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Cherokee Herbal Moment - Dogwood

The Cherokee have passed down the knowledge of plant medicines throughout their generations. This knowledge encompasses the belief that the Creator, Unethlvnvhi (Maker of All Things) made the plants with properties that can help restore a person to health in their body, mind, and spirit. It is taught that The Creator made every plant with a purpose and ability to heal human beings from diseases. Tsila, or "Healer" was known as the medicine person or what would be called today a botanist, herbalist, or naturopath. They were able to diagnose sickness and then make the appropriate poultice, tea, or salve in order to restore a person back to wholeness. In this blog, we will examine the Cherokee knowledge and medicine extracted from the Dogwood Tree. It is a small tree that blooms earlier than other flowers in the spring.

Cherokee Name:

ᎧᎾᏏᏔ Ka-nv-si-ta

ᎦᎾᏏᏔ Ga-na-si-ta

English: Dogwood

Latin: Cornus florida

Taste: bitter

Parts Used: bark, flower, berries

Natural Usage: Anodyne, anti-periodic, antispasmodic, astringent, bitter-tonic. The dogwood tree is deciduous to the east coast and has been used for its medicinal properties by many tribes for a variety of ailments.


There are a dozen species of dogwood. Some are very toxic, even to the touch. Some dogwood bark and leaves are known to induce skin rashes. Be sure you do not harvest from a plant that you have not positively identified. Limit initial contact with a plant that is new to you; do not let your first exposure to a plant be a considerable one. Approach a plant with respect.

The entire tree can provide a variety of uses:

The blooming white flowers can be made into a tea and used in the same manner as Chamomile leaves for alleviating the symptoms of the flu or a cold.

The dried root bark is useful in treating malaria and chronic fevers, including Dengue fever. It can also be used to remedy severe diarrhea.

The bark has also been used as a poultice on external ulcers, wounds, etc. The glycoside "cornin" found in the bark has astringent properties. Astringent herbs draw together or constrict body tissues that are effective in stopping the flow of blood or other secretions.

Scraped Inner Bark

The inner bark was boiled into a tea and used to reduce fevers and other maladies associated with the throat. A compound infusion of the bark and the root is historically reported to treat measles, bedsores, and worms in children when added to a bath.

The fruits are considered by many to be mildly toxic. They can induce vomiting. But the Cherokee used them as a bitter digestive tonic. A tincture of them has been used to restore tone to the stomach in cases of alcoholism. Bitters can also be great for the liver and gallbladder. But a word of caution: If the gallbladder is inflamed with stones, caution should be used. Bitters cause an increase of bile production - which is typically good - unless there is obstruction of a duct. Stones can get lodged in the liver or in the hepatic and biliary ducts leading to and from the gallbladder. This is both painful and dangerous and can lead to a trip to the emergency room... at which point they will want to send you to the surgical suite and relieve you of your offending gallbladder.

Dogwood Root

The root is very fibrous and was used as a paintbrush after chewing the end. A red dye can also be extracted from the root by crushing it into a pulp and extracting the liquid. The root was also used as a natural toothbrush and naturally occurring properties in the root can whiten teeth.

Bark Tea Dosage: Ingredients: 1/2 tsp. dried bark per 8 oz. of water.

Instructions: Decoct (boil) 15 minutes, steep 1/2 hour.

Drink: 4 oz.

Frequency: 3 - 4 times per day.


Moerman. D. Native American Ethnobotany Timber Press. Oregon.1998 ISBN 0-88192-453-9

Grieve. A Modern Herbal. Penguin. 1984 ISBN 0-14-046-440-9

Usher. G. A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man. Constable 1974 ISBN 0094579202

Foster. S. & Duke. J. A. A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants. Eastern and Central N. America. Houghton Mifflin Co. 1990 ISBN 0395467225

Brito-Arias, Marco (2007). Synthesis and Characterization of Glycosides. Springer. ISBN 9780387262512

Mooney, James (1890) Cherokee Theory and Practice of Medicine. The Journal of American Folklore 3(8):44-50


FDA Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. They are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or condition. If you have a health concern or condition, consult a physician. Herbal remedies are no substitute for a healthy diet and lifestyle. If you are serious about good health, you'll want to combine diet, exercise, herbals, a good relationship with your doctor and a generally healthy lifestyle. No one of these will do it alone.

This website and information contained therein is designed to provide users with both modern and historical herbal information and makes no express or implied warranties or representations with regard to the accuracy, reliability or the standard of herbal information provided within, including but not limited to, the generality of the a foregoing, and implied warranties of fitness for any particular purpose or non-infringement. Your use of this website and any information contained herewith is entirely at your own risk

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