Medicinal plants

Bell heather (Erica tetralix) - effects, uses and cultivation

Bell heather (Erica tetralix) - effects, uses and cultivation

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We know the bell heath mainly as cultivated forms from the garden trade. In the wild, laypeople easily confuse them with the Calluna heather, the character plant of the Lüneburg Heath. Erika, the bell or moor heath, however, needs a wetter substrate and a high level of humidity - it grows freely in this country on the North Sea coast and in bogs. Heather Erika is rightly known in folk medicine as a tea for severe cough, cystitis and flu infections.


  • Scientific name: Erica tetralix
  • family: Ericaceae
  • Common names: Erika, Heide, Heidekraut, Moorheide, Doppheide, Toppheide, Dopphehe, Sumpfheide, Torfheide, Suerheid, Forchheide, Frühlingsheide, Bohnerheide, Murrheid, Topfheide, Fastheide, Bultheide, Supfglockenheide
  • Occurrence: Northern Germany, bogs and acid soils
  • Parts of plants used: Herb, flowers, flowering shoot tips
  • application areas:
    • fever
    • flu infections
    • to cough
    • bronchitis
    • Intestinal diseases


Bioactive substances from the bell heath are ursolic acid, catechin genes, flavones, saponins, arbutin, oleanolic acid, cholesterol, campesterol, sitosterol, sistaniol and sigmasterol. The human organism forms hydroquinone from arbutin.


The hydroquinone formed from arbutin has an antibacterial effect and is used in folk medicine in particular to treat urinary tract infections and inflammation of the genitourinary tract. The antibacterial effects are particularly strong against Escherichia bacteria. Hydroquinone is also suitable for treating hyperpigmentation of the skin, since the substance pushes back the melanocytes. It inhibits the enzymatic oxidation of tyrosine to 3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine (DOPA).

The saponins act as expectorants, the tannins have an antibacterial effect and stimulate digestion. Agents from the bell heath like tea, extract or envelopes drain, relieve cramps and counter rheumatic complaints. They drive sweat and can also be used to lower fever. Arbutin or its breakdown products relieve bladder infections and an irritated bladder with an urge to urinate. The oleanolic acid counteracts kidney weakness.

Heather flower tea

A tea made from heather is suitable for treating inflammation. For this, pour two teaspoons of dried flowers with a quarter liter of hot water and let everything infuse for a few minutes. Used externally, for skin infections, acne or for wound healing, moisten a cloth with the cooled tea.

If you have a fever, urinary retention, urinary tract or bladder infections and gastrointestinal complaints, drink the tea, preferably up to three small cups before meals. When drunk, the tea makes it easier to cough up with bronchitis and other cough disorders with tough mucus.

Side effects

Hydroquinone can cause unpleasant side effects if it is particularly sensitive. These include, for example, skin reactions such as redness and dehydration, combined with stinging, burning pain and discoloration of the skin. In laboratory tests, hydroquinone showed mutagenic properties: pregnant women, nursing mothers and children under the age of twelve should therefore not consume any Erika products.

Calluna vulgaris

Popularly called dwarf shrubs of the heather landscape "heather" or "heather". The heather of the Lüneburg Heath, Calluna vulgaris, does not belong to the genus of true heather (Erika), but like this to the heather family (Ericaeae).

Bell heath

The moor heather / bell heather, Erica tetralix, likes it, the name says it, moist - in contrast to the heather, which thrives on dry sandy soils as well as in light pine forests. It is widespread in western and northern Europe, in Germany on the North Sea and in Schleswig-Holstein. She loves soils with little nutrients that are acidic and peaty - the soil must be free of lime.

She loves raised bogs and moors, heath ponds and wet sand pits, forest clearings and temporary swamps. It thrives very well on partially drained bogs, which still have a moist peat floor but no open water areas. Real moorland landscapes form here, a special biotope.

While traditional peat extraction and gradual drainage using primitive technical means even benefited Erica tetralix, today drainage and reforestation are very difficult for her. Today we can only find them to a greater extent in nature reserves, and there nature conservationists usually ensure that no forest develops.

The Moor-Glockenheide was never common in this country. We only find extensive stocks in Germany on the North Sea coast.

Erika plant

The heather family (Erica) consists of evergreen shrubs and trees, most of them lie on the ground, but some grow up to ten meters in height. Their leaves are mostly in whorls. The petals wither but remain on the plant, usually four sepals, which can be small and inconspicuous, but also large and colorful.

Heathers usually carry eight stamens with straight or S-shaped stamens. The style is usually longer than the ovary. Heather plants have drupes.

Erika Blume

Erica tetralix is ​​evergreen like the other heather, but by no means reaches the height of some relatives, but only grows to 15 to 20 centimeters. This dwarf shrub forms tiny, upright, woody stems with ascending twigs, on each of which four leaves form a whorl.

The bell heath bears needle-like leaves that reach up to six millimeters, protrude from the stem and curl up at the edge. If the leaves re-form, they initially wear hair, later they become bald.

Heather flower

In the wild, the bell heather bears pink flowers. These bloom between July and September, depending on the latitude and the climate. Around a dozen of the flowers form an umbel. They have four petals, but only two to three bracts.

The flowers contain stamens, anther and pistil. The fertilized flower forms a capsule with brown seeds. We make heather tea against cough, for expectoration and lowering fever from these dried or fresh flowers.

Pollination takes place primarily through the tiny thunderstorms that lay their eggs in the petals, where the larvae also develop. The winged females are also in the flowers. Spontaneous self-pollination is also quite common, pollination by butterflies, bumblebees and bees is less common.

Plant heather

Bell heather has become rare in nature, due to the fact that its habitat, the bog, is disappearing. It is easy to grow in the garden and is a typical plant for bog beds and the edge areas of the garden pond. What is important is a bright location without direct sunlight. Then the flowers dry out quickly and fall off.

Bell heather is easy to plant and maintain. The substrate should be humid, peaty and acidic and remain permanently moist. Peat is prohibited for a natural garden, the degradation of which destroys the natural habitat of the bell heath. Instead of peat, swellable, unfertilized bales of coconut fibers are available, as well as moor soil and lime-free sand.

Erika needs moisture and especially in dry summers you should water often if the plants are not in an ever-moist bog bed. The water must be lime-free because the moor heath is "allergic" to lime. Soft water from the rain barrel is best, tap water in Germany is usually too hard.

She needs ferrous liquid fertilizer every few weeks or long-term fertilizer for water lilies. In spring you can spoil the heather with plenty of ripe compost. The temperature must not be too high, because even at more than ten degrees above zero she is not particularly comfortable. The following applies to air humidity: the higher the better.

It can get cold when it's cold, minus five degrees is not a problem, it is important that the root ball remains moist but not wet. If the root ball dries, the plant dies.

They plant outside of flowering in spring or autumn. Before planting, dip the roots in water and loosen the soil where the plant is supposed to grow. The planting hole should be so deep that the root ball is covered with soil at least one centimeter.

Erica tetralix regularly needs a lot of water to grow in the first few weeks after planting. You can plant up to ten heather per square meter.

Multiply bell heath

Instead of multiplying Erika with seeds, which is expensive, you can cut off head cuttings or side shoots that are not yet completely wooded. You plant them in loose soil.

Maintain bell heath

The heather develops bushy if you cut back the old flower shoots every year, before the new shoots, i.e. at the end of February at the latest.

Bell heath in the bog bed

When you create a bog bed, you act ecologically, firstly, because you create a little habitat in nature-threatened plant and animal species, secondly, you can also settle medicinal plants and health plants, because not only the bell heath, also other bog plants are valuable nutritional supplements and Medicinal herbs.

Blueberries, cranberries and cranberries have similar habitat requirements. All three are vitamin and mineral bombs that far outshine some exotic “superfood”. The high content of vitamin C and iron stands out. Fever clover and lung gentian also thrive on the acid-moist soil, which help against febrile diseases of the respiratory tract. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


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Video: How to identify Bell Heather Erica cinerea (December 2022).