Herb: Stavesacre

Latin name: Delphinium staphisagria

Family: Ranunculaceae (Buttercup Family)

Medicinal use of Stavesacre:

Stavesacre is a very poisonous plant that is rarely used in modern herbal medicine. The seed is antispasmodic, cathartic, emetic and vermifuge. The seeds cause a strong salivation if they are chewed and have been used in the treatment of toothache and other painful conditions of the throat and gums. They are so strongly emetic and cathartic, however, that they are rarely used internally. Externally, a decoction is used to treat itchy skin and parasites. The seed is very poisonous and should be used with great caution. The plant has been used externally in the treatment of warts, lice and itches. A homeopathic remedy is made from the seeds. This is used in the treatment of a variety of ailments including toothache, injuries and headache.

Description of the plant:


100 cm
(3 1/4 foot)

May to

Habitat of the herb:

Field verges and in scrub, on hot dry soils. Often found in poor soils.

Other uses of Stavesacre:

A parasiticide is obtained from the leaves. It is quite toxic and so is for external use only. The seed is used to make a potent insecticide, parasiticide and to destroy vermin. It is used to kill head lice.

Propagation of the herb:

Seed - sow March in a cold frame or April outdoors. Keep moist and in a shady position until germination takes place. Seed can also be sown either in a cold frame or in situ as soon as it is ripe in mid to late summer, though seedlings from the outdoor sowing can be killed in cold winters. The seed has a limited viability so it should be stored in a sealed container at about 3C. Temperatures above 15C inhibit germination. The seed usually germinates in 2 - 9 weeks at 15C.

Cultivation of Stavesacre:

Field verges and in scrub, on hot dry soils. Often found in poor soils.

Known hazards of Delphinium staphisagria:

All parts of the plant contain diterpene alkaloids and are highly toxic. The plant is most toxic when it is young. Ingestion of a lethal dose produces a feeling of excitement, followed by depression and extreme sensitivity of the nerves, followed by paralysis, a slowing of the pulse and finally death by asphyxia.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.