March 16th, 2012

Latin:  Lapsana communis

Irish:  Duilleog Bhríde


This is a native species of medium height, with spindly, wiry stems and very small 10-20mm dandelion-like flowers.  The flowers open in sunshine only, from May to October and are borne in loose panicles.

The upper leaves are edible and the plant has also been used in herbal medicine.


In a recent Irish publication Zoe Devlin (2011) suggests that the flower buds of Nipplewort were thought to resemble nipples.  It was therefore expected that its use would help to heal sore nipples.


This theory was known as ‘The Doctrine of Signatures’.  This doctrine came into medicine in the sixteenth century and held that God marked everything he created with some form of sign which would help to direct healers towards finding their cures for ailments.  So, when one looked at this plant, one saw nipples and applied the doctrine.   She also states that many plants that have ‘wort’ as part of their name would have acquired the name as a result of this doctrine. Plants such as Liverwort, Bladderwort, Lungwort would fall into this category. The word ‘wort’ comes from the Old English ‘wyrt’ for root or herb.

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