Herb: Wahoo

Latin name: Euonymus atropurpureus

Family: Celastraceae (Bittersweet Family)

Medicinal use of Wahoo:

Wahoo was used in various ways by the North American Indians, for example as an eye lotion, as a poultice for facial sores and for gynaecological conditions. In current herbalism it is considered to be a gallbladder remedy with laxative and diuretic properties. The bark, however, is toxic and should only be used under professional supervision, it should not be given to pregnant women or nursing mothers. The stem and root bark is alterative, cardiac, cathartic, cholagogue, diuretic, expectorant, hepatic, laxative, stimulant and tonic. The root bark is the part normally used, though bark from the stems is sometimes employed as a substitute. In small doses it stimulates the appetite, in larger doses it irritates the intestines. The bark is especially useful in the treatment of biliousness and liver disorders which follow or accompany fevers and for treating various skin disorders such as eczema which could arise from poor liver and gallbladder function. It is also used as a tea in the treatment of malaria, liver congestion, constipation etc. The powdered bark, applied to the scalp, was believed to eliminate dandruff. The bark and the root contain digitoxin and have a digitalis-like effect on the heart. They have been used in the treatment of heart conditions. The bark, which has a sweetish taste, is gathered in the autumn and can be dried for later use. A tea made from the roots is used in cases of uterine prolapse, vomiting of blood, painful urination and stomach-aches. The seed is emetic and strongly laxative.

Description of the plant:


2.5 m
(8 1/4 foot)


Habitat of the herb:

Rich woods and thickets, the best specimens are found in deep rich humus soils. Limstone soils, stream bottoms and woods in Texas.

Edible parts of Wahoo:

Although the fruit has sometimes been eaten, it is considered to be poisonous by some writers and so should definitely be avoided. The fruit is about 15mm in diameter.

Other uses of the herb:

Wood - heavy, hard, tough, very close grained. It weighs 41lb per cubic foot, but is too small to be of commercial value.

Propagation of Wahoo:

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. Stored seed requires 8 - 12 weeks warm followed by 8 - 16 weeks cold stratification and can then be sown in a cold frame. When 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. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 5 - 8cm long taken at a node or with a heel, July/August in a frame. Very easy.

Cultivation of the herb:

Rich woods and thickets, the best specimens are found in deep rich humus soils. Limstone soils, stream bottoms and woods in Texas.

Known hazards of Euonymus atropurpureus:

The fruits, seed and bark are considered to be poisonous.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.