Red osier dogwood (Cornus sericea)

Red osier dogwood (Cornus sericea) 

Other common names: syn. C. stolonifera, Swida sericea, red willow, red stem dogwood, Western dogwood, American dogwood, creek dogwood, box tree.

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Family: Cornaceae

Photo by Danielle Cameron

Photo by Danielle Cameron


Styptic, antimicrobial, antipruritic, analgesic, febrifuge, purgative (if not properly dried), appetite/digestive stimulant, astringent, anti-inflammatory.


The bark is traditionally harvested in early spring while the weather is still cold.

Part used: Inner bark (dry the bark to take away the purgative effect), seed oil (more for edible use than medicinal)


Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons/Mike Gifford

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons/Mike Gifford

Lignin, tannic and gallic acids, resin, gum, lime potash, wax, and others. 


Poison ivy and other itchy skin rashes, fever, colds, headaches, bleeding, cuts, eye infections/injuries, loss of appetite, chronic diarrhea.

Medicinal preparations:


The powdered bark can be used for oral infections. The well-dried bark can also be made into a decoction tea for other complaints. Historically it was used as a tooth powder, but I’m seeing some accounts of it causing the gums to recede when used long-term, so I don’t recommend that.


Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons/Jason Hollinger

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons/Jason Hollinger

The inner bark may be soaked and applied as a poultice, for skin conditions, and to staunch bleeding. A decoction of the bark may be used as a wash.


Do not use if pregnant or nursing.  Only use if harvested by a reputable wildcrafter or herbal product manufacturer. Consult with a doctor before use if you suffer from an underlying condition or are taking pharmaceuticals. Do not administer to children without the guidance of a practitioner.

I suggest consulting a pharmacist or physician before starting any herbal supplement if you are taking a prescription medication or have serious underlying health concerns.

Energetic/traditional use:

The First Nations people of North America used the bark as part of a smoking mixture (sometimes mixing it with uva-ursa), and also in making dye. Medicinally they used it for eye problems and pregnancy symptoms. Members of the Blackfoot tribe chewed the berries and put the chewed pulp on the tips of their arrows. The idea was to cause an infection in the victim shot (if that worked, I’m thinking it would be from bacteria in the spit, rather than the berries). They also used the sticks as a toothbrush, chewing the end and using the frayed wood to brush their teeth – which apparently was good for whitening them. Red osier dogwood has also been used in the past as a substitute for quinine.

Energetically, this plant is traditionally associated with masculinity, and good fortune.

Disclaimer: The information on this website is intended as general education on herbs and is not intended to take the place of medical care. Please consult a health care professional before embarking on any health regime.


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