Alaena Charlotte Diamon
Common Names: Balmony, white turtlehead, turtle bloom, fish mouth cod head, salt-rheum weed snakehead, bitter herb, shellflower.
Parts Used: The herb, especially the leaves, collected during the flowering period.
Description: A perennial member of the Snapdragon family, Turtlehead is an erect, slender herb with a 4-angled stem 1 to 4 feet in height and short-stemmed, dark green lance-shaped, sharp-toothed leaves from 3 to 6 inches in length, opposite, scattered along the stem. The flower clusters, which are produced in late summer or early fall, consist of showy, two-lipped white flowers with a pinkish tip, about an inch in length, resembling the head of a turtle or a snake in form. There are 5 green sepals, free from each other, and 5 petals, united to form a nearly closed, bilaterally symmetrical corolla with 4 stamens. The fruit is a spherical capsule up to 2/3 inch in diameter, with many seeds. Grows from thickened rootstocks.
Habitat: Native plant growing in swamps and along streams from Newfoundland to Manitoba and south to Florida and Kansas.
Cultivation: Hardy in zones 3 to 8. Fairly easy to transplant. Likes full sun but can tolerate partial shade. Prefers wet, mucky, loamy soil with a neutral pH.
Propagation and Reproduction: Propagates from seed, division, or cuttings. .Barely cover the seeds. They require winter/spring temperature stratification, and must always be kept moist. Plant seeds in the late fall. Root divisions should be performed in either early spring or late fall, which is when the plants are dormant. Propagation via stem cuttings should be done in the summer prior to flowering, being careful to prevent the slip from drying out. Remove any flower buds that may have formed and place the 6 inch cutting in moist sand. Provide support and moisture until the top withers in the autumn. The newly formed rootstock can then be planted in a permanent location, and the plant will flower the following summer. Plants grown from seed will not bloom until their second year. They will self-sow if grown in moist soil.
Constituents: Cholagogue, hepatic, anti-emetic, stimulant, laxative, antheimintic, aperient, cholagogue, tonic.
Uses: Settlers and Native Americans used extracts from the leaves as a tonic and laxative. Native Americans also believed these extracts were a cure for tumors and liver disease. It is beneficial tonic for a weak stomach and indigestion, general debility, constipation, and torpid liver. It also stimulates the appetite, and in small doses is a good tonic during convalescence. Externally, it is used for sores and eczema. The ointment is valuable to relieve the itching and irritation of hemorrhoids.. Externally it has been used on inflamed breasts, painful ulcers and piles. It is considered a specific in gallstones that lead to congestive jaundice. Kings Dispensatory describes it as being tonic, cathartic, and anthelmintic. For jaundice it is best used with Milk Thistle and other toning hepatics such as Golden Seal.
Miscellaneous: Deer resistant.
Flower Essence: Helps when you are ready to stick your neck out of your protective shell. For those who feel they have waited too long to say or do what they want. Gives courage with the full knowledge of the fears which kept you contained in the first place.