Wild Columbine – Aquilegia canadensis

The wild red Columbine is in the buttercup family
Wild Columbine

When I was first introduced to this plant, it was as a poison. Grandmother Dorothy told me that I could add an extract of the root to someone’s drink to give him or her the grip and diarrhea. I have since learned that all members of the Buttercup family are considered poisonous due to the presence of alkoloids.

 In traditional Herbalism columbine was considered sacred to Venus; carrying a flower of it was said arouse the affections of a loved one. Nicholas Culpeper recommended it to ease the pains of childbirth.

The Indians used wild columbine to relieve heart troubles and fevers, as a sedative, and as a wash for poison ivy. Braves rubbed the ground seeds into their hands as a love potion and perfume. Europeans treated sore throats with the leaves and kidney stones with the roots.

Despite the poisonous effects of most of the plant, the flowers have been used in salads. The Native Americans used it as a ‘condiment,’ reporting them to be sweet and safe if consumed in small quantities.

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