The word Echium originated from the ancient Greek word echis (ecis), which means "viper," due to its claimed use to cure viper's bite, or the resemblance of its nutlets to a viper's head, or both (Klemow et al., 2002). The genus Echium encompasses over 50 species that belong to the Boraginaceae (borage family). Echium originated in the Mediterranean region, but many species are now found throughout Europe, North America, and Australia. This chapter is limited to the species known as purple viper bugloss, or Paterson's curse (E. plantagineum). Echium is a very interesting herb, because it is either admired for its spectacular floral colors and its medicinal value, or condemned as a noxious weed of incredible persistence. We summarize the agronomic description, health benefits, and toxicity associated with the use of echium seeds for human health.
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