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(Reedmace family)


This is a family of 10-12 species of aquatic and marsh herbs in one widely distributed genus (Mabberley 1987).

Calcium oxalate needle crystals (raphides) are known to occur in at least two species -T. angustifolia; T. latifolia (Prychid & Rudall 1999); according to Aplin (1981), this represents a dermatological hazard. Also, the abundantly-produced pollen, which may become airborne (Wodehouse 1971), is used in Chinese traditional medicine as a haemostat.

Typha angustifolia L.
[syn. Typha basedowii Graebner]
Narrow-leaved Cat-tail

According to Nadkarni (1976), the woolly soft inflorescence of T. angustifolia is used like cotton wool (see Gossypium L.) as a local dressing to wounds and ulcers. By his reference to the common name "elephant grass", Nadkarni (1976) may actually have been referring to Typha elephantina Roxb., an Indian species.

Typha capensis Rohrb.

Quisumbing (1951) records that the woolly inflorescence is used in the Philippines for healing wounds, probably acting as a mechanical haemostatic. The root and lower stem is used in the Eastern Cape, South Africa to prepare an infusion for use as an external wash for wounds (Grierson & Afolayan 1999).

Typha latifolia L.
Great Reedmace, Reedmace, False Bulrush, Bulrush, Cat's Tail, Cat-tail Flag, Broad-leaved Cat-tail

American Herbal Pharmacology Delegation (1975) reported that the dried and cooked pollen of this species acts as a blood coagulant - see also Typha orientalis below.

A widespread papular eruption occurred in workers who contacted the plant. The bites of Chilacis typhae were incriminated on circumstantial evidence (Balogh 1965).

Typha orientalis C.Presl
[syn. Typha muelleri Rohrb.]
Broad-leaved Cumbungi, Broad-leaved Bulrush

pu huang, the dried pollen from this species and also from T. angustifolia L., is recognised in Chinese traditional medicine as a haemostat (Huang 1993).


  • American Herbal Pharmacology Delegation (1975) Herbal Pharmacology in the People's Republic of China. A trip report of the American Herbal Pharmacology Delegation. Washington, DC: National Academy of Sciences [WorldCat] [doi] [url] [url-2]
  • Aplin TEH (1981) Plants that cause dermatitis. Australasian Journal of Dermatology 22(1): 33-35 [doi] [url] [url-2] [pmid]
  • Balogh L (1965) Gyekeny felhasznalase kapcsan keletkezett foglalkozasi dermatitis. Bôrgyógyászati és Venerologiai Szemle 41: 219
  • Grierson DS and Afolayan AJ (1999) An ethnobotanical study of plants used for the treatment of wounds in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 67(3): 327-332
  • Huang KC (1993) The Pharmacology of Chinese Herbs. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press [WorldCat]
  • Mabberley DJ (1987) The Plant-Book. A portable dictionary of the higher plants. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  • Nadkarni AK (1976) Dr. K. M. Nadkarni's Indian Materia Medica. With ayurvedic, unani-tibbi, siddha, allopathic, homeopathic, naturopathic & home remedies, appendices & indexes, Revised enlarged and reprinted 3rd edn, Vols 1 & 2. Bombay: Popular Prakashan [WorldCat] [url]
  • Prychid CJ, Rudall PJ (1999) Calcium oxalate crystals in monocotyledons: a review of their structure and systematics. Annals of Botany 84(6): 725-739 [doi] [url] [url-2]
  • Quisumbing E (1951) Medicinal Plants of the Philippines. Technical Bulletin 16, Philippines Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Manila, Philippine Islands: Manila Bureau of Printing [WorldCat] [url]
  • Wodehouse RP (1971) Hayfever Plants. Their appearance, distribution, time of flowering, and their role in hayfever. 2nd revised edn. New York, NY: Hafner Publishing Company

Richard J. Schmidt

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