Adder's Tongue (American)

Medical Herbs Catalogue


Adder's Tongue (American)

Botanical Name: Erythronium Americanum (KER-GAWL)
Family: N.O. Liliaceae

Synonyms: Serpent's Tongue. Dog's Tooth Violet. Yellow Snowdrop.
Parts Used: Leaves, bulbs.
Habitat: Eastern United States of America, from New Brunswick to Florida, and westwards to Ontario and Arkansas.

The American Dog's Tooth Violet or Adder's Tongue, Erythronium Americanum (Ker Gawl), is a very beautiful early spring flower of the Eastern United States of America, belonging to the Lily family. It grows in damp, open woodlands from New Brunswick to Florida and westwards to Ontario and Arkansas.

Description: The plant, which is quite smooth, grows from a small, slender, ovoid, fawn-coloured corm, 1/3 to 1 inch long which is quite deeply buried in the soil and is of solid, firm consistence and white and starchy internally.

The stem is slender, a few inches high, and bears near the ground, on footstalks 2 to 3 inches long, a pair of oblong, dark-green, purplish-blotched leaves, the blades about 2 1/2 inches long and 1 inch wide, minutely wrinkled, with parallel, longitudinal veins. The stem terminates in a handsome, large, pendulous, lily-like flower, an inch across, with the perianth divisions strongly recurved, bright yellow in colour, often tinged with purple and finely dotted within at the base, and with six stamens. It flowers in the latter part of April and early in May.

Medicinal Action and Uses: The constituents of the plant have not yet been analysed. The fresh leaves and corm, and to a lesser degree the rest of the plant, are emetic.

The fresh leaves having emollient and anti-scrofulous properties are mostly used in the form of a stimulating poultice, applied to swellings, tumours and scrofulous ulcers.

The infusion is taken internally in wineglassful doses. It is reputed of use in dropsy, hiccough and vomiting.

The recent bulbs have been used as a substitute for colchicum. They are emetic in doses of 25 to 30 grains.