Practical ecological knowledge for the temperate reader.

Hemp Dogbane - Apocynum cannabinum



  • Apocynum cannabinum var. angustifolium (Woot.) N.H. Holmgren [E-flora]
  • Apocynum cannabinum var. glaberrimum A. DC. [E-flora]
  • Apocynum cannabinum var. greeneanum (Bég. & Beloserky) Woodson [E-flora]
  • Apocynum cannabinum var. hypericifolium (Aiton) A. Gray [E-flora]
  • Apocynum cannabinum var. nemorale (G.S. Mill.) Fernald [E-flora]
  • Apocynum cannabinum var. pubescens (Mitchell ex R. Br.) Woodson [E-flora]
  • Apocynum cannabinum var. suksdorfii (Greene) Bég. & Beloserky [E-flora]
  • Apocynum hypericifolium Aiton [E-flora]
  • Apocynum pubescens Mitchell ex R. Br. [E-flora]
  • Apocynum sibiricum Jacq. [E-flora]
  • Apocynum sibiricum var. cordigerum (Greene) Fernald [E-flora]
  • Apocynum sibiricum var. farwellii (Greene) Fernald [E-flora]
  • Apocynum sibiricum var. salignum (Greene) Fernald [E-flora]
  • Apocynum suksdorfii Greene [E-flora]
  • Apocynum suksdorfii var. angustifolium (Woot.) Woodson [E-flora]

USDA Flower Colour: White
USDA Blooming Period: Summer
USDA Fruit/Seed characteristics: Colour: White.Present from Summer to Fall [USDA-E-flora]


Edible Uses

Other Uses

"This species, which has tough fibrous stems, does not grow on Vancouver Island, but was obtained through trade from the Fraser River Salish (Boas, 1890). It is undoubtedly the "flax-like plant growing on the mainland" which was used by the Westholme Indians (near Duncan) to make pursenets (Jenness, ca. 1945)." [Turner&Bell1]

Medicinal Uses

"The plant is still used in modern herbalism, but it should be used with great caution, and only under the supervision of a qualified practitioner if taken internally[4, 222, 238]. See the notes above on toxicity[4, 222]. Indian hemp is an unpleasantly bitter stimulant irritant herb that acts on the heart, respiratory and urinary systems, and also on the uterus[238]. It was much employed by various native North American Indian tribes who used it to treat a wide variety of complaints including rheumatism, coughs, pox, whooping cough, asthma, internal parasites, diarrhoea and also to increase milk flow in lactating mothers[257]." [PFAF]

More Medicinal

Although latterly apocynum has fallen into disuse, some physicians have insisted that the A. cannabinum is a valuable remedy and that its unfavorable reputation has arisen from the use of other species. The drug of commerce in recent years has consisted of several species of Apocynum. A number of physicians in the United States have come to the conclusion that the absorption of Apocynum in the gastro-intestinal tract is uncertain and irregular, which led to its being deleted from the Pharmacopoeia. [Remington USD20]

"...the official Apocynum cannabinum L., which is used as a diuretic and in cardiac and renal dropsy. The root extract has been used among white men as an emetic, cathartic, sudorific and expectorant." [HuronSmith Zuni]

Select Indications
  • Ague (f; CEB; CRC); [HMH Duke]
  • Alopecia (f; CRC; DEM); [HMH Duke]
  • Asthma (f; CRC; DEM; PHR); [HMH Duke]
  • Bleeding (f; CRC; DEM; FEL); [HMH Duke]
  • Bright’s Disease (f; CRC; DEM); [HMH Duke]
  • Cancer (1; CEB; JLH); [HMH Duke]
  • Cold (f; CEB; CRC); [HMH Duke]
  • Condylomata (f; CRC; PHR; PH2); [HMH Duke]
  • Conjunctivosis (f; DEM); [HMH Duke]
  • Constipation (f; CRC; DEM); [HMH Duke]
  • Cough (f; DEM; PHR; PH2); [HMH Duke]
  • Dropsy (f; CRC; PHR; PH2); [HMH Duke]
  • Dyspepsia (f; CRC; FEL); [HMH Duke]
  • Fever (f; CRC; FEL); [HMH Duke]
  • Headache (f; CEB; CRC); [HMH Duke]
  • Head Cold (f; CEB; CRC); [HMH Duke]
  • Heart (1; CRC; PHR); [HMH Duke]
  • High Blood Pressure (1; PHR; PH2); [HMH Duke]
  • Low Blood Pressure (1; CRC; PH2); [HMH Duke]
  • Malaria (f; CRC; FEL); [HMH Duke]
  • Nephrosis (f; FEL; PH2); [HMH Duke]
  • Pneumonia (f; CRC; PHR; PH2); [HMH Duke]
  • Respirosis (f; CRC; DEM); [HMH Duke]
  • Rheumatism (f; DEM; FEL; PHR; PH2); [HMH Duke]
  • Swelling (1; PHR; PH2); [HMH Duke]
  • Syphilis (f; CRC; PHR; PH2); [HMH Duke]
  • Tumor (1; CEB); [HMH Duke]
  • Uterosis (f; CRC; DEM); [HMH Duke]
  • Valvular Insufficiency (f; PHR; PH2); [HMH Duke]
  • VD (1; CRC; DEM; FEL); [HMH Duke]
  • Wart (f; CRC; PHR; PH2); [HMH Duke]
  • Water Retention (1; PHR; PH2); [HMH Duke]
  • Worm (f; CEB; CRC); [HMH Duke]



  • Abortifacient (f; CRC); [HMH Duke]
  • Alterative (f; CEB); [HMH Duke]
  • Anthelminthic (f; DEM); [HMH Duke]
  • Antiedemic (1; PHR; PH2); [HMH Duke]
  • Antipyretic (f; CRC); [HMH Duke]
  • Antitumor (1; CEB); [HMH Duke] Cymarin and apocannoside have antitumor activity (CEB). [HMH Duke]
  • Bradycardic (1; PHR; PH2); [HMH Duke]
  • Cardiotonic (1; CRC; FEL; PHR; PH2); [HMH Duke] (Root)[PFAF]
  • Depurative (f; DEM); [HMH Duke]
  • Diaphoretic (f; CRC); [HMH Duke] (Root)[PFAF]
  • Diuretic (1; PHR; PH2); [HMH Duke] (Root)[PFAF]
  • Emetic (f; CEB; CRC); [HMH Duke] (Root)[PFAF]
  • Expectorant (f; CRC); [HMH Duke] (Root)[PFAF]
  • Hydragogue (f; CRC); [HMH Duke]
  • Hypertensive (1; CRC; PH2); [HMH Duke]
  • Hypotensive (1; PHR; PH2); [HMH Duke]
  • Irritant (1; PH2); [HMH Duke]
  • Lactagogue (f; DEM); [HMH Duke]
  • Laxative (f; CRC; DEM; FEL); [HMH Duke]
  • Panacea (f; DEM); [HMH Duke]
  • Poison (1; CRC; PH2); [HMH Duke]
  • Sterilant (f; DEM); [HMH Duke]
  • Sternutator (1; FEL); [HMH Duke]
  • Tonic (f; CRC); [HMH Duke]
  • Vermifuge (f; CEB; CRC) [HMH Duke]

"In Pawinsky's (of Warsaw) notices about apocynum cannabinum the observations he made of the different effects of this remedy from those of digitalis on the vagus are interesting. He found that apocynum cannabinum acts more readily and energetically on the innervation of the heart than digitalis, but the effect of the latter is a more persistent one. He would, therefore, use the remedy at shorter intervals, especially in cases of arrhythmia. His dosage is somewhat higher: Eight to ten drops of the fluid extract two to three times a day. However, one should always begin with small doses." [Ellingwood]

"The high content of cardenolide glycosides causes bradycardia and increased contraction of the heart. Blood pressure is lowered, and rebound vagotonia hypertension can occur. The drug increases diuresis and stimulation of the vasomotor centers. It causes more severe irritation of the intestinal mucous membrane than digitalis and strophantus preparations. It has a lower therapeutic effect on atrial fibrillation than digitalis." [PDR]


Use of Related Sp.

"There is considerable hybridization between species. Apocynum is Greek, meaning noxious to dogs.... The primary use of dogbanes is for fiber. The stem fibers are strong and can be used for rope making, mats, baskets, bowstrings, fishing lines and nets, sewing, animal-trap triggers, snares, cordage for bow and drill fire making, and general weaving. One of the easiest ways to isolate the fibers is to soak the stems in water." [Vizgirdas WPSN]

"Dogbanes should be considered poisonous to humans if ingested. However, some authorities have indicated that the small seeds can be parched and ground into a meal to make fried cakes. For example, Strike (1994) believes the seeds eaten were that of A. pumilum (mountain dogbane). A. pumilum is considered to be a subspecies of A. androsaemifolium." [Vizgirdas WPSN]


Page last modified on Thursday, June 11, 2020 6:39 AM->