Herb: Alkanet

Latin name: Alkanna tinctoria

Synonyms: Alkanna tuberculata, Anchusa tinctoria

Family: Boraginaceae (Borage Family)

Medicinal use of Alkanet:

The root is antibacterial, antipruritic, astringent and vulnerary.It is used externally in the treatment of varicose veins, indolent ulcers, bed sores and itching rashes. The root is harvested in the autumn and can be dried for later use.

Description of the plant:


20 cm
(7 3/4 inch)


Habitat of the herb:

Maritime sands, uncultivated ground, calcareous soils and pine forests.

Edible parts of Alkanet:

Used as a vegetable. No further details are given. A red dye obtained from the roots is used as a food colouring.

Other uses of the herb:

A red dye is obtained from the roots, it is used by pharmacists as well as in perfumes and to stain wood or marble. The dye is also used in thermometers and as a litmus to test for acids and alkalines. It can make wood look like rosewood or mahogany.

Propagation of Alkanet:

Seed - sow spring in a cold frame. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out in the summer. Division in spring. Fairly easy, they can be planted straight out into their permanent positions if required. Basal cuttings of new growth in late spring. Harvest the young shoots when they are about 10 - 15cm long and pot them up into individual pots in a lightly shaded position in a greenhouse. They should root well within a few weeks and can be planted out in the summer. Root cuttings in late winter.

Cultivation of the herb:

Maritime sands, uncultivated ground, calcareous soils and pine forests.

Known hazards of Alkanna tinctoria:

Many members of this plant family contain a liver-damaging alkaloid and so internal usage is inadvisable.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.