Herb: Herb Christopher

Latin name: Actaea spicata

Family: Ranunculaceae (Buttercup Family)

Medicinal use of Herb Christopher:

The root is antispasmodic, cytostatic, emetic, nervine and purgative. In Canada the root is used in the treatment of snakebite. It is also considered useful in the treatment of nervous disorders and rheumatic fever. In India it is used in the treatment of rheumatism, goitre and asthma. This remedy should be used with some caution, see the notes above on toxicity.

Description of the plant:


50 cm
(1 foot)

May to

Habitat of the herb:

Ash woods on limestone and in damp stony woods to 1500 metres.

Other uses of Herb Christopher:

The smell of the plant is reputed to drive away vermin. A black dye is obtained from the berries when alum is used as a mordant. The seeds contain tannin.

Propagation of the herb:

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in the autumn in a cold frame or outdoors in a moist shaded seedbed. The seed has a limited viability, it can also be sown in spring in a cold frame but germination rates may be poor. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer of the following year. Division in March or October.

Cultivation of Herb Christopher:

Ash woods on limestone and in damp stony woods to 1500 metres.

Known hazards of Actaea spicata:

All parts of plant are poisonous but rarely fatal.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.