Herb: Viper's Bugloss


Latin name: Echium vulgare


Family: Boraginaceae (Borage Family)



Medicinal use of Viper's Bugloss:

Viper's bugloss was once considered to be a preventative and remedy for viper bites. It is related to borage, Borago officinalis, and has many similar actions, especially in its sweat-inducing and diuretic effects. In recent times, however, it has fallen out of use, partly due to lack of interest in its medicinal potential and partly to its content of pyrrolizidine alkaloids which are toxic in isolation. The leaves and flowering stems are antitussive, aphrodisiac, demulcent, diaphoretic, diuretic, pectoral and vulnerary. An infusion of the plant is taken internally as a diuretic and in the treatment of fevers, headaches, chest conditions etc. The juice of the plant is an effective emollient for reddened and delicate skins, it is used as a poultice or plaster to treat boils and carbuncles. The leaves are harvested in the summer and can be dried for later use. The roots contain the healing agent allantoin. The plant is said to be efficacious in the treatment of snake bites. When chopped up finely, the fresh flowering heads can be made into a poultice for treating whitlows and boils.

Description of the plant:



Plant:
Biennial/Perennial


Height:
90 cm
(2 feet)

Flovering:
July to
October

Habitat of the herb:

Calcareous and light dry soils, especially on cliffs near the sea. It is also found on walls, old quarries and gravel pits.

Edible parts of Viper's Bugloss:

Young leaves - raw or cooked. They can be used as a spinach substitute. Mild and mucilaginous. Although somewhat hairy, when chopped up finely they are an acceptable part of a mixed salad. Eating the leaves is said to stimulate sexual desire. Use with caution, there is an unconfirmed report of toxicity.

Other uses of the herb:

A red dye is obtained from the root.

Propagation of Viper's Bugloss:

Seed - sow February-May or August-November in situ. Germination usually takes place within 2 - 3 weeks at 15C. If the seed is in short supply then it can be sown in pots in a cold frame. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out in the summer.

Cultivation of the herb:

Calcareous and light dry soils, especially on cliffs near the sea. It is also found on walls, old quarries and gravel pits.

Known hazards of Echium vulgare:

The leaves are poisonous. No cases of poisoning have ever been recorded for this plant. The bristly hairs on the leaves and stems can cause severe dermatitis.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.