- Cornus florida L.
- Cornus family
Parts Usually Used
Inner bark, berries, twigs
Description of Plant(s) and Culture
Dogwood is a native American, our most showy deciduous tree, growing
to 30 feet high; the bark is brown and rough, the leaves opposite,
ovate, pointed, and darker green above than beneath. Latex threads
appear at veins when leaves are split apart. The flowers are small
and greenish-yellow but are obscured by the large, white or pink bracts
so that the whole looks like a large white or pink flower. Flowers
are in clusters, April-May. The fruit is a glossy, dry, scarlet berry
two celled and two seeds, is inedible and very bitter; October-November.
Other varieties: Chinese dogwood (Cornus machrophylla), Chinese
name Sung-yang; in Japan this tree is Celtis muku or Ehretia serrata;
Jamaican dogwood (Piscidia erythrina) used medicinally for panic attacks
and excessive stress; and Osier dogwood (Cornus stolonifera) used
by the Native Americans, the inner bark has properties of quinine
used as tea internally.
Found from Maine to Florida and west to Minnesota, Kansas, and Texas.
Grows in the understorey of woods, along roadsides and in old fields
Astringent, febrifuge, stimulant, tonic
Tannic and gallic acids, resin, gum, oil, wax, lignin, lime potash
Legends, Myths and Stories
Widely used in the South, especially during the Civil War for malarial
fevers and chronic diarrhea.
An 1830 herbal reported that the Native Americans and captive Africans
in Virginia were remarkable for the whiteness of their teeth, and
attributed it to the use of Dogwood chewing sticks. Once chewed for
a few minutes, the tough fibers at the ends of the twigs split into
a fine soft "brush". Also, the Native American tribe, the Arikaras,
mixed bearberry with the dried inner bark of the red dogwood to make
sacred tobacco which they smoked in a regulation red pipestone pipe.
Dogwood bark is best used as an ointment for ague, malaria
(substitute for quinine), fever,
and similar complaints. Used for diarrhea.
Externally, poulticed onto external ulcers
and sores. Twigs used as chewing
sticks, forerunners of the toothpick. It was sometimes used as a substitute
when Peruvian bark could not be obtained.
Formulas or Dosages
Use only dried dogwood bark. Fresh bark upsets the stomach and bowels.
Infusion: steep 1 tbsp. bark in 1 pint water for 30 minutes
and strain. Take 1/2 cup every 2-3 hours.
Tincture: take 20-40 drops in water, as needed.
As with hard toothbrushes, dogwood chewing sticks can cause receding