Spikenard, Ploughman's

Medical Herbs Catalogue


Spikenard, Ploughman's

Botanical Name: Inula conyza
Family: N.O. Compositae

Synonyms: Conyza Squarrosa (Linn.). Cloron's Hard. Horse Heal. Cinnamon Root. Great Fleabane.
Part Used: Herb.
Habitat: It is found on dry banks and in copses, principally on limestone or chalky soil.

Ploughman's Spikenard is another member of this genus that - as its name implies - has had a popular reputation for its curative powers.

Description: Its upright stems, rising from a biennial root, generally only a foot or two in height, often purplish in colour and downy, are branched and terminated by numerous small flower-heads of a dingy yellow or dusky purple, only about two-thirds of an inch across, the ray florets inconspicuous and the leaf-like scales of the involucre rolled back. The leaves of the plant are narrow, of a dull green, egg-shaped and downy. Their margins are either entire, or toothed, the teeth ending in horny points.

The plant has a slight, but not unpleasant, aromatic odour, hence, perhaps, one of its local names: Cinnamon Root.

Medicinal Action and Uses: The older herbalists considered Ploughman's Spikenard a good wound herb, and it was frequently taken in decoction for bruises, ruptures, inward wounds, pains in the side and difficulty of breathing. It also had a reputation as an emmenagogue, and the juice of the while plant was applied externally to cure the itch.

The very smell of the plant was said to destroy fleas, and the leaves have been used, burnt, as an insecticide. Great Fleabane is one of its popular names.

Its specific name, Conyza, is derived from the Greek word for dust or powder, and refers to its power of killing noxious insects.

The leaves are sometimes substituted for Digitalis, but may be readily distinguished by their entire margins to the leaves or, when toothed, by the horny points terminating the teeth.

Inula of several species (especially Inule Britannica, Linn.) has been used to adulterate Arnica flowers. En masse, this spurious drug is pale and dull-looking, and its rays are small and narrow and of a pale yellow, whereas Arnica flower rays are broad and bright yellow. Also Inula has the involucral scales in several series, the receptacle is not hairy, and the anther-bases are longtailed.