Spinach as medicine in phytotherapy

Spinach is a healthy, annual leafy vegetable from the amaranth family. It is, among other things, related to the goosefoot and meld. Spinach grows from seed to an edible leaf in two months. It can be planted under glass as early as January; this is called early cultivation and the first harvest is at the end of February. There are four different types of cultivation: early cultivation, summer cultivation, autumn cultivation and winter cultivation. NB! This article is written from the personal view of the author and may contain information that is not scientifically substantiated and/or in line with the general view.

Source: Otto Wilhelm Thomé, Wikimedia Commons (Public domain)


  • History of spinach
  • Naming
  • Spinach according to the Tacuinum of Vienna
  • Active substances
  • Folic acid and pregnancy
  • Folic acid, good against arteriosclerosis
  • Carotenoids, good for the eyes
  • Other medicinal properties of spinach
  • Dose and safety
  • Some thoughts
  • Visit a doctor or herbal therapist

History of spinach

Spinach was first cultivated in Persia. People in China and Persia have been eating spinach for thousands of years. The first time Europeans came into contact with spinach was when the Moors occupied large parts of Southern Europe. They brought their own food and that included spinach. When spinach was introduced it was treated as a medicinal plant; it is good as a laxative because it contains a lot of oxalic acid. Only later did people in Europe start to eat spinach as a vegetable, as they did much earlier in China and Persia.


In Latin, spinach is called Spinacia Oleracea . The Dutch name spinach comes from the Persian word ‘esfenaj’. The French word épinard, the English word spinach and the German word Spinat also derive from this. Oleracea means: cultivated, potted herb or vegetable. It was given this name to distinguish it from wild vegetables; In the past, vegetables and herbs were mainly picked wildly. A vegetable with the second Latin name part oleradea will never be found in the wild; it is a cultivated form of a wild vegetable. In the case of Spinacia olerarea, it was probably created by cultivation and crossing of Spinacia turkestanica and Spinacia tetrandra.

Spinach according to the Tacuinum of Vienna

The Tacuinum of Vienna is also called the Tacuinum Sanitas. This is a medieval book that prescribes how to live a healthy life. The book is based on an Islamic book from the 11th century. The Viennese version dates from the 14th century. Spinach appears in it. Each topic covered is accompanied by an image.

Source: Unknown, Wikimedia Commons (Public domain)

Translation of the caption (from English) ;

  • Nature: Cold and damp in the first degree, moderate heat at other times.
  • Optimal: The leaves are still wet with rainwater.
  • Use: They are good for a cough and for the chest.
  • Dangers: They disrupt digestion.
  • Neutralization of the dangers: Baked with salted water, or with vinegar and aromatic herbs.
  • Effects: Moderately nutritious. They are good for warm temperatures, for the young, at all times and in any region.

Active substances

The above-ground part of spinach is used for phytotherapeutic purposes; the leaves and the stems. It contains the following important active ingredients: Vitamins such as the carotenoids beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin. It contains a significant amount of folic acid or vitamin B11. It also contains vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6 and C. Spinach contains the minerals potassium, magnesium, zinc, iron and calcium. It also contains oxalates and chlorophyll.

Folic acid and pregnancy

Folic acid or vitamin B11 is extra important for pregnant women. Taking this reduces the risk of birth defects in the baby. Of course, it is always good for a pregnant woman to eat even healthier than one normally does for months prior to pregnancy, during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. Vitamin B11 deficiency is known to lead to the following diseases:

Spinach on a plate / Source: Public domain, Wikimedia Commons (PD)

  • Spina bifida or spina bifida
  • Cleft palate, cleft palate or cleft lip.

Dutch people used to think that spinach should not be reheated a second time. This has now proven to be incorrect. Heating spinach twice is not bad, although nutrients may be lost.

Folic acid, good against arteriosclerosis

Folic acid is not only good for pregnant women. It helps neutralize free radicals, especially homocysteine. In combination with other antioxidants, it is especially helpful with heart problems. People suffering from a smoking addiction would do well to reduce the harm caused by tobacco by eating fresh spinach regularly. It is used by phytotherapists for the following indications:

  • Atherosclerosis or arteriosclerosis,
  • Strokes,
  • Heart disease.

Carotenoids, good for the eyes

The carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin protect the retina. This is partly because they are strong antioxidants. It has been proven that these carotenoids, which are found in abundance in spinach, prevent macular degeneration or vision loss due to deterioration of the retina. It even appears that eating 100 grams of spinach daily for six months will significantly improve your eyesight.

Other medicinal properties of spinach

  • Spinach contains many antioxidants, which is why it, together with omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, is good against cancer.
  • Chlorophyll in spinach is a chelator and can remove heavy metals from the body.
  • Zinc in spinach can help women during childbirth.
  • Zinc in spinach can lead to better sperm quality in men, the prevention of infertility and prostate problems.
  • Spinach lowers blood sugar levels; it is an ideal vegetable for diabetics.
  • Spinach has a laxative and carminative effect.
  • Spinach can make a fever go away.

Dose and safety

Spinach is a pretty safe medicine. You can take it raw per ounce. When you cook it, use as little water as possible and cook it briefly. You can take spinach daily for medicinal use.

Spinacia Oleracea / Source: Rasbak, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-3.0)

Some thoughts

  • Contrary to previous belief, spinach is not a suitable source of iron because the oxalates prevent iron from being effectively absorbed into the body.
  • Because spinach contains purines, it is not a good remedy for people with elevated uric acid levels and people with gout.
  • People with kidney disease or kidney stones are recommended to use spinach in moderation and in any case not to use it for medicinal purposes.

Visit a doctor or herbal therapist

Much of the information about the medicinal plant mentioned in this article comes from the book Groot Handboek Medicinal Plants by Geert Verhelst. That is a handbook in phytotherapy. However, it is not suitable for self-healing. Anyone who suffers from something should consult a doctor or herbal therapist for a good diagnosis and choice of the best remedies, tailored to your personal situation. The knowledge and science mentioned here is of a purely informative nature.