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Indian Hemp

Indian Hemp (Apocynum cannabinum)

Indian Hemp (Apocynum cannabinum) can be found through much of North America in pastures and fields. It is a perennial member of the Dogbane family, which has also been called Dogbane, Bitter Root, and Canadian Hemp. It grows 1 to 5 feet tall and has oblong leaves with short stalks. The stems are reddish-brown in color and produce terminal clusters of white flowers from June to August. The plant produces narrow seed pods that grow in pairs and are 4 to 8 inches long (Eglesfeld, 1847). True Hemp (Cannabis sativa) has also been referred to as Indian Hemp, leading to some confusion in the literature. 

Historical Use

The fibrous layer of the stem was used by Native Americans to create bags, mats, nets, and rope (Tikkanen, 2017). This use of the plant is where name derives, as the plant is a good alternative to Hemp for these purposes. The milky white juice of the plant includes latex, which has been used to make a natural rubber. 

Medicinally, Indian Hemp has been used to induce vomiting (emetic) and sweating (diaphoretic), and increase urine production (diuretic). The most common use of Indian Hemp was in the treatment of swelling or edema (dropsy).  

Excerpt taken from Eglesfeld’s Medical botany, or, Descriptions of the more important plants used in medicine: with their history, properties, 1847. This book available from the John R. Martin Rare Book Room at Hardin Library

Current Use

Indian Hemp is often sold as an herbal remedy under the name Canadian Hemp. It is used topically to treat warts. Orally, it is used to treat arthritis, asthma, coughs, edema, and syphilis. However, these preparations include cardiac glycosides that may cause bradycardia with low blood pressure, increased heart contractions, and reflex hypertension (Center, 2020). Herbal remedies including Indian Hemp are considered likely unsafe (Center, 2020) 

Latest Research

  • The Improvement of Sleep by Oral Intake of GABA and Apocynum venetum Leaf Extract
    by Atsushi Yamatsu on June 9, 2015 at 10:00 am

    The effects of two food materials, γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) produced by natural fermentation and Apocynum venetum leaf extract (AVLE), on the improvement of sleep were investigated in humans. The electroencephalogram (EEG) test revealed that oral administration of GABA (100 mg) and AVLE (50 mg) had beneficial effects on sleep. GABA shortened sleep latency by 5.3 min and AVLE increased non-rapid eye movement (REM) sleep time by 7.6%. Simultaneous intake of GABA and AVLE shortened sleep latency…

  • Apocynum venetum Attenuates Acetaminophen-Induced Liver Injury in Mice
    by Wenyan Xie on May 14, 2015 at 10:00 am

    Apocynum venetum L. (A. venetum) has long been used in oriental folk medicine for the treatment of some liver diseases; however, the underlying mechanisms remain to be fully elucidated. Acetaminophen (APAP) is a widely used analgesic drug that can cause acute liver injury in overdose situations. In this study, we investigated the potential protective effect of A. venetum leaf extract (ALE) against APAP-induced hepatotoxicity. Mice were intragastrically administered with ALE once daily for 3…

  • Apocynum venetum leaf attenuates myocardial ischemia/reperfusion injury by inhibiting oxidative stress
    by Wenqing Wang on January 13, 2015 at 11:00 am

    Apocynum venetum, a Chinese medicinal herb, is reported to be neuroprotective. However, whether Apocynum venetum leaf extract (AVLE) protects against ischemic myocardium remains elusive. Our present study was aimed to observe the effects of AVLE preconditioning on myocardial ischemia/reperfusion (MI/R) injury and to investigate the possible mechanisms. Rats were treated with AVLE (500 mg/kg/d, o.g.) or distilled water once daily for one week. Afterward, all the animals were subjected to 30 min…

  • Antidepressant-like effect of flavonoids extracted from Apocynum venetum leaves on brain monoamine levels and dopaminergic system
    by Meizhu Zheng on March 5, 2013 at 11:00 am

    CONCLUSION: The AV-extract produced significant antidepressant-like effects, which likely attribute to increased NE and DA along with their respective metabolites DOPAC, HVA in the mouse hippocampus, and dependent on interaction with dopaminergic (D1 and D2 receptor) systems.

  • Botany, traditional uses, phytochemistry and pharmacology of Apocynum venetum L. (Luobuma): A review
    by Wenyan Xie on March 17, 2012 at 10:00 am

    CONCLUSIONS: Apocynum venetum potentially has therapeutic potential in the prevention and treatment for the cardiovascular and neurological diseases, especially for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, neurasthenia, depression and anxiety. Further investigations are needed to explore individual bioactive compounds responsible for these in vitro and in vivo pharmacological effects and the mode of actions. Further safety assessments and clinical trials should be performed before it can be…


Center, T. R. (2020). Canadian Hemp.

Eglesfeld, R. (1847). Medical botany, or, Descriptions of the more important plants used in medicine: with their history, properties, and mode of administration. Philadelphia: Lea and Blanchard. 

Tikkanen, A. (2017). Indian Hemp. In Encyclopaedia Britannica. Web.