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Thursday, April 26, 2012

DOGBANE, APOCYNUM CANNABIUM: HEAL:TH BENEFITS AND USES OF DOGBANE


BLACK INDIAN HEMP, DOGBANE, APOCYNUM CANNABINUM 
Black Indian hemp or Dogbane is native to North America, where it is also known as wild cotton, milkweed, which is actually Asclepias syriaca now in the same Apocynaceae family, and American hemp. Other relatives of this dogbane are aak, the devil tree, bitter oleander and oleander.
The plant can grow to heights of around six feet, but is more generally seen at heights of around 4 feet.
 It gets its genus name, Apocynum from the ancient Greek, apo away and cyanus dog, and it was Pliny who wrote that the plant was fatal to dogs, although he was writing of one of the European dogbanes. Dogbane is also a name given to Aconitum Cynoctonum, and there are also three European dogbanes in the Apocynum genus, according to William Salmon, a botanist and herbalist who was writing in 1710. He named these as Apocynum angustifolia, Apocynum latifolium non repens and Apocynum folia angusta. The climbing dogbane he says was a curiosity at the time in Europe and planted as an ornamental.

  Native Americans used the plant for many purposes. The stem bark provides strong fibres which were used to make fishing nets and fishing lines as the fibre remains strong in water. It can also make twine and so be woven into other items, including cloth. It can be used as a flax substitute. It was because of the ability to utilize this plant’s fibres that it has the same name as cannabis, not because it is a drug.
  It was also employed in medicine, but the root has cardio-active glycosides in it, making it slow the pulse rate and it is reported to have sedative and hypnotic properties. It is best to treat this plant with extreme caution and only use it under the supervision of a physician. In some ways it is similar to digitalis, (found in the foxglove). However it was used for syphilis, rheumatism, intestinal worms, fever, diarrhoea and dysentery, as well as for coughs as an expectorant, and various other ailments.
  The edible seeds can be eaten raw or cooked and ground to a powder and then used for flour. However some report that the whole plant is poisonous containing toxins which can blister the skin. The latex from the plant, like that of milkweed can be used for chewing gum and it may be possible to produce rubber from it.
  The root is bitter and so the plant is sometimes referred to as bitter root. Its flowering season is July and August and you can identify it by its red-purple stems.
 
  

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