Boraginaceae / Borage
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Medical Uses: Nineteenth century herbalist suggested that Wild Comfrey (Cynoglossum virginianum) could be a substitute for Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) which is the Old World Comfrey long used for treating wounds and internally for digestive disorders, respiratory infections and as a mild sedative. Pyrrolixidine one of the active substances may cause liver damage it taken in large doses over time. Today some herbalist seem to completely confuse the Wild Comfrey of the U. S. with the Comfrey of Europe and Asia. I can find no scientific data to suggest that they may have the same properties. The more closely related Hound's Tongue (Cynoglossum officinale) was also an Old World plant that was used similarly but there is no evidence of its effectiveness.
Wild Comfrey (Cynoglossum virginianum) was used by the Cherokee. A decoction of the root was used to treat itch and a syrup for cloudy urine. It was also an ingredient in the Green Corn Medicine. A decoction of this or other plants with fruits that cling to fur were thought to improve memory if taken every four days which may be an aboriginal form of the doctrine of signatures .
Similar Species: Hound's Tongue
(Cynoglossum officinale) is a European species introduced here and now weedy in this country. It is larger and
more leafy with reddish purple flowers.
Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) is the old world Comfrey that has escaped cultivation in much of the U. S. It has bell like flowers only flaring slightly at the end and the leaves run down and merge gradually with the stem.
One of the best general guides to wildflowers of the North Eastern and North Central United States. Newcomb's key is an excellent, simple method for identifying plants. Newcomb has drawings for almost every plant mentioned that are excellent aids to identifying the species. Though only the more common plants are covered this is often the first book I pick up when trying to identify a wildflower.
This is perhaps the best of many field guides covering this region. Featuring 446 excellent color photographs (located with the text) and mentioning as similar to those illustrated are another 800 or so species for a total coverage of over 1,200 species. The start of each family section includes line drawings of some of the species showing important features. The text includes the usual description, bloom season, range, habitat and additionally includes information such as medical uses and lore and how the species was named. This is the official field guide of the Tennessee Native Plant Society.
Angiosperms / Flowering Plants
Dicots / Two Seed Leaves