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Anchusa flowersAnchusa officinalis
Common Alkanet

This herb's beautiful blue scented flowers appear in late summer; they are full of nectar and attract bees. As shown, the flowers appear in curling spikes that resemble scorpions, and according to Dioscorides, it helped heal the bites of venomous creatures (which are Mars), so consider this herb for protection against magical attack.  The dried leaves have a musky fragrance and can substitute for animal musk in incense recipes. Cunningham states that this herb can be burned as an incense against negativity; I am not sure of his sources in this case.

In Herbalism

AlkanetAccording to Culpeper, common alkanet is not only a Venus herb, but "one of her darlings." He recommended it be made into an ointment applied against various heats of the skin. Decocted into wine, it was drunk to strengthen the back and relieve back pains. Extracted into vinegar, it was even used against leprosy.  Common alkanet is a demulcent (soothing), typical for a Venus herb, although the leaves are rough and scratchy. A cold infusion was a diuretic, and a hot one produced sweating. A homeopathic remedy for ulcers is still made from this plant. The leaves and shoots can be cooked and eaten like spinach, and the flowers cooked or used as a garnish. The tea was once a traditional remedy for melancholy, but this plant contains some alkaloids that are toxic to the liver, especially if it is used regularly (read an article about it). If you have a tender liver (if you have EVER been a heavy drinker, taken acetaminophen regularly, or been exposed to a lot of solvents), don't ingest this plant at all, and don't use it on a regular basis in any case. This plant is worth growing for many other reasons than ingesting.

As a Dye

Alkanet rootsThe name alkanet comes from Arabic, al khenna (henna), from the red color of the roots.The bark of the roots provides a weak brownish red or lilac dye, which is not as strong as the dye of its cousin, Anchusa tinctoria, dyer's alkanet, but common alkanet does not need such a warm climate for growth as dyer's alkanet does, so it has a long history of use as a dyeplant in northern Europe. The roots' red dye is fat soluble, so this plant has been used to dye ointments, oils, and waxes. It can also be extracted into alcohol to make magickal inks. It was once used in Western Europe as rouge ("roseate pomade") and in some places is still a dye for margarine. Vinegar makes the root give a pinkish brown dye and the flowers give a green dye. Alum turns the roots' dye gray-green. This would be a great dye for a ritual ointment or oil, especially one that might be used for Venus purposes, like love or wealth, or as a temporary protective tattoo against attack (Mars).  The roots are best harvested before the flower stalk appears.

Common alkanet originated in the Mediterranean. It was cultivated in medieval gardens and is now naturalized all over Europe and in much of eastern North America. It's an invasive plant in the Pacific Northwest and should not be grown there.  This member of the borage family likes to grow in disturbed ground--by the side of the road, in pastures, and in cultivated fields--showing a desire to live alongside people. Another name for common alkanet is bugloss (byoo - gluss), which means "ox tongue" - from the shape and roughness of the leaves. It is also known as orchanet, Spanish bugloss, enchusa, lingua bovina, ox tongue, yellow anchusa, and blue bugloss.

How to Grow Common Alkanet

The seeds germinate in 1-3 weeks at room temperature. Or you can sow them outside in July so that they can establish themselves in the fall and then flower in the spring - plants grown that way will be larger. It likes full sun and moist soil. Common alkanet is a short-lived perennial or biennial, depending on conditions, forming a rosette of leaves the first year and flowering the second year. It gets 1-4ft/.3-1.3m tall and is hardy down to -30F/-34C (zone 4). Harvest the roots before the flower stalk appears. General growing info  


Anchusa officinalis
Common Alkanet
25 seeds $3.75

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Uses in Witchcraft & Magic:

Magic Inks
Color Magic
Protection Spells
Venus Herb

2004, 2019 Harold A. Roth; No reproduction of any part without permission.