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American Bittersweet

  • Celastrus scandens L.
  • Celastrus orbiculatus
  • Staff tree family

Common Names


Parts Usually Used

Bark of root

Description of Plant(s) and Culture

Climbing, twining shrub; grows to 50 feet. Leaves ovate to oblong, sharp pointed, fine-toothed. Flowers greenish, in clusters, May to June. Fruit capsule scarlet to orange, splitting, to reveal scarlet seeds.

Where Found

Rich thickets from Quebec to Georgia; Alabama, Oklahoma to North Dakota.


Root-bark tea induces sweating; diuretic, emetic. Folk remedy for chronic liver and skin ailments, rheumatism, leukorrhea, suppressed menses. Externally; bark used in ointment for burns, scrapes, skin eruptions. American Indians used this plant as above, also used astringent leaf tea for diarrhea, dysentery. Root-bark tea is used for pain of childbirth. Bark extracts thought to be cardioactive.


Fruits are toxic. All parts potentially toxic. This herb should not be used without medical supervision.

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