Herb: Spreading Dogbane


Latin name: Apocynum androsaemifolium


Family: Apocynaceae (Dogbane Family)



Medicinal use of Spreading Dogbane:

Spreading dogbane is an unpleasantly bitter stimulant irritant herb that acts on the heart, respiratory and urinary systems, and also on the uterus. It was widely employed by the native North American Indians who used it to treat a wide variety of complaints including headaches, convulsions, earache, heart palpitations, colds, insanity and dizziness. It should be used with great caution, and only under the supervision of a qualified practitioner if taking this plant internally. The root contains cymarin, a cardioactive glycoside that is toxic to ruminants. The root is cardiotonic, cathartic, diaphoretic, diuretic, emetic and expectorant. It has a powerful action in slowing the pulse and also has a very strong action on the vaso-motor system, it is rather an irritant to the mucous membranes though, so some people cannot tolerate it. The juice of the fresh root has been used in the treatment of syphilis. The sap of the plant has been applied externally to get rid of warts. The roots were boiled in water and the water drunk once a week in order to prevent conception. The green fruits were boiled and the decoction used in the treatment of heart and kidney problems and for the treatment of dropsy. This preparation can irritate the intestines and cause unpleasant side-effects.

Description of the plant:



Plant:
Perennial


Height:
60 cm
(2 feet)

Flovering:
July

Habitat of the herb:

Open woodland, woodland edges etc, usually on drier soils.

Other uses of Spreading Dogbane:

The bark yields a good quality fibre that is used for making twine, bags, linen etc. It is inferior to A. cannabinum. The fibre is finer and stronger than cotton. It can be harvested after the leaves fall in the autumn but is probably at its best as the seed pods are forming. The plant yields a latex, which is a possible source of rubber. It is obtained by making incisions on the stem and resembles indiarubber when dry.

Propagation of the herb:

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in late summer and overwintered outdoors. The seed requires a period of cold stratification if it is to germinate well. Prick out the seedlings when large enough to handle and grow them on in a cold frame for their first winter, planting out in late spring of the following year. Division in spring just before active growth begins. Plants can also be divided in the autumn.

Cultivation of Spreading Dogbane:

Open woodland, woodland edges etc, usually on drier soils.

Known hazards of Apocynum androsaemifolium:

All parts of the plant are poisonous.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.