Friday, December 20, 2013
Lomatium-Lomatium Dissectum, Lomatium Cous, Lomatium Triternatum
Also known as: desert parsley, biscuit root
Parts used: roots, leaves, stems
Meridians/Organs affected: immune system, respiratory. hepatic, cardiac
Properties: antiviral, immune stimulant, vulnerary, antimicrobial expectorant, antibacterial
Lomatium is a member of the parsley family. There are more than seventy species of lomatium in the western states alone. These plants frequently hybridize, so sometimes identification can be difficult and scary as it closely resembles poison hemlock. One cannot afford to mistake this plant for its poisonous cousin. Generally, hemlock needs moist soil or it will dies, whereas lomatium usually grows in dry, rocky soil. If the soil is dry, rocky and void of most plant life the odds are that lomatium will be found there. Lomatium can also be found in moist soil but when in doubt, stick to the dry areas to harvest lomatium where hemlock doesn't grow.
Lomatium has hollow stems and parsley-looking compound leaves that on some species divide into linear segments. The largest species of lomatium can get almost four feet tall. The flowers bloom on umbrella shaped terminals and vary from white to yellow to pink to purple to even black. It blooms from April to July. The roots are best dug in the fall or early spring when the plant is dormant. Dig it with care to minimize any damage as it will "bleed" a yellow sap when cut. The roots should be cleaned and cut as soon as possible and tinctured or infused in oil.
Lomatium has been used by the Native Americans for a very very long time. The Blackfeet Indians refer to it as 'Big Medicine' for its ability to help chronic respiratory problems such as asthma, tuberculosis, bronchitis and pneumonia. They would also use it for colds and flu. Other Native American tribes would call it 'Bear Medicine' as when the plant comes up in the spring the small shoots resemble furry, brown paws. Bear medicine plants were used by the Indians for heart, lung and liver complaints. The roots were often used to make tea for any kind of respiratory condition as it would help to expel phlegm from the bronchials. Some long distance runners also chewed the seeds to prevent side-aches when running.
As its other name implies (biscuit root), lomatium was also considered a food staple by many Indian tribes. The root was dried and ground into a flour or meal for bread, biscuits, mush, cakes, etc. Large, flat cakes were often taken with them on long journeys. Lomatium cous (biscuit root) was the most used variety for that purpose as it has a flavor similar to rice. The root was also roasted or boiled. Other varieties of lomatium have more of a balsam flavor. The leaves can and were used much like parsley in soups, stews, salads, meat dishes and more.
Some people have had rashes break out on their skin when using this herb. This is usually due to the person using too much. Lomatium is definitely a plant where less is more. If the person stops using lomatium the rash generally goes away in a few days.
As is customary with my posts I am including some links below for you perusal. Use them as you deem necessary. Happy and healthy living!