Black-Eyed Susan is a beautiful perennial flower, but it also has potent medicinal benefits. It’s closely related to echinacea, and it has many of the same medicinal properties.
Just about everyone who’s even paid passing attention to gardening has seen (or grown) black-eyed Susan flowers at some point. It’s a hardy, perennial wildflower with striking, yellow, daisy-like flowers and dark-brown centers. They’re incredibly common, and grow wild all over our land without any care.
What you might not know is that black-eyed Susan has medicinal uses!
We know that Native American tribes used black-eyed Susan wildflowers to treat snakebites, earaches, and get rid of parasitic worms. It has a long history of treating colds and the flu, but fewer people turn to this popular wildflower for anything other than filling a glass vase over the last century.
However, before you dive into the medicinal uses of black-eyed suzies, be aware that the flowers, leaves, and roots are the parts used in medicine. The seeds are poisonous and are not recommended for safe consumption.
A Quick Background on Black-Eyed Susans
Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta) belong to the Asteraceae family and go by a range of names. Some of the most common nicknames include coneflower, brown-eyed Susan, yellow daisy, brown Betty, and yellow ox-eye daisy.
No matter what you call these flowers, these flowers are a North American classic wildflower. It’s even the state flower of Maryland!
Where Do Black-Eyed Susans Grow
Black-eyed Susan is native to Eastern and Central North America and ten Canadian provinces, and all 48 contiguous states. Really, anywhere they can find a spare patch of land that’s not mowed…
How to Identify Black-Eyed Susans
Picking out a black-eyed Susan in the wild is easy. The plants grow up to heights of two to three feet tall.
Their blooming season begins in June and continues all summer until September. This native flower is easy to spot because of its distinctive flowers. Those are the bright, yellow flowers surrounding a dark brown, circular, domed center.
The flower heads look very similar to daisies, at least in shape, though they have their own black/yellow color pattern.
These plants grow up to 18 inches wide, and the flowers measure up to four inches wide. The plants have mostly basal leaves that are four to six inches long and covered in coarse hair.
Black-Eyed Susan leaves look an awful lot like echinacea leaves, and that’s because they’re closely related. This gives you a clue as to their medicinal uses…
One more quick shot of the leaf attachment, as well as the stem.
This should help you positively ID them even when they’re not flowering.
How to Grow Black-Eyed Susans
The great thing about growing these flowers is that they require little to no work on your end. They’re wildflowers, after all, which means they need little to no help from humans to spread and grow prolifically.
Find a spot in your garden that has full sunlight, receiving a minimum of six to eight hours of sun each day. Cast your seeds wide for a show-stopping look.
If you decide to grow these flowers in your garden, garden nurseries sell them in a range of colors from orange to red to brown. They also sell them in large or smaller sizes that were selected from the standard wild variants.
Black-Eyed Susan Medicinal Uses
Recent studies show that black-eyed Susan root extracts might stimulate the immune system better than Echinacea, one of the best known medicinal herbs. These two plants are in the same family and have many of the same properties, making sense that they share this one.
Another study found that black-eyed Susan had antibacterial effects against the germ that causes tuberculosis. It contained the same compounds as are found in Elecampane, which is a potent cough remedy and respiratory herb. While TB isn’t as much of a problem as it was decades ago, this shows how effective and potent this plant truly is.
That also means black-eyed Susans are used to treat some of the symptoms of a common cold. This should come as no surprise because we know that North American tribes used this flower to treat colds for centuries. It’s also prized as a way to prevent colds and influenza, the same ways that Echinacea is used.
Folk Uses of Black-Eyed Susan
While they have a number of medicinal uses supported by modern peer-reviewed studies, black-eyed Susan also has a number of folk uses. These haven’t been studied by modern medicine (yet), but I’m adding it mostly for historical interest.
It was historically used as an antibacterial and immune stimulant, and science has supported those traditional uses, so it’s entirely possible that these traditional uses are just as valid, but without studies, it’s hard to be sure.
North American tribes used black-eyed Susans for an extensive range of health ailments. The plant and roots have useful properties, but be sure to stay away from the seeds.
One of the best-known uses is to use the roots to create an infusion to treat parasitic worms. This is a traditional herbal remedy created by the Ojibwa tribe, also known as the Chippewa. That’s not the only way that you can use this flower.
Black-eyed Susans have diuretic properties, which means it helps to increase the flow of urine. The stem is an effective treatment for those suffering from high blood pressure, and the entire plant treats ulcers and bodily swelling.
Besides treating parasitic worms, the roots from a black-eyed Susan plant are versatile and treat a range of ailments. You can use the juice from the roots to treat an earache naturally. Make a root infusion or tea and soak a cloth in it. Then, apply it to minor cuts, sores, scrapes, or swelling.
Potential Black-Eyed Susan Medicinal Benefits
- Strengthens the immune system
- Fights off colds and the flu
- Treats high blood pressure, diuresis, and ulcers
- Cures earaches
- Treats snakebites
Most people look at black-eyed Susans and think that they’re simply a pretty flower, and while they are beautiful, I hope I’ve helped change the way you see this common perennial.
They’re far more than just a pretty flower!
Looking for more herbal guides?
- How to Make a Herbal Tincture
- DIY Witch Hazel Extract
- Homemade Elderberry Syrup
- How to Make a Herbal Salve
(I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on the internet. Please consult your doctor or a qualified herbalist before trying any herbal remedy, and be sure to do your own research, consulting more than one source to verify information.)
This plant was one of my Grandmother’s favorites and she had a large patch of it in her rock garden for years. I have inherited the property and these are still a treasure to see each year. And now with your information, I have found even more reasons to treasure them!
Black Eyed Susans are truly very low maintenance as I can attest to. I generally struggle to keep new plants going…still learning what is best for my climate, soil etc…but these beauties just keep coming back year after year, with blooms that last all summer long.
Thank you for this information.
Would love a link to the parasite tincture. Anyone have an old recipe to share? Thanks!
Here is the link for the black walnut tincture https://practicalselfreliance.com/black-walnut-tincture/
Do you just make a tea out of the roots/flower petals for the immune boosting?
You can use the roots, leaves and petals.
Love it! Thank you
You’re very welcome.
Do you dry all usable parts and make a tea or do you suggest a tincture?
I have not personally worked with a tincture with this particular herb and I honestly haven’t been able to find a lot of information on it being used as a tincture although there is some. Let us know if you find some good information on this.
Can the leaves be added into a blender with fruits for a smoothy?
There is nothing to indicate that they are toxic to humans but some people do have allergic reactions. The plant also doesn’t have a very pleasant taste and the hairs on the leaves could be irritating.
Hi, what part of the black eyed Susan do you use for the common cold or flu because I get sick quite often thanks….
The roots, petals and leaves can all be used to boost the immune system.
I would love more detail in using Roots/tea and leaves for tinture
Is there a book/reference I can go to
There is no specific book that has information on this one that I know of, other than to say it’s used like Echinacea, and to follow the protocols for echinacea when using it.