Herb: Swamp Laurel


Latin name: Kalmia polifolia


Synonyms: Kalmia glauca


Family: Ericaceae (Heath Family)



Medicinal use of Swamp Laurel:

Swamp 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, it at all, used in modern herbalism though the leaves are a good external treatment for many skin diseases and inflammation. The leaves are astringent and sedative. They are used externally to make a poultice or a wash in the treatment of many skin diseases, open sores, wounds that will not heal and inflammation. Used internally, the leaves have a splendid effect in the treatment of active haemorrhages, diarrhoea and flux. They should be used with great caution however, and only under the supervision of a qualified practitioner. See the notes above on toxicity.

Description of the plant:



Plant:
Evergreen
Shrub

Height:
50 cm
(1 foot)

Flovering:
April

Habitat of the herb:

Cold peat bogs and other wet places.

Propagation of Swamp 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:

Cold peat bogs and other wet places.

Known hazards of Kalmia polifolia:

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

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.