False Bindweeds – Calystegia SPP.: Edible & Medicinal Uses of the Morning Glories of Wild Plants

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Most false bindweeds (calystegia spp.) you’ll find in Ontario are nonnative and not very edible or medicinal. However, some false bindweeds have been used for food around the world.

False bindweeds (calystegia spp.) are very similar to related “true” bindweeds (convolvulus spp.) and are sometimes categorized with them and swamp dodder (cuscuta gronovii). But our edible and medicinal contents here will focus on calystegia spp.

Although rare, the false bindweed you’re most likely to notice here is the nonnative hedge bindweed (calystegia sepium). You may find it in dry sand flats or low wet areas. There’s some at Head Lake Park in Haliburton, Ontario.

False Bindweeds – Calystegia SPP.
False Bindweeds – Calystegia SPP.

Hedge bindweed can be confused with field bindweed (convolvulus arvensis) and perhaps wild buckwheat AKA black bindweed (fallopia convolvulus). Cornell has a great side by side comparison of all 3. Similar looking to black bindweed, fringed bindweed (fallopia cilinodis) is also common here in Ontario. These are most commonly found twisting around other plants in old farm fields.

Edible Uses of False Bindweeds

The young shoots of hedge and field bindweed are edible cooked. The bitter young leaves are somewhat edible. And the root can be cooked and eaten, but it looks nothing like its relation sweet potato. All these parts should be eaten in moderation due in part to their powerful purgative effects.

There is some question on whether bindweeds have mycotoxins that could be toxic to humans, causing mycotoxicosis. Although, I’ve found no reports of poisoning with false bindweeds, which have been eaten for sometime in many cultures. But keep in mind even low doses of such toxins can be carcinogenic. So it’s another wild plant to eat in moderation if at all.

Medicinal Uses of False Bindweeds

Hedge bindweed is primarily said to support these body systems:

  • Digestive

Medicinal tags include Cholagogue, Febrifuge, and Purgative. See Medicinal tag key for more information.

Common usage includes as a purgative, such as a powerful laxative. Jalap/Julapa (ipomoea purga) resin is more popular for treating constipation as the convolvulaceae family goes. Also, convolvulus scummonia has a tincture made from its gum, sold as Scammony. Scammony is used for severe constipation and both roundworm and tapeworm. These aren’t for self medication. They can cause drastic purges.

False Bindweeds – Calystegia SPP.
False Bindweeds – Calystegia SPP.

Growing Calystegia SPP.

Nonnative bindweed vines strangle neighbouring plants. As do some of our native vines, like American bittersweet. Due to factors like being self seeding, nonnative false bindweeds can be invasive in areas of disturbed ground, mainly affecting agricultural areas. Where they’re native these particular bindweeds are pollinated by a genus of bees that we don’t even have around here.

But, good news – there’s a native false bindweed that’ll grow in Haliburton county: low false bindweed (calystegia spithamaea). Low false bindweed has the token white trumpet-like flowers, although they bloom sparingly. It prefers a drier spot than the nonnatives, and can handle both sun and partial shade. Perhaps a candidate for along a driveway or sidewalk? And if you like the quainter flowering bindweeds, check out the native dodder (cuscuta gronovii). For something different, dodder is a parasitic vine that usually won’t kill its host. And you could grow it in a damp area on jewelweed or wood nettle, for example. Wasps will pollinate its flowers in the summertime.


False bindweeds contain mycotoxins that can be carcinogenic even at low doses.

Some plants in this family have psychoactive seeds with LSD-like actions that have reportedly led to fatalities.

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.

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

Reader’s Digest Magic and Medicine of Plants

Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs

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

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