Blue Flag (Iris versicolor) is Used in Wildcrafted Herbal Products' Therapeutic Creams and Compounds.

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Medicinal Herbs & Therapeutic Botanicals

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Botanicals: Blue Flag (Iris versicolor)

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Blue Flag is a common American herb, which was employed by both the Indians and early settlers as a remedy for gastric complaints. I. versicolor was once included in the United States Pharmacopoeia and is still believed in folk medicine to be a blood purifier in eruptive skin conditions.

Blue flag is also known as Liver Lily, because of its particular effect on that organ. The herb may be a hybrid between the closely related I. verginica and Iris (Stuart, 1979).

Botanicals: Blue Flag (Iris versicolor)


Blue Flag


PicBotanical Name: Iris versicolor

Family: Iridaceae

Other Names: Flag-lily, fleur-de-lis, flower-de-luce, iris, liver lily, poison flag, snake lily, water flag, wild iris, blue flag

Description: Perennial bog plant on thick branched creeping root-stock bearing erect, stout, coarse stem 30 cm to 110 cm tall, and sword-shaped leaves 20 cm to 1 m long, 15 mm-3 cm wide.

Attractiveblue or violet flowers, marked with yellow, 2-6 per plant, on short peduncles, appearin early to mid-summer, followed by globose, leathery capsule (Stuart, 1979).

Parts Used: Rhizome

Active Compounds: 

  • Volatile oil, containing furfural
  • Fixed oil
  • Iridin (or irisin), a glycoside
  • Acids such as salicylic and isophthalic
  • Starch, tannic
  • Unidentified alkaloid
  • Miscellaneous; a monocyclic C3l triterpenoid, gum, resin, sterols,etc.


Historically, this herb had been used as a cathartic, diuretic, sialagogue. Blue flag is said to be good for chronic vomiting, heartburn, chronic gastritis and enteritis, liver and gallbladder ailments, and catarrhal sinus problems. It is highly recommended for migraine, especially when caused by stomach disorders. The Indians also used blue flag for dropsy. The bruised fresh leaves are also sometimes used externally for burns and sores.


Traditional Uses of Blue Flag in Herbal Medicine

Cholagogue, hepatic, alterative, emetic, laxative, diuretic, anti-inflammatory.

This herb is used in the treatment of skin diseases, apparently aiding the skin by working through the liver, the main detoxifying organ of the body. It may be used in skin eruptions such as eczema and psoriasis. It is valuable as part of a wider treatment. It may be used with value where there is constipation associated with liver problems or biliousness.

It is chiefly used for its alterative properties, being a useful purgative in disorders of the liver and duodenum, and is an ingredient of many compounds for purifying the blood. It acts as a stimulant to the liver and intestinal glands and is used in constipation and biliousness, and is believed by some to be a hepatic stimulant second only to podophyllin, but if given in full doses it may occasion considerable nausea and severe prostration.

Other indications include:

Acrid, slightly aromatic, alterative, anti-inflammatory, diaphoretic, diuretic, laxative, sialagogue, vermifuge; stimulates liver and gall bladder. Purgative in nature, the dried root was once used as an emetic, diuretic, cathartic, and liver stimulant.

Has been combined with Mandrake (Podophyllum peltatum), Poke (Phytolacca decandra), Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa), Sarsparilla, and Yelow Dock (Rumex crispus) in compound medicinals as remedies for a variety of ailments.

The oleoresin was once used as a liver purgative and small doses were employed in cases of biliousness.

Once used internally for acne (and other skin conditions), arthritis, "blood cleanser", bronchitis, cancer, chronic hip disease, constipation, coughs, eczema, enteritis (chronic), fibroids, gall bladder problems, gastritis, heartburn, (chronic), herpes, leukorrhea, liver disorders, migraine (associated with liver dysfunction), non-malignant enlargement of lymphatic and thyroid glands, PID (pelvic inflammatory disorder), psoriasis, rheumatism, septicemia, sinusitis (root powder as a snuff), swollen glands, vomiting (chronic). Also for syphilis (particularly secondary syphilis), and some forms of scrofula and dropsy.

Has been used externally for rheumatism, infected wounds, ulcerations, skin diseases (combined with Yellow Dock, Red Clover, Pokeweed, or Stillingia). The juice of the root was once used topically for pain of piles or hemorrhoids. Also used for anal fissures.

Was considered specific for correcting milk-colored or clay-colored stools in adults.

For poisonous stings and bites 1 oz of the powdered root was boiled in 1 pint of water with 1 tbsp of vinegar; 1/2 cup every hour was taken until symptoms were gone.

Used by Native Americans as a cathartic and for dropsy. The bruised leaves were used for burns and sores. Also used for bruises and sores on legs was the rootstock, washed then boiled a short time, then crushed between stones and spread as a poultice while the leg was rubbed with the water used to boil the rootstock. The Missouri Indians mixed the mashed rootstalk with water or saliva as an earache remedy, an eyewash and as a poultice for sores and bruises. The Meskwakis used the rootstock for colds and lung problems and as a poultice burns and sores. The Objibwe used it as an emetic and physic. The Potawatomis used Blue flag as a poultice for inflammation. The Tadoussacs of Quebec crushed the entire plant, mixed it with flour and used it as a poultice for pain. The Penobscots considered I. versicolor a cure-all and preserved the rhizomes by stringing them together and hanging in their homes; they believed that steaming them prevented disease from entering their homes; the steeped root was believed to be a specific for cholera.

In Russia Blue flag was traditionally used for dropsy, lung inflammation, angina, infected wounds, ulcers, fistula, and as a freckle remover.



Decoction of Blue flag: Put 1 teaspoonful of the dried herb into a cup of water and bring to the boil. Let it simmer for 10-15 minutes. Take this three times a day.

Tincture of Blue flag: take 1 ml of the tincture three times a day.

Combinations : Blue Flag combines well with Echinacea or Burdock and Yellow Dock.


CAUTION: Blue flag contains an acrid, resinous substance that acts on the gastro-intestinal tract, the liver, and the pancreas. It may also cause dermatitis in some people.

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