Friday, August 29, 2014

Doll's Eye: White Baneberry

 Botanical: Actaea spicata (LINN.)

Family: N.O. Ranunculacea

Synonyms: Baneberry, Herb Christopher, Bugbane, Toadroot
Part Used: Root; berries. Extremely poisonous aptly named 'bane'berry

Habitat: White baneberry prefers coarse and loamy soil, hardwood and mixed woodland, full shade, good drainage. Native to eastern North America.

Perennial: Dark green without hairs, black, creeping root-stock, grows on erect stems, 1 to 2 feet high stems triangular in shape. Leaves are long, branching from root, dividing into  three smaller foot-stalks, re-divided that each leaf is composed of eighteen, or even twenty-seven, lobes or leaflets. 

 Flowers: spiked and white. Flowers are in oblong clusters on thick, red stalks in June.

Berries: Prominent Feature: white spherical berries with black dot on tip, hence the common name, Doll's Eye. Fruit appears in autumn 1/2 inch in diameter.  There is also a red variety.  There is an immediate sedative effect on human cardiac muscle tissue causing possible cardiac arrest and death. However the berries are harmless to birds and this is the primary way the seeds are dispersed in nature.

Planet: Saturn

Medicinal Action and Uses: * Not advisable; use extreme caution. Antispasmodic. To only be used by physician herbalist. Roots have been used in very small amounts to relieve headache, coughs and colds. Doll's Eye once thought to benefit the circulatory system.

 Note: Leaves, roots, stems, flowers, and berries may cause gastrointestinal inflammation and skin blisters.
The American species is considered by the native people use against snake-bite and to  drive away insects due to its smell.  American name: Bugbane.

Witchcraft Association: Toads attracted by the aroma giving it the name Toadroot. found. Used in poppets for harm, placing the white variety berries in the place of eyes of the doll enabling it to 'see' the distance to its victim.

Both the berries, root is considered the most poisonous however the entire plant should be respected.

Other Use: Juice of the berries, mixed with alum, yields a black dye. (caution can blister skin)