Herb: Redbud

Latin name: Cercis canadensis

Family: Leguminosae

Medicinal use of Redbud:

A tea made from the inner bark is highly astringent. Used in the treatment of fevers, diarrhoea and dysentery, it is also a folk remedy for leukaemia. A cold infusion of the roots and inner bark have been used to treat various chest complaints including whooping cough and congestion.

Description of the plant:


12 m
(39 feet)

May to

Habitat of the herb:

Rich woods, ravines and borders of streams. It often forms a distinct understorey in woodlands.

Edible parts of Redbud:

Flowers - raw or pickled. A nice refreshing acid taste, the flowers are rich in vitamin C and make a pleasant addition to salads. They can also be used as a condiment. The unopened buds are pickled or used as a caper substitute. On a zero moisture basis, the seed contains 22.9 - 27.5% protein, 7.7 - 8.8% fat and 3% ash. (This report does not say if the seed is edible.)

Other uses of the herb:

The bark of young shoots is used in basket making. Wood - heavy, hard, not strong, close grained, takes a very fine polish. It weighs 40lb per cubic foot.

Propagation of Redbud:

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. Pre-soak stored seed for 24 hours in warm water then cold stratify for 3 months. Sow spring in the greenhouse. As soon as they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in a greenhouse for their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Plants resent root disturbance and are best planted out in their permanent positions as soon as possible. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, July/August in a frame.

Cultivation of the herb:

Rich woods, ravines and borders of streams. It often forms a distinct understorey in woodlands.

Known hazards of Cercis canadensis:

The plant is reported to contain a toxic saponin. Although toxic, saponins are poorly absorbed by the body and most pass straight through without any problem. They are also broken down to a large extent in the cooking process. Saponins are found in many foods, such as some beans. Saponins are much more toxic to some creatures, such as fish, and hunting tribes have traditionally put large quantities of them in streams, lakes etc in order to stupefy or kill the fish.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.