Wednesday, July 3, 2013


HOUND'S TONGUE-Cyanoglossum Officinale

Also known as dog's tongue, gypsy flower, dog bur, sheep lice, woolmat, beggar's lice.

Parts used:  roots and leaves

Meridians/Organs affected:  skin, respiratory, digestive

Properties:  sedative, anodyne, demulcent, astringent, anti-inflammatory, diuretic, emollient, antitumor

This plant is one that enjoys much fame, but in a bad way.  It might surprise you to know that hound's tongue has been used medicinally for centuries.

Hound's tongue is a member of the borage family although in some texts they refer to it being in the 'forget-me-not' family, which it isn't.  It is a leafy, stout tap-rooted perennial with lance-shaped basal leaves that can get as long as 12 inches.  The plant itself can get up to five feet tall.  The flowers are a magenta to purplish red in color and become hard teardrop shaped bristles that we all know and love as 'beggar's lice'.  The entire plant is covered in hairs and can be irritating to some people so it is best handled with gloves if you have skin sensitivity.  It flowers May to July and can most often be found along roadsides, waste places, meadows, and forest areas.  It seems to grow best in full to partial shade.

To most people, hound's tongue is a noxious weed that needs eradicating.  What most don't realize is that this amazing plant is the same species as comfrey and contains many of the same components as comfrey and in fact, can be used interchangeably with comfrey in any formula.  Hound's tongue contains the same abrasive alkaloids as comfrey as well as containing the much-touted allantoin used in so many skin treatments on the market today.  It also contains consolidin and cynoglossine, two alkaloids that are commonly used in pain relief.  As they are also known to depress the nervous system, it is best thought not to use it internally too often (interesting that both comfrey and hound's tongue get lots of flack but are two highly medicinal herbs).

Culpeper once said that he cured a person of rabies with hound's tongue.  It received it's name from this but also from the belief that sticking the leaves in one's shoes would stop dogs from barking at you.  (There is no evidence to support this but amusing nonetheless).  There is evidence that the root can help dispel mucus in the head, eyes, nose and upper respiratory area.  The leaves have been used in the same manner as comfrey for burns, scalds, hemorrhoids, wounds, punctures, gangrene and cancer (Incidentally, both comfrey and hound's tongue have been said to have carcinogenic components as well as being used to treat various cancers.  I find it interesting how the smear campaigns work in the alternative vs allopathic fields). 

According to the Herbalist Almanac, hound's tongue was used as a rodent deterrant.  It was said that if you gathered this plant when the sap was flowing and bruised it with a hammer and then placed it in the house, barn or wherever the rodent infestation might be, that the rodents would move their domiciles elsewhere.  Interesting thought....I might actually try this one and see how it works given I live in the deep woods.

Hound's tongue has been used internally for coughs, diarrhea, dysentery, neuritis, neuralgia, ulcers, urinary infections, catarrh, colic, indigestion, chronic bronchitis and other lung issues.  It has been used externally for bruising, burns, insect and snake bites, tumors, abrasions, boils, scrofula (abnormal growths on the lymph areas), goiter, scratches and difficult wounds that fail to heal.

The root is best gathered in the spring before the plant flowers and the leaves in the summertime as the plant comes into flower. 

As with all of my posts please find some links regarding hound's tongue below.  Use them as you best see fit.  Be happy and healthy!

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