This genus of N American perennials contains six species. Chelone glabra is one of several species grown as border plants in damp situations for their snapdragon-like flowers. Chelone is the Greek word for "tortoise", because the tubular flower, seen from the front, resembles resembles as tortoise's head. This shape has also given rise to various common names fr the plant, such as fishmouth, snakehead, Chelone glabra yields a digestive tonic that is increasingly favored by herbalists because the aerial parts of the plant are used rather than the roots, so causing less environmental damage when the herb is collected from the wild.

Upright perennial with ovate to lanceolate leaves, 5-15cm (2-6in) long, and clusters of white, sometimes pink-tinged, flowers, 2.5cm (1in) long, in which the upper lip forms a hood over the bearded lower lip.

Common Name:
Other Names:
Botanical Name:
Chelone glabra
Native Location:
Eastern and southern N America
Moist, rich soil in sun or partial shade. Tolerates heavy and boggy soils.
By seed sown in spring; by soft tip cuttings in spring or early summer; by division in autumn or spring.
Plants are cut when in flower and dried for use in infusions, liquid extracts, powders, or tinctures.
60cm (24in)
45cm (18in)
Parts Used:
Whole plant
A very bitter herb with a tea-like flavor that acts mainly as a tonic for the liver and digestive system. It also has anti-depressant and laxative effects.
Medicinal Uses:
Internally for gallstones wth jaundice, chronic liver disease, colic, constipation, anorexia, and poor digestion (especially in the elderly and during convalescence. Combines well with Juglans cinerea for constipation, and with Gentiana lutea (See, yellow gentian) and Hydrastis canadensis (see, goldenseal) for jaundice.
Encylopedia of Herbs by Deni Brown Copyright ©: 1995, 2001 Dorling Kindersley Limited pp 165-166