Dogwood – Cornus florida

Parts used: root, bark, flower

Traditional uses: Roots and bark astringent, used for diarrhea and dermatological needs. Analgesic, chewed for headache, decoction rubbed on skin to relieve aches and pains. Root decoction is a febrifuge. Flowers taken for stomach complaints and colic. Infusion of inner bark used for a “lost voice” and sore throats. Root bark is a stimulant and tonic.

Protection from mad dogs – “Some woodcutters who live on Sugar Creek, in Benton county, Arkansas, believe that a mad dog never bites a man who carries a piece of dogwood in his pocket, according to an old gentleman I met in Bentonville.” ~Randolph OMF 142

“Mad dogs aren’t supposed to bite a person if they have a small piece of dogwood in their pocket.” ~Parler FBA XII 9954

Legend about flower shape – “Several tales about the dogwood tree are linked up with religious legends. One story, said to be very old although I never heard it until about 1935, is that the cross on which Jesus died was made of dogwood, and that He cursed the tree and doomed it to be stunted and twisted, unfit for any kind of lumber. In the center of the dogwood flower is something said to resemble a crown of thorns, while a brown mark like the stain of a rusty nail shows at the tip of each white sepal. A fanciful and romanticized version of this legend was written up by C. E. Barnes of Sulphur Springs, Arkansas, in the 1930’s and was published by many Arkansas newspapers.” ~Randolph OMF 262

Burdock, Witch Hazel, and Dogwood as a spring tonic – “Mix burdock roots, witch hazel bark, dogwood bark and take 1 teaspoonful before breakfast in the spring. This is called a spring tonic.” ~Parler FBA II 1369

Sarsaparilla, Wahoo, and Dogwood as a spring tonic – “Get equal parts of Sarsaparilla root, Wahoo root and Dogwood bark. Boil for ½ hour, strain liquid, add enough whiskey to preserve liquid, add 1 cup rock candy to the mixture, give 2 tablespoon full each morning before breakfast each morning.” ~Parler FBA II 1371

Knotting ritual for chills – “Tie a string in knots – the same number of knots as the number of chills you have had. Tie the string around a dogwood tree and the chills will go away.” ~Parler FBA II 1731

Dogwood and wild cherry for chills – “Peel inner bark of dogwood and wild cherry trees and pour whiskey over it and let set for three or four days. Take one spoonful four times a day.” ~Parler FBA II 1749

Wild cherry, dogwood, sarsaparilla, yellow dock, and goldenseal for colds – “To prevent chills and fevers or as a general health tonic, prepare and take the following: Wild cherry bark, dogwood bark, sarsaparilla root (yellow), yellow dock roots, and golden seal – all growing in our Arkansas woods, clean and boil. Boil down to a strong tea. Put in enough good alcohol to preserve it – a pint to a ½ gal. of strong tea. Sweeten with rock candy. A little sassefrass bark may be added, too.” ~Parler FBA II 1766

Twigs for colds – “Three cups of hot dogwood tea made from tender twigs of dogwood is a cure for colds.” ~Parler FBA II 1835

Root tonic for colds – “Boil the roots of dogwood when it is in bloom. This tonic is used to cure colds, fever, and [bowel] trouble.” ~Parler FBA II 1836

Bark for colic – “Dogwood bark cures the colic.” ~Parler FBA II 1867

Root for fevers – “A decoction of the…roots of flowering dogwood is a good substitute for quinine as a tonic and cold cure, bowel cure, and fever driver.” ~Parler FBA II 2214

Bark tea for malaria – “To cure malaria, make a tea of dogwood bark and drink it while the tea is still very hot.” ~Parler FBA III 2669

Pine, rattlesnake root, dogwood root, wild cherry root, and sarsaparilla root for rheumatism – “Spruce Pine, yellow pine branches, rattle snake root, dogwood root, wild cherry root and sarsaparilla root, one handful of each. Put in 1 gallon of water, boil down to 1 pint. Take one tablespoonful before each meal.” ~Parler FBA III 2979

Knotting ritual for rheumatism – “A person who has rheumatism should find a piece of string and start walking through the woods until he finds a dogwood tree. Then tie the string in as many knots as he can around that tree and walk away and never look back. He will never have rheumatism again.” ~Parler FBA III 3033


Moerman, Daniel E. Native American Ethnobotany (NAE)

Parler, Mary Celestia Folk Beliefs from Arkansas (FBA)

Randolph, Vance Ozark Magic and Folklore (OMF)