Herb: Sheep Laurel


Latin name: Kalmia angustifolia


Family: Ericaceae (Heath Family)



Medicinal use of Sheep Laurel:

Sheep laurel is a very poisonous narcotic plant the leaves of which were at one time used by some native North American Indian tribes in order to commit suicide. It is little, if at all, used in modern herbalism. The leaves are usually used externally as a poultice and wash in herbal medicine and are a good remedy for many skin diseases, sprains and inflammation. They can also be applied as a poultice to the head to treat headaches. The singed, crushed leaves can be used as a snuff in the treatment of colds. Used internally, the leaves are analgesic, astringent and sedative and have a splendid effect in the treatment of active haemorrhages, headaches, diarrhoea and flux. This species is said to be the best for medicinal use in the genus. The plant should be used with great caution however, see the notes above on toxicity.

Description of the plant:



Plant:
Evergreen
Shrub

Height:
150 cm
(5 feet)

Flovering:
June

Habitat of the herb:

Acidic bogs and swamps.

Propagation of Sheep Laurel:

Seed - surface sow in late winter in a cool greenhouse in light shade. Prick out the young seedlings into individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle. The seedlings are rather sensitive to damping off, so water them with care, keep them well-ventilated and perhaps apply a fungicide such as garlic as a preventative. Grow the young plants on in light shade and overwinter them in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in early summer. The seed is dust-like and remains viable for many years. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, August in a frame. Very poor results unless the cuttings are taken from very young plants. Layering in August/September. Takes 18 months. The plants can also be dug up and replanted about 30cm deeper in the soil to cover up some of the branches. The plant can then be dug up about 12 months later when the branches will have formed roots and can be separated to make new plants.

Cultivation of the herb:

Acidic bogs and swamps.

Known hazards of Kalmia angustifolia:

The foliage is poisonous to animals. The whole plant is highly toxic.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.