Potentilla erecta

Potentilla erecta, tormentil

Family: Rosaceae

Part used: rhizome, root

Flora Europaea gives 75 species in the genus and Stace (1991) gives 17 species in Britain. Potentilla species are rather similar and distinguishing characteristics are emphasized by Gibbons and Brough (1996). The Flora of Turkey gives 53 Potentilla species, including Potentilla erecta, Potentilla anglica and Potentilla reptans.

Potentilla erecta (L.) Rauschel is a herbaceous perennial with a stout, hard rootstock. It is found throughout Europe on acid soils such as mountainous bog and moorland and upland meadows but also on dry sandy pinewoods and heathland. It is rare in the Mediterranean.

Procumbent and erect stems (10-25 cm) are non-rooting and the height is greater where the land is damp and not grazed by sheep. The alternate leaves are unstalked, toothed at the apex and hairy underneath. The leaves occur in groups of three with two stipules which resemble small leaflets so it appears to have five leaflets. The yellow flowers occur in summer in cymes and have four petals and many yellow stamens. There are four sepals and a four-sectioned epicalyx. All other Potentilla have five petals. The seed is an achene.

Potentilla erecta is used in botanical sources rather that the synonym Potentilla tormentilla Stokes. Stace (1991) distinguishes Potentilla erecta subsp. erecta from subspecies strictissima, which is taller with more dentate leaves, stem leaves which are serrate all round and larger flowers. As with other Rosaceae (see Alchemilla vulgaris), it can be apomictic so a population may be one clone. Hybrids occur: Potentilla x suberecta is a cross between Potentilla erecta and trailing tormentil Potentilla anglica, which has rooting stems. Potentilla x mixta is a cross between Potentila erecta or Potentilla anglica and creeping cinquefoil Potentilla reptans, which has rooting, flowering stems. Henriette’s Herbal Homepage (2009) gives useful photographs of Potentilla species.

Other species used

Given the similarity between species it is probable that other species are collected, such as creeping cinquefoil Potentilla reptans, which is found throughout Europe. White cinquefoil Potentilla alba, which has white flowers, is used in a similar way. Silverweed Potentilla anserina is widely used in herbal medicines in Europe. It is a widespread perennial that spreads by stolons. The leaves are silver underneath and pinnate with 7 to 12 leaf pairs and the flowers are yellow with five petals.

Astringency Is The Theme But Which Potentilla!

Use In ‘All Fluxes’

Use To Resist Disease

Astringency In Menorrhagia

Rheumatic Disorders And Gout

External Use As An Astringent

‘The Most Powerful Of The Vegetable Astringents’

20th Century Usage In Diarrhoea


• Tormentil has been consistently advised for use in diarrhoea, blood in the stools and ‘all fluxes’ and could be particularly useful in ulcerative colitis. There is a consistent tradition of use in dysentery and infectious disease.

• Aerial parts of other Potentilla species, including cinquefoil and silverweed, were used and continue to be used in Europe and could be integrated into herbal practice.

• Use of the powder is recommended. Then large doses could be given in, for example, ulcerative colitis without giving a large amount of alcohol. Equally, the randomized controlled trial described above found that quite small doses of tincture were effective in diarrhoea associated with rotavirus infection in children.

• Tormentil has a more recent use in heavy periods. It has been recommended both for excess bleeding and leucorrhoea and in urinary incontinence.

• Usage internally for arthritic pain, and possibly for gout, and external usage for a wide range of indications is strong throughout the tradition. These usages are now less common but could be reintroduced into current practice.

Dosage: The British Herbal Pharmacopoeia recommends -4 g three times a day of dried rhizome.

Recommendations On Safety

Use caution in dosage in long-term use, particularly of a decoction or powder.

Other herbs such as agrimony and raspberry leaf could be more suitable for long-term use both because they are a more pleasant tea and because they are less astringent. Tannins have been shown to complex with proteins and minerals and absorption of non-haem iron has been found to be significantly reduced by concurrent consumption of tea. There is concern about the long-term use of tannins, especially where total intake of proteins and iron may be low, such as in vegans. A recent review found that many factors are relevant in iron status but recommended that where iron status may be low, tea should not be consumed with meals and at least an hour should elapse after eating. The advice would the same for tannin-containing herbs, as herbal teas have also been shown to reduce non-haem iron absorption.


Total 1.7%, euscaphic acid glycoside, tormentic acid glycosides: tormentoside (isomer of rosamultin) and isomers: kaji-ichigoside F1 & arjunetin (cultivated, Poland).

Potentilla tormentilla, euscaphic acid, tormentic acid (commercial).

Potentilla tormentilla, nine glycosides: euscaphic acid, tormentic acid, ursolic acid, kaji-ichigoside F1, arjunetin, rosamultin and newly isolated glycosides (commercial); pomolic acid glycoside (commercial).


Mainly condensed tannins which are proanthocyanidin polymers, also hydrolysable tannins. Condensed tannins Mainly procyanidins: dimers, trimers, tetramers, pentamers, hexamers.

Total 15-20% type B proanthocyanidins: mainly dimers and trimers.

Potentilla alba Total 8% proanthocyanidins mainly polymers of (-) epicatechin (cultivated, Poland).

(+)-catechin gallate and B3 dimer (wild, Russia).

Hydrolysable tannins

Ellagitannins: pedunculagin 1%, agrimoniin 3.5%, laevigatin B, laevigatin F (commercial, Germany). Potentilla alba, ellagic acid, p-coumaric acid (cultivated, Poland).