HomeHerb DatabaseVirgin's Bower Saturday, May 25, 2024  
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Virgin's Bower

  • Clematis virginiana L.
  • Buttercup family

Common Names

herbsVirgin's bower

Parts Usually Used

Twigs and leaves, flowers

Description of Plant(s) and Culture

A woody climbing vine, its opposite, ternate leaves divided into 3 sharp-toothed ovate, acute, serrate leaflets. Its small, petalless flowers have 4 petal-like whitish sepals and bloom in leafy, cymose panicles during summer and autumn. The fruit is a feathery achene (a small, dry fruit with one seed which is attached to the ovary wall only at one point) which grows in prominent heads. These feathery plumes attached to the seeds.

Another variety: Native Americans used another plant (Clematis ligusticifolia) also called clematis and virgin's bower. They used the leaves and bark as shampoo; at Fort MacDermitt, Nevada, the root was dried and powdered for use as a shampoo.

Where Found

Found along streambanks, bushes, thickets, wood edges, and fences in the eastern and central states of the United States. Nova Scotia to Georgia; Louisiana; eastern Kansas north to Canada.

Medicinal Properties

Diaphoretic (increases perspiration), diuretic, stimulant, vesicant (produces blisters).


An infusion of the leaves and flowers of virgin's bower is said to relieve even severe headaches. For external use, this herb is sometimes combined with other plants to make ointments or poultices for sores, skin ulcers, and itching skin.

Formulas or Dosages

Infusion: steep 1 heaping tsp. of leaves and flowers in 1 cup water for 30 minutes. Take 1 tsp. 4-6 times per day.

Inhaling the fumes of the bruised root or leaves is said to relieve headaches (but I wouldn't try it).


Virgin's bower contains acrid substances which can cause severe skin irritation. Sensitive people can get dermatitis from handling the plant.

Virgin's bower is toxic. Highly irritating to skin and mucous membranes. Ingestion may cause bloody vomiting, severe diarrhea, and convulsions.

Use under medical supervision only.

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