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These plants, funghi and insect illustrations
are part of my botanical oracle deck

Echium vulgare | Viper’s Bugloss

Botanical Overview of Viper’s Bugloss

  • Scientific Name: Echium vulgare

  • Common Names: Viper’s Bugloss, Blueweed, Blue Thistle, Snake Flower

  • Family: Boraginaceae

  • Description: A biennial herb with hairy stems and leaves, and vibrant blue to purple funnel-shaped flowers arranged in dense spikes. It grows up to 0.5 to 1 meter tall. The stems are often marked with red spots, reminiscent of snake bites, giving rise to its common name.


echium vulgare botanical painting

Properties of Viper’s Bugloss

  • Chemical Constituents: Pyrrolizidine alkaloids (echimidine), mucilage, tannins, flavonoids, and allantoin.

  • Edibility: Leaves and flowers are generally not consumed due to the presence of toxic alkaloids. Historically, it has been used in small amounts in traditional remedies.


Distribution and Habitat of Viper’s Bugloss

  • Native Range: Europe and Western Asia.

  • Preferred Habitat: Prefers dry, well-drained soils and full sun. Commonly found in meadows, roadsides, disturbed grounds, and grasslands. It thrives in temperate climates and is often seen as a weed in some regions.


Medicinal Properties and Uses of Viper’s Bugloss

  • Traditional Uses: Traditionally used for its demulcent, expectorant, and anti-inflammatory properties. It was believed to be beneficial for respiratory issues, soothing mucous membranes, and treating wounds.

  • Modern Applications: Due to its toxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids, modern medicinal use is limited. However, it is occasionally used in herbal preparations for external applications to soothe skin irritations and promote healing. The plant's infusions have been used historically to treat coughs and colds, but caution is advised because of its potential toxicity.


Magical Correspondences and Uses in Magical Practice of Viper’s Bugloss

  • Element: Fire

  • Planet: Mercury, Mars

  • Magical Properties: Protection, courage, and transformation.

  • Uses: Viper’s Bugloss is used in magical practices for protection against negative energies and to foster courage and resilience. It can be included in protective charms and talismans or used in rituals aimed at personal transformation and growth. Its spiky, resilient nature is symbolic of defense and overcoming challenges. The plant’s association with serpents also links it to wisdom and transformative energy.


Folklore, Legends, and Mythology of Viper’s Bugloss

  • Historical Context: The name "Viper's Bugloss" comes from the belief that the plant could cure snake bites, inspired by its snake-like appearance and spotted stems. It has been valued in folklore for its supposed protective and medicinal qualities.

  • Folklore: According to old English folklore, carrying Viper’s Bugloss was thought to protect against snake bites and ward off evil spirits. It was also believed to grant bravery and strength in the face of danger.

  • Mythology: The plant is linked to the myth of the viper and is often associated with wisdom and the shedding of old skins, symbolizing renewal and transformation. In various cultures, plants with serpent-like features are considered potent in both healing and magic.


Historical Literary Sources

  • John Gerard’s "Herball" (1597): Describes the uses of Viper’s Bugloss in treating wounds and respiratory ailments, reflecting its historical medicinal applications.

  • Nicholas Culpeper’s "Complete Herbal" (1653): Discusses the protective and healing properties attributed to Viper’s Bugloss and its uses in traditional herbal medicine.

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