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Plant Information

Scientific Name: Echium vulgare

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Echium vulgare
Echium vulgare


  • Biennial
  • Biennial plant with a deep rooting system, growing 30-80 cm tall.
  • In the first year it grows a rosette of lanceolate, hairy, sessile leaves - rough on both sides, lying on the ground.
  • In the second year, tall upright, hairy stems arise (often spotted with red and sometimes the leaves as well) - followed by dozens of flowers produced in curved spikes, closely wedged together.
  • They start pink and turn vivid blue with all the stamens protruding - the stamens remain red and standing out against the blue flowers.
  • Viper's Bugloss got its name because the stalks are speckled like a snake/viper and there is a resemblance between the dead flower-head and the head of a snake. The seeds when ripe, are blackish and also shaped like the head of a viper.
  • It was believed to be an expellent of poisons and venom, and that it could cure the bites of a viper and the sting of scorpions.
  • The name bugloss is of Greek origin, referring to the leaves that are shaped and rough like an ox's tongue.
  • Will grow in any well-drained soil (sandy, loam or clay - acid, neutral or acid).
  • Can grow in poor soil - flowers best when the soil is not too rich.
  • Needs full sun and can tolerate maritime exposure.
  • Drought resistant.
  • One of the best bee plants - yields nectar at lower temperatures than clover and should be part of any garden designed to attract wildlife.

Culinary Uses

  • Flowers can be added to salad, crystallised or made into a cordial.
  • The leaves are somewhat hairy, but when chopped up finely they are acceptable - young leaves taste mild and mucilaginous, can be eaten raw in a mixed salad/ or cooked and used as a spinach substitute.

Parts Used

  • The flowering tops are gathered in late summer and can be dried for later use.
  • Do not handle without gloves, as the hairs on the leaves and stems can cause dermatitis.
  • Not suitable for internal use by pregnant women.

Medicinal Uses. It is said that

  • Echium oil is a powerful source of omega 3, 6 and 9 essential fatty acids, or EFA's, (sometimes called vitamin F) for the skin.
  • Contains a high proportion of a unique EFA called stearidonic acid, not found in the other commonly used EFA source plants.
  • Stearidonic acid is a powerful anti-inflammatory substance, which also acts to help protect the skin from environmental damage (such as UV radiation).
  • The juice of the plant is an effective emollient for reddened and delicate skins.
  • A poultice can also be made from freshly chopped leaves and flowering stems held in place with a bandage - or by thickening a standard infusion whilst still hot with cornflour to make a paste and spread onto a bandage - treat wounds, boils, carbuncles, whitlows and other skin eruptions.
  • Is related to Borage, Borago officinalis and has similar actions - is sweat-inducing and has diuretic effects if taken internally.
  • The leaves and flowering stems are antitussive, aphrodisiac, demulcent, diaphoretic, diuretic, pectoral and vulnerary - relieve fevers, headaches, lung disorders, chest conditions, colds and nervous complaints.
  • The best leaves to use are the ones growing from the root and lying on the ground.
  • Decoct seeds in wine - relieves inflammatory pains, comforts the heart, and drives away melancholy.

Other Uses

  • A red dye is obtained from the root.
  • In some countries Echium is grown as an oilseed crop because of the fatty acid composition of the seed oil.
  • Like Borage and Evening primrose oil, it contains significant amounts of gamma linolenic acid (GLA), and it also contains the rarer stearidonic acid.
  • When young, the plants are highly palatable to sheep
The information contained within this website is for educational purposes only. This site merely recounts the traditional uses of specific plants as recorded through history. Always seek advice from a medical practitioner.

Mountain Herb Estate, and its representatives will not be held responsible for the improper use of any plants or documentation provided. By use of this site and the information contained herein you agree to hold harmless Mountain Herb Estate, its affiliates and staff
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