Bogbean – Menyanthes Trifoliata: Edible & Medicinal Uses of the Marsh Clover of Wild Plants

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Bogbean AKA Buckbean (menyanthes trifoliata) is native to Ontario and found in wet, boggy habitats. It’s used for brewing and medicinally. Bogbean is closely related to gentian and it shows.

Called buckbean in Haliburton Flora, bogbean (menyanthes trifoliata) is uncommon here. It likes sphagnum mats in bogs and shallow, boggy edges of small lakes, and slow moving streams. And it likes it soaking wet. Sometimes it is called “bog myrtle” but the confusion with myrica gale would be in name only, as they don’t look alike. You may find them near each other though.

The specimen pictured is from a quiet lake with a many feet deep bed of sawdust from an old mill. Bogbean loves the acidic waters in this boggy “lake”.

Bogbean - Menyanthes Trifoliata
Bogbean – Menyanthes Trifoliata

Edible Uses of Bogbean

The leaves have a strong and bitter taste, which can be used as a hop substitute in home brewing, especially for making schnapps. Curiously, the bog myrtle we previously covered comes to mind for schnapps as well and there’s plenty growing near the pictured specimen.

Medicinal Uses of Bogbean

Bogbean is primarily said to support these body systems:

  • Digestive
  • Immune
  • Integumentary
  • Urinary

Medicinal tags include Alterative, Antirheumatic, Astringent, Diuretic, Emmenagogue, Febrifuge, Laxative and Stomachic. See Medicinal tag key for more information.

Common usage includes dried leaves used to improve weak digestion and stimulate the appetite. It’s closely related to gentian, which has similar uses with appetite stimulation leading the list. It’s seen uses for other digestive issues as long as conditions like colitis or diarrhea aren’t present. Bogbean can cause the runs and in large does it’s emetic (will cause vomiting).

The leaf extract can be found in herbal mixes for conditions like edema, rheumatism, shingles (St. John’s-wort comes to mind for shingles too), and skin diseases including scabies; quite the variety for a plant most folks have never heard of.

Alternative Uses of Marsh Clover

It’s been used in herbal smoking mixes.

Growing Menyanthes Trifoliata

I’ve heard someone say it can take over your pond, but I’ve only ever seen lone plants, hard to spot among cattails and flag. I’ve only ever noticed it when its unique flowers are fully bloomed. Aweme borer (papaipema aweme) is one of the moths that uses it as a host plant, and the rare and endangered bogbean buckmoth (hemileuca). Planting this in your landscape may help this namesake buckmoth recover outside Ottawa area or wherever it is still present.

It’d be a pretty addition to ones pond, stream or bog garden! It looks great mixed in with northern blue flag (iris versicolor). You can plant it right in shallow edges or use containers therein.


Don’t consume if pregnant or trying to conceive.

It may have blood thinning properties.

And the Usual Cautions:

1) Most medicinal herbs, if edible, are meant to be eaten in moderation, even sparingly. Some require extra preparation. Tannins are toxic if consumed in excess.

2) People can be allergic or sensitive to nearly any plant; try new herbs one at a time at your own risk. For instance, saponins commonly cause stomach upset.

3) For medicinal use, I must recommend receiving a diagnosis and working with a reputed health care provider. I generally do not post specific treatments and dosages because I think that is best between you and your health care provider, and ideally monitored.

4) Anyone pregnant, nursing, or taking prescription drugs should talk to a health care professional before adding new food items to their diet.

5) Many plants have look-a-likes, and sometimes they are poisonous.

#ads in References

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The Herbal Apothecary: 100 Medicinal Herbs and How to Use Them

Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine: 550 Herbs and Remedies for Common Ailments

Medicinal and Other Uses of North American Plants: A Historical Survey with Special Reference to the Eastern Indian Tribes

A Modern Herbal (Volume 1, A-H): The Medicinal, Culinary, Cosmetic and Economic Properties, Cultivation and Folk-Lore of Herbs, Grasses, Fungi, Shrubs & Trees with Their Modern Scientific Uses

The Complete Illustrated Holistic Herbal: A Safe and Practical Guide to Making and Using Herbal Remedies

Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs

Reader’s Digest Magic and Medicine of Plants

The Herb Book: The Most Complete Catalog of Herbs Ever Published (Dover Cookbooks)

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