Synonyms: Other names: dog's tongue Nomenclature: officinale = sold as an herb, medicinal Nativity / Invasiveness: noxious weed in Montana
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General: coarse, single-stemmed biennial, 30-120 cm tall, leafy to the top, softly long-hairy throughout, from taproots.
Leaves: forming a large basal rosette in the 1st year. In the 2nd year alternate, the lowermost ones oblanceolate or narrowly elliptic, tapering to the stalk, 10-30 cm long overall and 2-5 cm wide, the others stalkless and more oblong or lanceolate, numerous, only gradually reduced upward.
Flowers: many on several long, 1-sided branches from the upper leaf axils. Mature flower stalks curved-spreading. Sepals broad, blunt-tipped, 5-8 mm long in fruit. Corolla dull reddish-purple, broadly bell-shaped, the limb about 1 cm wide or a little less, the fornices protruding, broadly rounded. The anthers seated about at the corolla throat.
Fruits: 4 nutlets, 5-7 mm long, ovate, descending-spreading, forming a broad low-pyramidal fruit, remaining attached to the style above even after drying, covered with short, barbed prickles.
A weed in disturbed sites, especially along roadsides, in most parts of MT. Native of Europe, now well established in N. America.
Hound's tongue has a long history of use as a medicinal herb, though it is rarely used in modern herbalism. The leaves contain allantoin, a highly effective agent that speeds up the healing process in the body. Caution should be applied, however, since narcotic effects result from large doses taken internally and the plant is potentially carcinogenic (though it has also been used in the treatment of cancer). The plant has a wide anti-tumor reputation for cancers of various types. A homeopathic remedy is made from the roots. It is very effective in the treatment of insomnia. Teas made from the roots and leaves have been used to treat coughs, colds, irritated membranes, hemorrhoids, diarrhea and dysentery. The leaves and roots are pain-relieving, digestive, anti-hemorrhoidal, antispasmodic, slightly narcotic, and has agents that cause tissue to contract, and that soften and soothe the skin when applied locally. They also contain alantoin, a waxy compound that has been used to treat ulcers on the skin and in the intestine. However, this plant can cause skin reactions, and they have alkaloids that depress the central nervous system. The plant contains the alkaloids cynoglossine and consolidin, which are used medicinally to relieve pain. They depress the central nervous system and are also potentially carcinogenic. The plant has been used internally in the treatment of coughs and diarrhea, though it is now mainly used externally as a poultice on piles, wounds, minor injuries, bites and ulcers. The root is harvested at the end of spring of the plants second year. Another report says that it is best harvested in the autumn and dried for later use. The leaves and flowering shoots are harvested as the plant comes into flower and are dried for later use.
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