HomeHerb DatabaseVirginia Dogwood Sunday, July 21, 2024  
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  • Cornus florida L.
  • Cornaceae
  • Cornus family

Common Names

herbsAmerican dogwood
herbsCornelian Tree
herbsFalse Box
herbsFlorida cornel
herbsFlorida dogwood
herbsFlowering cornel
herbsFlowering dogwood
herbsGreen Ozier
herbsVirginia dogwood

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.

Where Found

Found from Maine to Florida and west to Minnesota, Kansas, and Texas.

Grows in the understorey of woods, along roadsides and in old fields

Medicinal Properties

Astringent, febrifuge, stimulant, tonic

Biochemical Information

Tannic and gallic acids, resin, gum, oil, wax, lignin, lime potash and iron

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, pneumonia, colds, 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 gums.

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