A large genus of 230 biennials and perennials, occuring in temperate and subtropical regions, especially in S America. Many eryngiums are grown for their handsome foliage and long-lasting flowers, which often have a metallic appearance and dry well. Several species are used medicinally in various parts of the world. The N American E. aquaticum (button snakeroot) and E. yuccafolium (rattlesnake master) are used mainly for disorders of the kidneys and sexual organs. Eryngium planum, from E Europe, is used in Transylvania for whooping cough, and the European E. campestre (field eryngo), which can be substituted for E. maritimum, is taken for urinary tract infections, skin complaints, and whooping cough. The roots of E. maritimum were collected on a large scale in England during the 17th and 18th centuries as an ingredient of "marrow-bone pie", and for candying as restorative, quasi-aphrodisiac lozenges, known as "eryngoes", which were mentioned in Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor. Old records of Colchester in eastern England show that it was famous for "oysters and eringo root". Eryngium foetidum has a strong, cilantro-like aroma and is widely used as a substitute in regions that are too hot for growing cilantro (Coriandrum sativum See, Cilantro) as a leaf crop.

Evergreen, branched biennial with fibrous roots and lanceolate leaves, 5-25cm (2-10in) long, which have spiny-toothed margins. Numerous tiny, green-white flowers with leafy bracts appear in cylindrical umbels in summer.

Common Name:
Other Names:
Fitweed, perennial coriander, chandon benni, shadow bennie
Botanical Name:
Eryngium foetidum syn E. antihystericum
Native Location:
Seasonally dry grassland in the West Indies, C America, and Florida
Damp, heavy soil in sun or shade with ample warmth and humidity all year (E. foetidum); well-drained, sandy or stony soil in sun (E. maritimum).
By seed sown when ripe; by root cuttings in late winter. Seeds of E. maritimum are sown in spring after stratifying for 4 weeks.
Leaves (E. foetidum) are picked before flowering; roots of second-year plants are lifted in autumn and used fresh for flavoring, and fresh or dried for infusions and decoctions. Roots of E. maritimum are lifted in autumn and used fresh for conserve, or dried for use in powders, decoctions, and flavorings.
60cm (24in)
60cm (24in)
Min. 15-18°C (59-64°F)
Parts Used:
Leaves, roots
A pungent, aromatic herb that lowers fever, relaxes spasms, and benefits the digestion.
Medicinal Uses:
Internally, in Carib medicine, as a cure-all and, specifically, for epilepsy, high blood pressure, and fevers, fits, and chills in children.
Culinary Uses:
Leaves and roots are important in Latin American and SE Asia in soups, curries, and rice and fish dishes. An ingredient of sofrito, a seasoning mix that also includes coriander/cilantro and chilis (usually ajicitos, small bonnet peppers from Capsicum chinense, See, capsicum chinense).
Encylopedia of Herbs by Deni Brown Copyright ©: 1995, 2001 Dorling Kindersley Limited pp 204-205