorrhoids.


  • Mabberley DJ (1987) The Plant-Book. A portable dictionary of the higher plants. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  • Stuart M (1979) Reference section. In: Stuart M (Ed.) The Encyclopedia of Herbs and Herbalism, pp. 141-283. London: Orbis Publishing [WorldCat] [url]
  • Reynolds JEF (Ed.) (1996) Martindale. The Extra Pharmacopoeia. 31st edn. London: Royal Pharmaceutical Society [WorldCat]
  • Usher G (1974) A Dictionary of Plants used by Man. London: Constable [WorldCat] [url]
  • Watt JM, Breyer-Brandwijk MG (1962) The Medicinal and Poisonous Plants of Southern and Eastern Africa. Being an account of their medicinal and other uses, chemical composition, pharmacological effects and toxicology in man and animal, 2nd edn. Edinburgh: E & S Livingstone [doi] [WorldCat] [url] [url-2]

Richard J. Schmidt

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