Herb: Western Columbine


Latin name: Aquilegia formosa


Family: Ranunculaceae (Buttercup Family)



Medicinal use of Western Columbine:

Western columbine was quite frequently employed by a number of native North American Indian tribes who used it to treat a variety of complaints. It is little used in modern herbalism. Antispasmodic, diaphoretic, parasiticide, resolvent, salve. A decoction of the root is used in the treatment of diarrhoea and stomach aches. A decoction of the roots and leaves is used in the treatment of VD, dizziness and biliousness. The mashed fresh roots can be rubbed briskly on aching rheumatic joints. A poultice of chewed roots or leaves is applied to bee stings, sores etc. A decoction of the leaves is used in the treatment of sore throats, coughs and colds. The seeds can be chewed as a remedy for stomach aches.

Description of the plant:



Plant:
Perennial


Height:
75 cm
(2 feet)

Flovering:
May to
August

Habitat of the herb:

Widely distributed in many habitats from the coast to the coastal mountains. Moist woods and damp places in scrub and on banks from sea-level to 3000 metres.

Edible parts of Western Columbine:

Flowers - raw. Rich in nectar, they are sweet and delightful, they make a very attractive addition to mixed salads and can also be used as a thirst-quenching munch in the garden. Children enjoy sucking out the sweet nectar from the base of the flowers. Early spring greens cooked and eaten as a vegetable. Some caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity. Root - cooked. Used by the N. American Indians as a famine food. Some caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity.

Other uses of the herb:

The seed is used to rid the hair of lice. The whole plant is boiled up and used as a hair wash. The seeds are aromatic. They can be crushed and rubbed on the body as a perfume or placed in a sachet and stored with clothes to impart a nice smell.

Propagation of Western Columbine:

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. The seed can be slow to germinate. Stored seed can be sown in late winter in a cold frame. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in a cold frame for their first winter. Plant out in late spring or early summer. Division in spring.

Cultivation of the herb:

Widely distributed in many habitats from the coast to the coastal mountains. Moist woods and damp places in scrub and on banks from sea-level to 3000 metres.

Known hazards of Aquilegia formosa:

Although no records of toxicity have been seen for this species, it belongs to a family that contains a number of mildly toxic species. It is therefore wise to exercise some caution. The flowers are probably perfectly safe to eat.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.