Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Historically Medicinal Native Plants

Sometimes a rose isn't just a rose, it's a treatment. These native plants have been used historically as medicines. Planting instructions, a general overview, and how these native plants were used are noted.

Aconitum uncinatum L. (Southern Blue Monkshood)
This hooded violet-blue flower has blooms that are around 3/4 of an inch in size and herbaceous smooth 6 inch leaves. It will grow to around 2-4 inches tall and blooms between August and October, with podlike fruits. Space these flowers between 15-18 inches apart and plant in full sun to full shade. They prefer a moist soil. You can propagate them via dividing or by breaking open the dried pods to collect seeds. BEWARE: Its roots and seeds contain alkaloids that are very poisonous before it flowers. Southern Blue Monkshood makes a sciatica and neuralgia drug.

Actaea pachypoda Ell. (White Baneberry, Doll's-eyes, White Cohosh)
Perennial herb with 2 foot stems, this plant has showy white flowers blooming in May. It fruits July-August with 10-20 berry like fruits. Baneberry prefers partial shade. It's an old aborigine's medicine for rheumatism.

Ageratina altissima (L.) King & H.E. Robins. var. altissima (white snakeroot)
This 4-6 foot tall clump forming perennial will need to be spaced 3-4 feet apart in moist, alkaline, well drained soil. Erect dark purple/brown stems with white fluffy flowers from August to October; it is a great butterfly draw. Make sure that White Snakeroot is planted in partial sun to full shade. Historically it has been used as a medicinal treatment for colds, liver disease, and fever.

Cimicifuga racemosa (L.) Nutt. (Black Bugbane)
This perennial is excellent for borders with its tall spikes and white flowers. It is a member of the buttercup family and prefers deep shade. It will grow up to 8 feet and bloom May to September. Its root was an official drug of the US Pharmacopoeia from 1820-1926. Today it is a popular alternative to estrogen therapy.

Erigeron pulchellus Michx. (Robin's Plantain)
This perennial grows up to 2 feet and has hairy stems. It will have white flowers or lavender flowers that will fade to white over time. It blooms in mid spring to summer. Robin's plantain prefers full sun and well drained soil. Each flower has 50-100 rays and are thin petaled like a daisy. Medicinally, this was used as a tea for a diuretic and astringent. BEWARE: This plant can cause dermatitis.

Fragaria virginiana Duchesne (Virginia Strawberry)
From the Rose family, this grows up to 12 inches and is a low running perennial. Its blooms are 5 petal white flowers with red fruit. It will flower from May to June. Historically it's been used for its fruit as an old time gout remedy and its leaves are a mild astringent.

Polygonatum biflorum (Walt.) Ell. (Smooth Solomon's Seal)
This member of the Lily Family reaches 1-3 feet in height. It has small white bell flowers from April to June and bluish black berries from August to October. Foliage is unique in that it has a fuzzy underside. Early colonists used the root tea for indigestion and coughing.

Salvia lyrata L. (Lyreleaf Sage)
A member of the mint family, this gets up to 15 inches in height with basal leaves up to 8 inches long. Its lavender flowers come in mid spring and last through summer. It is drought tolerant and prefers full sun or partial shade. It is seldom used but easy to grow. Native Americans use as a tea for colds or asthma. It is also a folk remedy for cancer.

Thalictrum thalictroides (L.) Eames & Boivin (Rue Anemone)
This lovely plant reminds me of a miniature Cherokee rose. A perennial herbaceous plant that grows to 9inches tall, it is prized in woodland gardens. It blooms white from late winter to early spring. Root teas by Native Americans was believed to cure diarrhea and vomiting, although it potentially toxic.

Tradescantia ohiensis Raf. (Bluejacket, Ohio Spiderwort)
This flower gets up to 3 feet high and prefers full sun or partial shade. Flowers are blue, lavender, or white and bloom from mid spring to early summer. It has blue hairs on its stamens even on the white flower variety. It is a low maintenence plant and drought tolerant. The Cherokee Indians used this for female and kidney problems, as a root poultice for cancer, as a tea for digestive issues, and as crushed leaves for bug bites. You can divide the clumps to propagate.


Post a Comment