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Cynoglossum officinale, hound’s tongue

Summary

A visually attractive plant with a most unpleasant smell containing compounds capable of causing liver failure if ingested over a long time.

Family

Boraginaceae


Cynoglossum officinale, hound’s tongue

Cynoglossum officinale, hound’s tongue

Meaning of the Name

Cynoglossum
It’s English name ‘Hound’s tongue’ is said to come both from the texture of the leaves and the smell of the plant. The Latin comes from a corruption of the Greek words ‘kynos’ meaning dog and ‘glossa’ meaning tongue.
 
officinale
From the Latin for workshop or office and, thus, given to the species of a plant which was sold in shops or pharmacies and, by extension, a useful plant.

Common Names and Synonyms

hound’s tongue

How Poisonous, How Harmful?

The toxic components are pyrrolizidine alkaloids called cynoglossine, consolidine, echinatine and heliosupine. Prolonged ingestion of pyrrolizidine alkaloids leads to liver damage and eventual failure and the plant is more a threat to farm stock than humans.

Incidents

All reported incidents refer to cattle or horses. No cases of human poisoning have been found.

It is interesting to note that, although the plant contains PAs and has been known to cause fatal poisoning in horses and cattle, there is not the same hysteria about it as there is about Jacobaea vulgaris (syn. Senecio jacobaea), common ragwort.

Folklore and Facts

The smell of the plant resembles dogs' urine so travellers would put some in their shoes to ward off dogs as they walked along.

The 16th century book entitled ‘the boke of secretes of Albertus Magnus of the vertues of Herbes, Stones and certaine beastes’, says that hound’s tongue attached to a dog’s neck where he cannot reach it with his mouth will lead the dog to turn in circles until he falls down dead. The author insists that ‘this has been proved in our tyme’.

Rabbits are supposed to be able to eat the plant without harm and, until myxomatosis reduced the rabbit population, they kept it in check. Since the liver damage it causes may be a long time in appearing it is by no means certain that it is completely harmless to rabbits.

In the 16th century, the roasted root were used as a suppository to cure haemorrhoids. The juice of the boiled leaves mixed with pigs’ grease, used as an ointment, prevents hair loss.

IMPORTANT NOTE

The POISON GARDEN website is not connected with Alnwick Garden Enterprises Ltd and/or The Alnwick Garden Trust.

 

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Introduction to the A to Z section
Abrus precatorius, rosary pea
Aconitum lycoctonum, wolfsbane
Aconitum napellus, monkshood
Actaea racemosa, black cohosh
Actaea spicata, baneberry
Aesculus hippocastanum, horse chestnut
Amanita muscaria, fly agaric
Aquilegia atrata, columbine
Aristolochia clematitis, birthwort
Artemisia absinthium, wormwood
Arum italicum, Italian cuckoopint
Arum maculatum, cuckoopint
Aspergillus fumigatus
Atropa belladonna, deadly nightshade
Brugmansia suaveolens, angel's trumpet
Bryonia dioica, bryony
Buxus sempervirens, common box
Camellia sinensis, tea
Cannabis sativa, marijuana
Catha edulis, khat
Chelidonium majus, greater celandine
Cimicifuga racemosa, black cohosh
Claviceps purpurea, ergot
Clematis vitalba, old man's beard
Colchicum autumnale, naked ladies
Conium maculatum, poison hemlock
Convallaria majalis, lily of the valley
Cynoglossum officinale, hound’s tongue
Daphne mezereon, spurge olive
Datura stramonium, thorn apple, jimsonweed
Datura suaveolens, angel's trumpet
Delphinium, larkspur
Digitalis spp., foxglove
Dracunculus vulgaris, dragon arum
Echium vulgare, viper’s bugloss
Eranthis hyemalis, winter aconite
Erythroxylum coca, cocaine
Euonymus europaeus, spindle tree
Euphorbia x martinii, red spurge
Euphorbia pulcherrima, poinsettia
Fritillaria spp., fritillary
Galanthus nivalis, snowdrop
Hedera helix, common ivy
Helleborus spp., hellebore
Heracleum mantegazzianum, giant hogweed
Hyacinthoides non-scripta, bluebell
Hyoscyamus niger, black henbane
Ilex aquifolium, holly
Jacobaea vulgaris, ragwort
Juniperus communis, common juniper
Laburnum anagyroides, laburnum
Lactuca serriola, prickly lettuce
Leucojum aestivum, snowflake
Lithospermum officinale, gromwell
Lolium temulentum, darnel
Malus 'John Downie', crab apple
Mandragora officinarum, mandrake
Mercurialis perennis, dog’s mercury
Narcissus, daffodil
Nepeta faassenii, catmint
Nerium oleander, oleander
Nicotiana sylvestris, tobacco
Oenanthe crocata, hemlock water dropwort
Papaver somniferum, opium poppy
Pastinaca sativa, parsnip
Polygonatum odoratum, angular Solomon's seal
Prunus laurocerasus, cherry laurel
Pulsatilla vulgaris, pasque flower
Ranunculus acris, meadow buttercup
Rheum x hybridum, rhubarb
Rhododendron spp.
Rhus radicans, poison ivy
Ricinus communis, castor oil plant
Rosmarinus officinalis, rosemary
Rumex obtusifolius, broad-leaved dock
Ruta graveolens, rue
Salix alba, white willow
Salvia divinorum, sage
Scutellaria laterifolia, Virginian skullcap
Senecio jacobaea, ragwort
Solanum dulcamara, woody nightshade
Solanum melongena, aubergine
Strychnos nux-vomica, poison nut
Symphoricarpos albus, snowberry
Symphytum spp., comfrey
Taxus baccata, yew
Toxicodendron radicans, poison ivy
Thevetia peruviana, yellow oleander
Urtica dioica, stinging nettle
Veratrum album, white hellebore
Verbascum olympicum, Greek mullein
Vinca major, greater periwinkle
Viscum album, mistletoe
Vitex agnus-castus, chaste tree