Posts Tagged ‘Herbal medicine’

Carolina Nightshade – Solanum carolinense var. carolinense

Carolina Nightshade fruit
Carolina Nightshade fruit

This native of the southeast North America has spread to cover most of the United States. It is known to be weedy and invasive spreading through seeds and its underground rhizomes. It is extremely deep rooted, and if the entire root is not removed it will regrow being a perennial. Of the 44 states in which it grows, 7 of them have listed it as a Noxious weed…Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Iowa and Nevada. Even though this plant is list as a noxious weed it cannot be listed as invasive, since it is native of this land.

 

Another reason for the aversion to this plant is that all green parts, but especially the unripe berries carry an alkaloid (solanine) that is very toxic. It has been shown toxic to horses, cattle, sheep, and humans. The symptomology of poisoning is abdominal pain and may potentially cause circulatory and respiratory depression. If sufficient quantity of the plant is consumed it can be deadly.  Although the unripe berries are toxic, the ripe berries are consumed safely by pheasants, quail, prairie chickens and wild turkeys.

 

The fruits have also been consumed by humans safely although it is not recommended. In times past the ripe berries (after turning yellow) have been used in herbal medicine to treat epilepsy, and to work as a sedative and an anti-spasmodic. In fact the Genus name (Solanum) is taken from the Latin, meaning quieting! According to Foster & Duke (A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants Eastern and Central North America Volume 40: Peterson Field Guides) the berries have been use to treat epilepsy and pain, as a diuretic, antispasmodic, and aphrodisiac.

 

The Cherokee Indians used it in their Herbal medicine. Often referred to as the bull nettle, the ripe, yellow berries were used to treat nervous stress and as a mild sedative. It was also used for treating asthma, and all sorts of bronchial conditions. The Cherokee also used the crushed leaves mixed with sweet milk as a fly poison. In another use the root would be strung on a thread or piece of leather latigo and hung around a teething babies neck to easy the pain!

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Mexican Rose – Portulaca grandiflora

Mexican Rose
Mexican Rose

Ode to Portulaca

 

Fleshy annuals, colors of the rainbow
Show faces serene, sparkling and steadfast
As they grow and gleam.
Each petal diminutive but stately
Holds firm in sunshine and droughts…

 

By Donald G. Harmande

This annual, succulent, flowering plant is native to South America, ranging from Argentina and Uruguay through southern Brazil. It found there on the hot dry plains. It is an escape in some areas of Europe. In 1828 American botanist W.J. Hooker embarked on a trip to the Rio Desaguardero in Bolivia, South America, there he was the first to describe this plant.

Its cousin the common Purslane has been grown for centuries for use as a potherb, but the Rose Moss or Mexican Rose has oxalates in the stems and leaves which cause issues on consumption. If properly prepared the oxalates effects (tingling and burning sensations in the mouth and throat) can be negated. The seeds, although very small, can be ground and added to soups or even cereals.

The ASPCA reports that these plants are toxic to cats, dogs and horses causing muscle weakness, depression, and diarrhea. The soluble calcium oxalates are the culprit here also!

In herbal medicine the entire plant is depurative (promoting cleansing). It has been used in the treatment of hepatitis, cirrhosis of the liver, and swelling with pain of the pharynx. The fresh leaves can render a juice that has been utilized in the treatment of snake and insect bites, burns, scalds and eczema.

In the language of flowers the Moss Rose means “confession of love”.

Pinks – Dianthus chinensis

Pinks
Pinks

Flowers blossoming
in autumn fields –
when I count them on my fingers
they then number seven
The flowers of bush clover,
eulalia, arrowroot,
pink, patrinia,
also, mistflower
and morning faces flower.

Yamanoue Okura (C. 660 – 733)

 

This native biennial is grows in a variety of habitats in the Far East, from Mongolia to northern China, to Korea and southeast Russia. In the Far East it has been used for thousands of years in Chinese Tradition Medicine. This small flower resembles the carnation of florist fame, and in fact they are cousins, often being used in similar ways.

 

In herbal medicine the whole plant is considered a bitter and used to aid digestion and the urinary tract system. It has been used internally for the treatment of acute urinary tract infections (especially cystitis), urinary stones, constipation, and failure to menstruate. Externally a decoction is used to treat skin inflammations and swellings.

 

Some of the Dianthus species are edible, but no specific references for this variety can be found at this time. The fact that it has been used in China for medicine probably gives credence to the relative safety of the flowers. If the petals are eaten in excess they can cause some skin irritation issues!

Pineapple – Ananas comosus

Pineapple
Pineapple

Pineapple, pineapple the elixir of life
Pineapple, pineapple cut open with a knife
Pineapple, pineapple the sensitive fruit
Pineapples are awful cute…

 

By Unknown

 

This herbaceous, perennial plant originates in South America. It is believed to have been first cultivated by the Guarani Indians of northern Paraguay. Well before the Spaniards arrival the natives of southern Paraguay and Brazil had spread the plant through South America, and into the Caribbean. When Columbus hit the Indies in 1493 (his second voyage) he “discovered” Pineapples and returned them to Europe (specifically Spain).

Since then it has spread to Hawaii, the Philippines, Zimbabwe, and Guam. The first commercial plantation was started as early as the 1860’s. These same natives introduced the Spanish, and therefore the Europeans to the use of the Pineapple motif as a symbols of hospitality and friendship. The Caribbeans placed the whole pineapple or the crown of the fruit outside their door; while the Europeans chose to carve it into lintels over doorways, and furniture.

The Spanish found the locals in the Caribbean (Puerto Rico) soaking slices of the pineapple in salt water before they consumed them. This practice is no longer being followed. The fruit of the Pineapple is still enjoyed with relish, it is often eaten fresh with just the crown, rind, and eyes removed. The flesh may be cut and added to salads, in desserts, compotes, cooked in pies, cakes, puddings or as a garnish on ham. It can be made into sauces or preserves. In Malaysia it is added to curry and used to accent meat dishes. While in the Philippines they ferment the fleshy fruit pulp to make nata de pina. The most common way pineapple is found today is canned as slices, chunks, crushed, or as juice.

The fruit, peel and juice have been used in the treatment of corns, tumors and warts. In some areas it was used to induce abort, labor or menstruation. The juice of unripe fruits will cause vomiting, aiding in clearing the system of poisons. The fruit is often used in Mexican healing rituals. It has long been used as an aphrodisiac, and is used in a homeopathic formula for impotence. An easy use for an aphrodisiac is to place a pineapple spear or ring into a rum based drink (this may not work as an aphrodisiac, but it just may relax fear of inadequacies!)

There are many myths and folkloric tales surrounding Pineapple. Folktales relate that sea captains at one time would place a pineapple outside their door upon returning home to signify their return from the sea. Some people had beds with removable pineapples at the ends of the bedposts, when the guest overstayed their welcome the pineapple carving would be unscrewed from the end and removed!

In the Philippines the myth surrounding the origins of Pineapples is to teach children to always obey their parents, but it is also to teach the parents to treat their children with love and to take care in how they handled them. While the Peruvian legend has the dead arising from their graves and eating the fruit of wild Pineapples!

Sago Palm – Cycas revoluta

Sago Palm
Sago Palm

The Sego, or King Sago Palm is native to Japan and China. It grows on hillsides in thickets on small islands on the Japanese chain of islands. They have a thick 2 foot diameter trunk that reproduces through offsets or suckers that grow at the base of the plant. There are several stands that are protected in nature now, but most of these palms grow in cultivation.

 

According to the ASPCA this plant is toxic to dogs, cats, and horses. It is also highly toxic to humans! Cycasin (a toxic glycoside) may cause these symptoms with exposure: vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, seizures, liver failure, or hepatotoxicity characterized by icterus (jaundice), cirrhosis (scarring of the liver, and poor functioning), and ascites (fluid in the peritoneal cavity). The pet may appear bruised, have nose bleeds (epistaxis), melena (blood in the stool), hematochezia (bloody straining), and hemarthrosis (blood in the joints). This plant has great potential as a toxin with pets, as they find the flavor enticing. Every part of this palm has some Cycasin, but it is especially concentrated in the seeds.

 

Even though there is toxicity present in every part of the plant, it was still used for food and medicine. In folk medicine the leaves were used in the treatment of cancer and specifically hepatoma (liver cancer). The seeds were utilized to help rheumatism, and an extract was used to inhibit the growth of cancer tumors.

 

The seed is also eaten raw or cooked! The seed can be dried and ground to be added to rice which is fermented into date miso. The pith of the trunk is dried and powdered then utilized to make dumplings, which are very sustaining.

 

There are methods of treatment of this plant and its seeds that are very exacting to make it palatable and not toxic! To try and use this plant at home is ill advised!!

Japanese Honeysuckle – Lonicera japonica

Japanese Honeysuckle
Japanese Honeysuckle

….The Fairies taste.

Fly, dance and breathlessly exclaim…. 

Honeysuckle, forever mine.

by Robin Qualls 

This invasive vine from East Asia is banned or prohibited in several states. In the Orient where it is native, the plant has been used for thousands of years for medical treatments. An ointment is used to remove freckles; this was made from the leaves. And the flowers gathered and made into a bouquet to treat asthma.

In modern herbal use it is considered alterative, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, diuretic, and febrifuge in action. The stems are used for acute rheumatoid arthritis, mumps, and hepatitis. An infusion of the stems and flowers combined is used for upper respiratory tract infections, and dysentery. The unopened buds are made into an infusion to treat tumors, dysentery, colds, and enteritis.

The leaves are highly nutritious and can be boiled much like spinach. The buds and flowers are edible and can be made into syrup or used to flavor wine, sorbet, and other sweet dishes…such as pudding. Tea can be made of the leaves, buds, and flowers.

This plant remains palatable throughout the winter months and is an important browse food to the white tailed deer. In the summer months the flowers attract hummingbirds and scores of bees. The fruit is eaten with great lust by many different songbirds.

The vines of Honeysuckle (including the Japanese variety) have been used in basketry. The vines can be pounded to release the saponins and then thrown into the water of fishing grounds. The saponins act as fish poison to stupefy or kill the fish for easier harvesting.

American Marsh Pennywort – Hydrocotyle ranunculoides

American Marsh Pennywort
American Marsh Pennywort

Pennywort.

Pennywort.

Pattern of primrose and pennywort.

Taking me, taking me,

Take me to meadows of childhood…

By Dic Edwards

This creeping, perennial aquatic herb is native to eastern North America where is grows in moist areas such as marshes, springs, and swamps. Here in the east there are places that it is becoming Endangered…Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee. But in Europe it is considered an invasive species because of its tendency to develop large colonies!

Here in Delaware in can be found along the edges of ponds, creeks, and swampy areas. It often keeps its deep green color in winter. The small white flowers form in small clusters or umbrells from the leaf base. The flowers are on short stalks in the umbrell, and have 5 tiny, white petals.

The genus name, Hyddrocotyle, comes from the Greek and means water (hydro) cup (or small drinking vessel – cotyle). It is believed to have similar healing properties to its Asian cousin the Hydocotyle asiatica, which has been used to treat leprosy, itch, scrofula, rheumatism, ulcers, and secondary syphilis.

This member of the Carrot family was used by the Cohuilla Indians for greens.