Scientific Classification:

Kingdom Plantae
Division Magnoliophyta
Class Magnoliopsida
Family Boraginaceae
Genus Alkanna
Species A.tinctoria
Binomial name Alkanna tinctoria

Other Common Names:

It is also known as orchanet,bugloss of Languedoc,dyer's bugloss, Spanish bugloss, enchusa, lingua bovina, ox tongue, yellow anchusa, and blue bugloss.



Its name comes from the Spanish word alcana, from Arabic al-hena, after henna. The name bugloss (byoo - gluss), which means "ox tongue" - from the shape and roughness of the leaves. Alkanet is a biennial herb cultivated in Central and Southern Europe. It has oblong leaves that grow on a thick hairy stem which rises to approximately 1-3 feet. The species are hispid or pubescent herbs, with oblong, entire leaves, and bracteated racemes, rolled up before the flowers expand.

The corolla is rather small, between funnel and salver-shaped; usually purplish-blue, but in some species yellow or whitish; the calyx enlarges in fruit. The root, which is often very large in proportion to the size of the plant, yields in many of the species a red dye from the rind.

Found in


Alkanet is grown in the south of France and on the shores of the Levant. Common alkanet originated in the Mediterranean. It was cultivated in medieval gardens and is now naturalized all over Europe and in much of eastern North America.

Range and Habitat

This member of the borage family likes to grow in disturbed ground--by the side of the road, in pastures, and in cultivated fields--showing a desire to live alongside people.


It requires moderately fertile, humus rich, moist but well drained soil. The seeds germinate in 1-3 weeks at room temperature. Or you can sow them outside in July so that they can establish themselves in the fall and then flower in the spring - plants grown that way will be larger. It likes full sun and moist soil. Common alkanet is a short-lived perennial or biennial, depending on conditions, forming a rosette of leaves the first year and flowering the second year. It gets 1-4ft/.3-1.3m tall and is hardy down to -30F/-34C (zone 4).Harvest the roots before the flower stalk appears.

Flowering Season

It is a perennial and flowers from May to August.

Pests and Diseases


Parts Used


It is cultivated commercially for the red dye extracted from the roots.

Medicinal Applications

• It helps the morphy and leprosy.

• It stays the flux of the belly, kills worms and helps the fits of the mother.

• Its decoction made in wine, and drank, strengthens the back, and easeth the pains thereof. Used to treat digestive difficulties such as ulcers and also helps liver functions, clearing up jaundice and treating kidney stones.

• When used to make an ointment, it can treat wounds such as snake bites by either applying topically directly to the site or ingesting orally.

• Can also relieve skin inflammation, such as smallpox or measles.

• An ointment made of it is excellent for green wounds, pricks or thrusts.

• Traditionally used to soften and smooth the skin.

General Applications

• Used by French women as a temporary make-up solution.

• Some cultures use the root and turn it into a dye which is then utilized in decorations and staining procedures.

• It was often used to improve the appearance of poor grades of port and similar wines, and to give the appearance of age to port wine corks.

•  It is commonly used today as a food colouring.



It is under the dominion of Venus, and is indeed one of her darlings. The dried leaves have a musky fragrance and can substitute for animal musk in incense recipes. It is stated that this herb can be burned as an incense against negativity.

Cultural Importance

Alkanet (French Orcanète), the 24th day of the month of Messidor in the French Republican Calendar, named after the plant. ALKANET ROOT is a famous dye-plant and it is also widely considered to be Lucky for the purpose of bringing Good Fortune in Business, Money Matters, and Games of Chance. For this reason it is an ingredient in (and the colouring agent for) the justly famous New Orleans Style Red Fast Luck Oil. Others say that they blend ALKANET with Fiery Wall of Protection or Uncrossing Incense to Ward off the Work of Enemies who are trying to trouble them in Money Matters or jinx their Luck at Gambling.


The flowers appear in curling spikes that resemble scorpions, and according to Dioscorides, it helped heal the bites of venomous creatures (which are Mars), so consider this herb for protection against magical attack.


Folks tell us that to increase their Wealth, they mix ALKANET ROOT with Patchouli Leaves, and burn them on charcoal, while reciting the 23rd Psalm ("The Lord is my shepherd...").