Herb: Box

Latin name: Buxus sempervirens

Family: Buxaceae (Box Family)

Medicinal use of Box:

Although it has been used medicinally in the past as a sedative and to treat syphilis, box is very rarely used in modern herbalism. The leaves and the bark are alterative, antirheumatic, cathartic, cholagogue, diaphoretic, febrifuge, oxytocic and vermifuge. The leaves have been used as a quinine substitute in the treatment of malaria. The leaves are harvested in the spring, before the plant comes into flower, and they are dried for later use. The bark can be harvested at any time of the year and is dried for use in decoctions. Use this remedy with caution and preferably only under the supervision of a qualified practitioner. The plant has not been fully tested for its toxic side effects. The wood is diaphoretic, in full dose it is narcotic and sedative, in overdose it is convulsant and emetico-cathartic. A tincture of the wood has been used as a bitter tonic and antiperiodic, it has also had a reputation for curing leprosy. A volatile oil distilled from the wood has been prescribed in cases of epilepsy. An essential oil obtained from the plant is used in dentistry. A homeopathic remedy is made from the plant. It is extensively used in the treatment of rheumatism.

Description of the plant:


5 m
(16 feet)

to May


Habitat of the herb:

Beechwood and scrub, usually on chalk and limestone.

Edible parts of Box:

The leaves have been used in France as a substitute for hops (Humulus lupulus) in making beer. They cannot be very wholesome, and would probably prove to be injurious.

Other uses of the herb:

Box makes an excellent hedge from 45cm to 4.5 metres tall according to the variety grown. It is quite slow growing but very tolerant of cutting and is often used in topiary, where the hedge is trimmed into different forms for ornamental effect. The leaves and sawdust, boiled in lye, have been used to dye hair an auburn colour. Wood - hard, close grained, heavy. Although the wood is rather small, it is highly valued on account of its hardness - it is twice as hard as oak (Quercus species). It is used for engraving, printing blocks, bowls, combs etc. The root especially is much liked by turners and cabinet makers.

Propagation of Box:

Seed - stratification is not necessary but can lead to more regular germination. The seed is best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe. Sow stored seed as early in the year as possible in a cold frame. It usually germinates in 1 - 3 months at 15C but stored seed can take longer. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter, planting them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Cuttings of short side shoots with a heel, September in a frame. High percentage. Rather slow to root. Nodal cuttings in spring in a frame. Fairly easy.

Cultivation of the herb:

Beechwood and scrub, usually on chalk and limestone.

Known hazards of Buxus sempervirens:

All parts of the plant are poisonous, especially the leaves and bark.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.