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DISCLAIMER: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.

AlderBlk Amer AlderSpeckled AlderTag Alder

aka Common Alder, European Alder, Black Alder
(Alnus glutinosa syn Betula alnus)

PART USED: Bark and leaves.


The fresh bark will cause vomiting and is useful as an emetic. All other uses should be of the dried bark.
Used primarily by Native Americans for wounds and inflammations; also as a decoction for burns.
A decoction has been used as a gargle for sore throat; the powdered bark and leaves as an internal astringent and tonic and as a hemostatic against internal and external bleeding.
Inner bark has been boiled in vinegar for a wash against lice, scabies, scabs and to clean teeth.
A poultice of leaves used for painful breast (1 heaping Tbsp of leaves to 1 pint of boiling water and steeped 30 minutes).
Native Americans used the bark for lung hemorrhages and diptheria; they scraped the inner bark and used the juice to rub on itches and also as a rectal application for piles.
A moist poultice of the inner bark was used to stop heavy bleeding.

aka Black Alder Winterberry, Deciduous Winterberry, Fever Bush, Virginia Winterberry
(Ilex verticillata syn Prinos Verticillatus [Linn])

CONTAINS: Bark contains about 4.8% tannin, also resins, albumen, gum, and sugar. Does NOT contain berberine.

NOT an alder except in name, but a HOLLY. A small deciduous tree or shrub to 15 feet which is found in the eastern American coastal states. Leaves thin, oval or lanceolate; flowers white followed by pea-sized scarlet berries; bark grows in thin layers, the outer surface brownish with pale patches and black dots and lines, the cork layer separating easily from the light yellow to pale green inner bark.

HARVEST: Fresh bark and berries before the first frost.

Cathartic, antiseptic, tonic, astringent, bitter.
Decoction of the bark once used internally for diarrhea and malaria, and externally for indolent sores and chronic skin problems; berries cannot be substituted for the bark.
Once used for jaundice, gangrene, and dropsy.
For dyspepsia 2 tsps of powdered bark was combined with 1 tsp of Goldenseal, then infused in 1 pint of boiling water; was given cold in wineglass full doses over the course of one day.
Berries are cathartic and were once used in combination with 'Cedar-apples' to rid children of worms.

All others buy commercial preparations and follow directions carefully.

DECOCTION = 2 oz bark boiled in 3 pints of water down to 2 pints; single dose was 2 to 3 fluid oz.
POWDERED BARK = 1/2 to 1 tsp

Speckled Alder
(Alnus incana)
A related variety to Common alder, the fresh leaves were placed in shoes to relieve aching, burning feet and a strong tea was prepared as a foot bath. The root was boiled and given to children with blood in the stool.

Red Alder
(Alnus oregona syn Alnus rubra)
image 1 image 2
Native to the western United States.


Infusion used for cholera.

All others buy commercial preparations and follow directions carefully.
INFUSION = 1 tsp bark or leaves in 1 C. water . 1 to 2 C. taken daily in mouthful doses.
TINCTURE = 1/2 to 1 tsp
POWDER = 8 to 12 grains

Young shoots produce yellow with copper mordant; the bark produces gray-brown to black with ferrous sulphate, black with copperas; the fresh wood produces a pinkish green; the catkins produce green.
The color once known as "Boie de Paris" was made with 1 oz of the dry powdered bark boiled in 3/4 pint water with equal logwood, 6 grains each copper, tin, bismuth and 2 drops iron vitriol.

The branches were once considered the best source of charcoal for the making of gunpowder.
The leaves spread on the floor are said to trap fleas on their surface.

aka Red Alder, Smooth Alder, Speckled Alder
(Alnus rugosa)

Shrub or tree to 25 feet native to Europe and North America, forming thickets on borders of ponds, rivers, and swamps. Reddish-green male catkins to 4" long; cones, 4 to 10 in a cluster, ovid to 3/4 inch long. Bark dark gray with small corky warts; inner surface orange-brown and straited. Taste astringent and bitter.

PART USED: Bark and cones

Alterative, tonic, astringent, emetic (bark).
Was used for scrofula, secondary syphilis, and some skin diseases, as well as diarrhea, indigestion and dyspepsia.
A decoction of the cones was used for bleeding.
An old treatment for the eyes (exact complaint unknown) was to bore a hole 1/2 inch to 1 inch in diameter, lengthwise, through a thickish limb; the opening was filled with finely powdered salt and closed at each end; the limb was then placed into hot ashes and allowed to remain 3 or 4 days until charred; it was then split open and the powder placed in a vial; to use, a bit of powder was blown into the eyes through a quill.

All others buy commercial preparations and follow directions carefully.
INFUSION = 1 oz bark in 1 pint boiling water, taken in wineglass full doses.
FLUID EXTRACT = 1/2 to 1 tsp
ALMIM (historical product) = 4 to 10 grains

©2001 & 2003 by Ernestina Parziale, CH