Indian Hemp (Apocynum cannabinum) belongs to the Dogbane family. The name Indian Hemp is a result of the utilization of the fibers. The plant is toxic to dogs, thus the name Dogbane. The species name cannabicum refers to the woody exterior fiber of the stem, which means ‘of hemp.’
The seed pods and the flowers of Indian Hemp resemble those of the Spreading Dogbane plant (Apocynum androsaemifolium). You might easily confuse the young shoots of the Indian Hemp with the Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), which also has milky sap.
However, the difference is that the milkweed has green and hairy stems, unlike the Indian Hemp. Besides, the milkweed has a less sturdy stem and is usually not branched. Another plant that resembles the Indian Hemp’s young sprouts is the edible asparagus (Asparagus Officinalis). However, there is a notable difference due to greenish coloration.
Indian hemp Plant Description
Indian Hemp is a perennial plant that grows to a height of 2-5 feet. The branches usually ascend along the stem, which tends to turn purplish as the plant matures. Both the stem and leaves contain a milky juice. The dry stems produce resilient fiber in autumn. Indian Hemp and hemp cultivation also differ.
a) The leaves
The leaves have an opposite arrangement are 2-4 inches long. They lie between oblong to ovate. The base and the stalk of the lower ones take a round shape. They have tapered tips with the central vein, at times stretching out to a sharp point.
b) The Inflorescence
The plant has a cyme inflorescence on the upper part of the stem. Other clusters originate from the upper leaf axil. Short bracts are present at the base of the foot of the clusters.
c) The flowers
Indian Hemp has small flowers with eight to quarter-long corolla, whitish-green externally, while the interior has a pink shading. The plant has five stamens with anthers surrounding the style in a conical shape. Five nectaries alternate with the stamens at the bottom of the corolla.
Seed pods are slim and extended up to eight inches. They split open to produce long thin seeds, each containing long hairs at the top, similar to the milkweed. The only difference is the seed tips, which face the pod’s upper part, unlike milkweed. The hairs allow convenient dispersal by wind.
Indian Hemp Habitat
Indian Hemp is a prairie plant that does well in loam soil, plenty of sunlight, and wet- dry-mesic environments. You can propagate it through rhizomes or seeds. It has a taproot and develops colonies when sprouting from the rhizomes. The plant requires cutting the stems or burning to accelerate growth.
It should be consumed with proper preparation; otherwise, the plant materials will cause toxicity.
Medicinal Uses of Indian Hemp
- Seed infusions for gonorrhea.
- It is used in the treatment of tumors using the paste from fresh leaves.
- It is used to treat migraine, convulsion, malaria, insanity, delirium, tetanus, anemia, delirium, epilepsy, etc.
- Treatment of dandruff and headlice using the juice from the fresh leaves.
- Treatment of syphilis.
- Increasing milk flow in breastfeeding mothers.
Indian Hemp is a bitter stimulant and has been used to treat a wide variety of health problems. However, there is a need for caution in the usage of the herb. Preferably, if you intend to use it internally, ensure it is under a qualified practitioner’s check.