Herb: Burning Bush

Latin name: Dictamnus albus

Synonyms: Dictamnus fraxinella

Family: Rutaceae (Rue Family, Citrus Family)

Medicinal use of Burning Bush:

The burning bush has been used in Chinese herbal medicine for at least 1,500 years. The root bark is a bitter, strong-smelling herb that lowers fevers and controls bacterial and fungal infections. The plant has an effect similar to rue (Ruta graveolens) in that it strongly stimulates the muscles of the uterus, inducing menstruation and sometimes causing abortion. By contrast, its effect upon the gastro-intestinal tract is antispasmodic and it acts as a mild tonic on the stomach. Both the flowering stems and the root-bark are used medicinally. They are abortifacient, anthelmintic, antispasmodic, aromatic, digestive, diuretic, emmenagogue, expectorant, febrifuge, galactogogue, stimulant and tonic. The plant is used both internally and externally in the treatment of skin diseases (especially scabies and eczema), German measles, arthritic pain and jaundice. It is little used in Western herbalism nowadays, though it has been recommended for use in nervous complaints, intermittent fevers, scrofulous and scorbutic diseases. Use with caution, in large doses it is poisonous. The root bark is harvested in the autumn and dried for later use. An infusion of the leaves is used as a tea substitute and is a good digestive. A homeopathic remedy is made from the fresh leaves. It is used in the treatment of female complaints and constipation.

Description of the plant:


100 cm
(3 1/4 foot)

to July


Habitat of the herb:

Woodland margins and rocky scree, mainly on calcareous soils.

Edible parts of Burning Bush:

A lemon-scented tea is made from the dried leaves. Refreshing and aromatic.

Other uses of the herb:

The plant contains an essential oil. Yields from the fresh flowering plant are around 3% on a dry weight basis. This oil is used as a cosmetic.

Propagation of Burning Bush:

Seed - best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe. Cold stratify stored seed for 6 weeks and sow in the spring in a cold frame. The seed usually germinates in 1 - 6 months at 15C. As soon as they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Division in spring. Take care since the plant resents root disturbance. The plant can also be divided in autumn. We have found it best to tease out divisions from the side of the clump to avoid the need to dig up the main clump. Try to get divisions that already have formed roots. Pot them up in a greenhouse and grow them on for a year to make sure they are well established before planting them out. Root cuttings in November/December.

Cultivation of the herb:

Woodland margins and rocky scree, mainly on calcareous soils.

Known hazards of Dictamnus albus:


Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.