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Field pennycress

Category: Medicines - plant based



Introduction and description


Thlaspi arvense, known by the common name field pennycress, is a foetid Eurasian plant having round flat pods and small rather pretty white flowers. 

It belongs to the Brassicaceae family, but is also related to the Lepidium genus in the cabbage family.

Other common names include:

  • bastard cress  - English
  • fanweed   - English
  • field pennycress  - English
  • Frenchweed  - English
  • Mithridate mustard  - English
  • pennycress  - English
  • Acker-Hellerkraut  - German
  • bolsa-do-campo - Portuguese (Brazil)
  • penningört  - Swedish
  • xi ming  - Transcribed Chinese

It can be eaten.  The field pennycress has a bitter taste; and is usually parboiled to remove the bitterness. This is mostly used in salads, sometimes in sandwich spreads. It is said to have a ‘distinctive flavour’.

Use as a source of biodiesel

Much of the research effort at the moment is being devoted to finding ways of making Pennycress an oilseed crop for production of renewable fuels. The species can be planted in the autumn, will germinate and form a vegetative mass which can overwinter and then in the spring, the oil-rich seed can be harvested and used as a biodiesel feedstock.

Medicinal use

But this somewhat overlooks its medicinal value.  We have found an observation which shows that Pennycress, in combination with other plants, might help in Pancreatic cancer, one of the most difficult cancers to help.

It has long been used by the Native American Indians.  It is used by the Iroquois, where an infusion of the plant is taken for sore throats.  The Cherokee use the leaves  for food and medicine.  And the Havasupai use the seeds for both food and medicine.


    • Asia-Temperate

      • Caucasus: Armenia; Azerbaijan; Georgia
      • China: China
      • Eastern Asia: Japan - Hokkaido, - Honshu, - Kyushu, - Ryukyu Islands, - Shikoku; Korea
      • Middle Asia: Kazakhstan; Kyrgyzstan; Tajikistan; Turkmenistan; Uzbekistan
      • Mongolia: Mongolia
      • Russian Far East: Russian Federation-Far East - Far East
      • Siberia: Russian Federation-Eastern Siberia - Eastern Siberia; Russian Federation-Western Siberia - Western Siberia
      • Western Asia: Afghanistan; Iran; Turkey
    • Asia-Tropical

      • Indian Subcontinent: Bhutan; India; Nepal; Pakistan
    • Europe

      • East Europe: Belarus; Estonia; Latvia; Lithuania; Moldova; Russian Federation-European part - European part; Ukraine
      • Middle Europe: Austria; Belgium; Czech Republic; Germany; Hungary; Netherlands; Poland; Slovakia; Switzerland
      • Northern Europe: Denmark; Finland; Ireland; Norway; Sweden; United Kingdom
      • Southeastern Europe: Albania; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Bulgaria; Croatia; Greece; Italy; Macedonia; Montenegro; Romania; Serbia; Slovenia
      • Southwestern Europe: France; Spain


  • Africa

    • Macaronesia: Portugal - Azores, - Madeira Islands; Spain - Canary Islands
    • Northern Africa: Algeria; Morocco
    • Southern Africa: South Africa - Eastern Cape
  • Australasia

    • Australia: Australia - New South Wales, - Victoria
    • New Zealand: New Zealand
  • Europe

    • Northern Europe: Finland; Norway
  • Northern America

    • : Canada; United States
  • Southern America

    • Brazil: Brazil - Sao Paulo
    • Southern South America: Argentina; Chile


References and further reading

  • Herrick, James William 1977 Iroquois Medical Botany. State University of New York, Albany, PhD Thesis
  • Perry, Myra Jean 1975 Food Use of "Wild" Plants by Cherokee Indians. The University of Tennessee
  • Weber, Steven A. and P. David Seaman 1985 Havasupai Habitat: A. F. Whiting's Ethnography of a Traditional Indian Culture. Tucson. The University of Arizona Press

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