Toxic Perennial Plants
Answered by: Kerry Hackett
Question from: Carolyn McGhee
Posted on: December 30, 2009

I was wondering if Myosotis Sylvatica (Forget-me-not) and Rudbeckia triloba (Branched Coneflower) are toxic in any way to dogs and if they are not toxic, then would you know what they used for holistically as she’s been eating the leaves of forget-me-nots and the flowers and leaves of the branched Coneflower?

I have not seen either of these plants on a "Poisonous Plants " list but, at the same time, all the lists I have seen always state that the list is not definitive. As for eating these plants, great question! Given neither are used typically today in herbal medicine, it appears to be near impossible to find a list of constituents for either plant. However, I did check a number of sources to see if I could find any traditional uses and here is what I found:

Myosotis symphytifolia (Forget-me-not): "This plant has a strong affinity for the respiratory organs, especially the lower left lung. On the Continent it is sometimes made into a syrup and given for pulmonary affections. There is a tradition that a decoction or juice of the plant hardens steel." (Grieve, A Modern Herbal, 1931)

Rudbeckia spp.: "These plants are often bitter and astringent, but young shoots of tall coneflower were eaten for good health. The harrier black-eyed Susan was usually used as medicine. Tall coneflower was generally considered a kidney medicine, and it was sold commercially as a tonic, diuretic (for stimulating urination) and soothing balm, especially recommended for long term inflammation of the mucous membranes of the urinary tract. Its root were also mixed with other herbs in teas for relieving indigestion, and its flowers were included with other plants in poultices for treating burns. Black-eyed Susan was also said to increase urination and to have a mild, stimulating effect on the heart. Root tea was taken to treat colds and to expel worms. It was also used as a wash to heal sores, snakebites and swellings. Juice from the root was dropped into the ear to cure earaches. Recent studies report that coneflower root extracts can be more effective at stimulating the immune system than extracts of Echinacea, so these plants are being studied as a potential treatment for AIDS. Black-eyed Susan was used in colonial times for treating saddle sores on horses. Some people have an allergic reaction to these plants. Black-eyed Susan tea should be strained to remove the irritating hairs. Poisoning and death of pigs, sheep and horses have been reported following ingestion of tall coneflower." (Kershaw, "Edible and Medicinal Plants of the Rockies", 2000)

So all of this is quite interesting, particularly as in many forms of herbal medicine, the kidneys and lung are tied together, both in health and illness. Hopefully the above helps you sort out if there’s an issue with your dog. By the way, you may also be interested in the work of Cindy Engel. Her book, "Wild Health" documents animals’ self-treatment with plants and what she feels we can learn from their choices. After all, many believe that the first herbalists were those who closely observed animals in the wild and their eating habits with regard to self-treatment during periods of illness.

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