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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.

BalmonyBalmony, Indian

aka Bitter herb, Chelone, Chelone Obliqua, Codmouth, Fishmouth, Glatta, Hummingbird Tree, Salt-rheum weed,
Shellflower, Snakehead, Snakemouth, Turtlebloom, Turtlehead, White chelone

(Chelone glabra [variant spelling "celone"])
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CONTAINS: Not established, but contains gallic acid (soluble in water and alcohol).

A perennial plant of the Figwort family usually found growing sparingly in the eastern United States and Canada on the margins of swamps, wet woods and rivers. Native to North America it is an erect plant from 2 to 4 feet high, smooth-stemmed (slightly 4-sided), bearing opposite oblong leaves (stalkless or nearly so and toothed) and short dense terminal spikes of two-lipped white (or purplish) or cream or rose flowers appearing on a spike. The lower lip is bearded in the throat and the heart-shaped anthers and filaments are woolly. Leaves have a slight, somewhat tea-like odor and a very bitter taste.
The name of the genus comes from the Greek and means a "tortoise" from resemblance of the corolla to a tortoise head.

PROPAGATION: By soft tip cuttings in summer or by seed sown under cover in spring or by division in early autumn. The fruit is a capsule.
NEEDS: As an ornamental it requires moist soil in partial shade. It is sometimes erroneously offered in the nursery trade as Penstemon barbatus. Plant in pots to keep it contained and the roots from creeping.
HARVEST: The plants are cut when in flower (July-Sept) and dried for use in infusions, liquid extracts, powders or tinctures. The whole fresh plant is chopped, pounded to a pulp and weighed and a tincture is prepared with alcohol.
PART USED: Above ground portion; usually collected and dried, but also used fresh.
SOLVENT: The bitter leaves give their properties to both water and alcohol.


Extremely bitter herb that acts mainly as a tonic for the liver and digestive system; antidepressant, aperient, laxative effects, stimulant; leaves have anti-bilious, anthelmintic, tonic and detergent properties with a peculiar action on the liver; increases gastric and salivary secretions and stimulates appetite; laxative in small doses but purgative in large doses.
Leaves were included in a list of Canadian medicinal plants.
Has been used internally for gallstones with jaundice, chronic liver disease, colic, constipation, anorexia and poor digestion (especially in the elderly and during convalescence), chronic malarial complaints; leaves have been used for consumption, dyspepsia, debility and jaundice in diseases of the liver and for worms in children (powder or decoction used internally or in injection).
Has been considered a specific tonic for biliousness, jaundice, constipation, dyspepsia and sluggish liver. Has been considered a specific in gallstones that lead to congestive jaundice.
Has been used externally as an ointment for inflamed tumors, irritable ulcers, inflamed breasts, piles, sores and eczema.
Was used by Native Americans as a laxative and purgative; they used a strong decoction of the whole plant for eruptive diseases, piles, hemorrhoids, sores; an ointment was used by early settlers for inflamed tumors.
Has been used for eruptions of the skin.
An ointment made from the fresh leaves was used for piles.
Has been combined with butternut (Juglans cinerea) for constipation.
Has been combined with Gentiana lutea (Great Yellow Gentian) and Hydrastis Canadensis (Goldenseal) for jaundice.
Has been combined with Cranesbill and Goldenseal for vaginal discharge; when discharge begins to lessen dosage was reduced and continued for 1 month before ceasing.
Has been combined with diuretics for dropsy with chronic liverproblems and digestive sluggishness.
Has been combined with Fringe Tree bark for gallbladder problems.
Considered suitable for children and the elderly, especially for gastro-intestinal disturbances after a prolonged illness.
Was used by the Malacites of Canada for prevention of pregnancy; it is not known if it was effective.
According to Henrietta A. Diers Rau (Healing with Herbs, 1980), if depression is present, balmony should be added to alteratives.

!All others buy commercial preparations and follow directions carefully!
DRIED LEAF EQUIVALENT = 0.5 to 2 grams 3 times daily.
INFUSION: 1 oz of herb in one pint of water taken a wineglassful at a time OR 1 tsp leaves to 1 cup water, steeped 10 to 15 min and taken 1 to 2 cups daily.
DECOCTION = 1 to 2 fluid oz. (2 oz. fresh herb to 1 pint water)
FLUID EXTRACT = 1/2 to 1 drachm
POWDER = 1 drachm
TINCTURE = 1 to 2 fluid drachms (10 to 20 drops with water, 3 or 4 times a day)
CHELONIN (see note above) = 1 to 2 grains.
NOTE: "Chelonin" is an eclectic medicine prepared from Chelone and is a brown, bitter powder given as a tonic laxative. The tincture becomes black and will dye urine the same color.

Used for debility, dumb-ague, jaundice, liver disease, Quinine cachexia, worms.

aka Brown chiretta, Chiretta, Indian gentian, Swertia chirata Buch-Ham
(Swertia chirata (var. chirayita) syn Ophelia chirata)
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CONTAINS: Bitter compounds (chiratin, ophelic acid), xanthones (no tannins), amarogentin, and an iridoid glycoside.

Extremely bitter member of the Gentian family of which chiretta is a common name applied to several plants sold in India. It is native to Himalayan meadows and slopes and similar in chemistry to the Great Yellow Gentian (Gentiana lutea).
A hardy annual to 5 feet in height with a 2 foot spread. Oval leaves are pointed and lanceolate. Flowers are greenish-yellow, 4-lobed with purple veins and produced in panicles in fall. Fruit is a tiny 2-valved capsule. Wood is yellowish and thin with a yellowish pitch.
A related species (S. japonica) is cultivated in China for its bitter properties. Another related species, (S. caroliniensis), commonly known as American columbo, Indian lettuce and Meadow pride, is a bitter nonaromatic plant considered a powerful emetic and cathartic. The root is tonic, febrifuge and antiseptic (the powdered plant is used for ulcers). An unrelated species, (Andographis paniculata) known as Green chireta, is used for fevers.

PROPAGATION: By seed in spring or fall.
NEEDS: Full sun to part shade in moist, but well-draining soil.
HARVEST: Cut toward the end of the growing season while flowering and dry for use in infusions, liquid extracts and powder.
PART USED: Whole plant.

Tonic, hepatic, stomachic, febrifuge.
Has been used for malaria and tuberculosis due to presence of xanthones.
Has been used for liver and gall bladder disease (and related problems), dyspepsia, constipation, debility following an illness, and cachexic conditions marked by loss of appetite and poor digestion. It is said to protect the liver against carbon tetrachloride poisoning due to the presence of the iridoid glycoside.
Has been used to lower fevers and improve digestion.

!All others buy commercial preparations and follow directions carefully!
DRIED HERB = 20 to 60 grains, or , 0.3 to 2 grams taken 3 times daily.
INFUSION = Steep 1 tsp of coarsely powdered plant in 1 cup boiling water for 30 minutes; strain; take 1 tbsp three to six times daily.
TINCTURE = 5 to 10 minims.

©2000 & 2006 by Ernestina Parziale, CH