Wednesday, May 28, 2014


Licorice Root-Glycyrrhiza glabra, Glycyrrhiza lepidota, Glycyrrhiza uralensis

Also known as:  Gan Tsao

Parts used:  root

Meridians/Organs affected:  lungs, intestines, spleen, stomach, liver, pancreas, immune system, general tonic effects on the entire body

Properties:  antiallergenic, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal, estrogenic, expectorant, demulcent, alterative, laxative, galactogogue, sedative (mild), antioxidant, antispasmodic, emmenogogue, immuno-stimulant, anti-hyperglycemic, antiulcer, anti-hepatotoxic, antimalarial

Licorice root is a member of the Leguminosae (pea) family.  It is an aromatic perennial with tall leafy stems and deep roots.  The leaves are lance-shaped and divide pinnately into 11-19 leaflets.  The flowers are a yellowish to greenish white (the can also turn a pinkish lavender) and are 1/2" long and form dense, stalked clusters.  The plant blooms from May to August and has bur-like pods that are covered with hooked bristles.  These pods are usually visual during the winter months which make identification much easier.  Wild licorice grows in moist, well-drained areas, near water, and on the plains and foothills from British Columbia to New Mexico.  The wild licorice here is not nearly as potent as the Eurasian or Chinese varieties medicinally so keep that in mind.

Licorice root has a very long history.  Records of it date back to Assyrian medical texts in the late second millenium (BC).  Theophrastus, who referred to it as Seythian root, used it often, as did Pliny.  Edward I taxed licorice imports in the early 1300's to pay for repairs to the London Bridge.  Pontrefact, Yorkshire, became well known for its licorice confections, especially their licorice cakes that they stamped with the town's emblem of a gate and an owl.  The Greeks were introduced to it by the Seythians (an ancient people from Iran) and it was used frequently by the Hindus and Chinese.  Large quantities of licorice were found with King Tut and other Egyptian pharaohs.  They believed that licorice would be used in the next world to make sweet drinks.

Hippocrates praised licorice for its ability to quench the thirst and be sweet - something not known to happen with most sweet things (the thirst quenching).  In ancient Rome it was used as a remedy for sore throats, colds and coughs.  The Chinese believed that eating the root would give them strength and stamina and the Hindus believed it was an aphrodisiac and would increase sexual vigor when prepared with milk and sugar (don't know why you would need sugar, but okay).  In India, licorice is used both as a sweetener  and as a galactogogue and emmenogogue.  The early north americans used it as a laxative, cough suppressant and for a variety of cancers, and in Korea, it is used with ginseng as an oral contraceptive for women.  Licorice is the most commonly used herb in herbal formulations in Chinese medicine as it is believed to harmonize and enhance the effects of all other herbs.  In fact, the Chinese have used extracts of licorice for duodenal and gastric ulcers, infectious hepatitis, contact dermatitis, bronchial asthma, diabetes and malaria.

Licorice roots were dried and sold as licorice stick chews.  The roots were also boiled to extract the glossy black molasses-like substance used to sweeten ice cream, baked goods, soft drinks and chewing gum.  It also has been used to flavor beer, tobacco and cough syrups.

Licorice contains glycyrrhizin which is 50 times sweeter than sucrose and works similarly to cortisone in the body.  This and other components that are contained within licorice make it a staple in desert areas to prevent extreme thirst when water intake is low.  It is also antitussive and anti-inflammatory which makes it great for coughs and bronchial issues.  The glycyrrhetenic acid within licorice is used for chronic adrenocorticoid insufficiency (aka Addison's disease).  However, it is also known to increase sodium and fluid retention which can cause an increase in blood pressure so those with cardiac issues or hypertension should avoid it.

The deglycyrrhized form of licorice has been used extensively in Europe for ulcers, colitis, diverticulosis, etc.  It is also used as a calming agent, to relax strained muscles, decrease muscle spasms, help with arthritis, rheumatism, hypoglycemia, as an estrogen supplement and to stimulate interferon production.  Scientific studies have found that it can increase white blood cell activity and the formation of antibodies.   Licorice is what is called an immuno-modulator, which means that if the immune system is sluggish it will get it going and if it is hyperactive it will calm it down.  In in vivo (inside the cell) studies it has shown strong activity against tumors and radiation.

Licorice is one of the most powerful herbs we have-when used properly-in combinations with other plants.  It is effective against malaria, staph, strep, salmonella, candida, E.Coli, cholera, tuberculosis, etc.  It is a decent source of B vitamins as well as vitamin E. That being said, this is not an herb for amateurs.  It doesn't work well with some herbs, lessens the effectiveness of others, and isn't compatible with ALOT of pharmaceutical drugs.  Pregnant women should not use licorice as it can stimulate the menses.  Those with hypertension, kidney disease, or those taking digoxin based drugs should also avoid licorice.

The root is best dug after three years-in the spring-and used either fresh or dried.

As is customary with my posts I am including some links below for your benefit.  Use them as you deem necessary.


Horse Chestnut-Aesculus Hippocastanum, Aesculus Chinesis, Sapindaceae, Hippocastanaceae

Also known as:  conker tree, Ippocastano, Gewohnliche Rosskantanie, Tien-shih-li, etc.

Parts used:  bark, leaves, nuts (conkers)

Meridians/Organs affected:  spleen, lungs, circulatory, blood

Properties:  astringent, anti-inflammatory, alterative, analgesic, vulnerary, hemostatic, diuretic, tonic, febrifuge, narcotic, vaso-constrictive, expectorant, decongestant, antioxidant, anti-rheumatic, stimulant

Horse chestnut is a member of the Hippocastenaceae family.  It is a tall tree with palm-like leaves, a spongy-type wood, and beautiful candelabra-shaped, white-pink flowers that appear in the summer.  The flowers are followed in the fall by the nuts (also called "conkers") which are covered with a spiky outer shell.  The nuts appear in September or October and the tree blooms in May.  It can be found growing in parks, gardens and roadsides throughout the United States (mostly in the southern and south eastern states).

This beautiful tree became quite popular in the 1600's when it was introduced to England.  It was first only given to kings or royalty but soon became the tree of choice for most parks and public places.

The horse chestnut is believed to have originated in Turkey where the Turkish people mixed a flour they made from the conkers (nuts) with oats to give to horses with labored or broken breathing patterns.

The conkers were used for explosives in WWI.  In 1917, British children were sent out to gather the conkers that had fallen from the horse chestnut trees.  They gathered close to 3000 tons of conkers, these were shipped to factories and used to make cordite, which was an ingredient in bullets and explosive shells.  The plan was a nice one but as conkers are not the best source of acetone (the chemical needed to make cordite) in the end the 3000 tons just sat and rotted.

It was believed that if one carried the nuts around in their pockets it would keep them from getting arthritis.  The bark was uses as a quinine treatment for malaria as well as other types of fevers.

Horse chestnut is high in a chemical called aescin which accounts for its ability to help with water retention and venous insufficiency.  One author states that aescin, "...reduces the leakage and is used in the treatment of edema and has proved to be as effective as compression stockings.  It strengthens and tones the blood vessels and is becoming very important in the treatment of varicose veins and chronic venous insufficiency..."  (Horse Chestnut, Christopher Howkins, 2005)

Aescin has also been shown to work very well for hemorrhoids and post-operative edema.  David Hoffmann, clinical herbalist, said that horse chestnut increases the elasticity and tone of the veins while at the same time decreasing vein permeability. (Hoffmann, 2003)

Horse chestnut contains a fair amount of powerful antioxidants as well, including quercetin, vitamin C and rutein.  Rutein is one of those elements that also strengthens the capillaries.  As it is also an astringent due to its high tannin content, horse chestnut is very beneficial for all kinds of inflammatory and/or skin conditions, including hemorrhoids, enlarged prostate, cellulite, lupus, etc.  In fact, the bark off the branches has been applied directly to the skin for lupus in the past (but nothing was said as to how often or how long).  The bark and nuts have both been used much like witch hazel but horse chestnut increases the blood flow as well.  The powdered nut and/or bark has been used directly on leg ulcers, burns, rheumatism and neuralgia.  A fluid extract of the nut also has been used for sunburns, bronchitis, enteritis, lung congestion, etc.  It also is commonly used in cosmetics as it contains allantoin (the same chemical as comfrey and hounds tongue).  Along with its other elements, horse chestnut has a unique ability to strengthen small blood vessel walls by reducing the number and the size of the pores.  This is why it is so effective for skin conditions; because it tightens and tones.  It is used for wrinkles and cellulite among other things cosmetically.  Perhaps one day people will figure out how to use it instead of Botox....

Horse chestnut is used to make two different Bach Flower essences.  One is Chestnut Bud and the other is White Chestnut.  Chestnut Bud essence is for those who have learning issues or who are constantly making the same mistakes.  It is used for carelessness and absent mindedness as well as conditions related to learning disabilities.  The White Chestnut essence is for people who are plagued with unpleasant thoughts or ideas and people who have sleep issues, difficulty concentrating, stress headaches, wired behavior or jumbled thoughts.

The leaves of the horse chestnut tree are known to be narcotic in nature.  Taking an infusion of the leaves is said to ensure a deep sleep.  However, it shouldn't be used on a regular basis as too much can cause stomach irritation.  As horse chestnut is rick in vitamin K, people on blood thinners should take that into consideration when looking for herbal supplements.

The peeled, roasted nuts were used as a coffee substitute and were brewed to help with prostate problems and diarrhea.  The nuts are high in tannins so they must be shelled, crushed, soaked overnight in cold water (called 'leaching'); then they are drained, fresh water is added, and they are boiled for 30 minutes after which the nuts are strained and dried.  Only after this lengthy process are they used medicinally.

The outer casing (green, spiky) is poisonous and narcotic and should be removed from the nuts.  Never ingest the nuts raw as they can be fatal in large amounts.  Toxic symptoms include dilated pupils, skin flushing, gastroenteritis and drowsiness.

The bark should be gathered in the spring and dried for use; the nuts gathered and prepared appropriately in the fall.  The leaves should be gathered before the tree flowers (March, April).

CAUTION:  Pregnant and/or nursing mothers should not use horse chestnut and those on blood thinners should consult a physician.  This plant may also affect blood sugar levels, people who are allergic to latex, and people with kidney, liver or gastrointestinal issues.

As is customary with my posts I am including some links below for your perusal.  Use them wisely.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


Watercress-Nasturtium Officinale, Rorippa Nasturtium Aquaticum, Radicula Nasturtium Aquaticum, Sisymbrium Nasturtium, Rorippa Palustris, Rorippa Islandica

Also known as:  Zarra, Biolar, Vesikrassi, Poor Man's Bread, Cresson De Fontaine, Echte Brunnenkresse, Cresione d'Acqua, Marsh Yellowcress, Commone Watercress, etc.

Parts used:  stems, leaves

Meridians/Organs affected:  kidneys, bladder, stomach, lungs, eyes, skin, blood, bone, DNA, brain, thyroid

Properties:  diuretic, expectorant, laxative, stimulant, stomachic, nutritive, anti-carcinogenic, anti-anemic, antioxidant, antibacterial, depurative, anti-inflammatory, aphrodisiac, ophthalmic, possible lithotriptic, antiviral, antipyretic, tonic

Watercress is a member of the Cruciferae family (Brassica).  It is a close relative of the mustard species and is usually found standing in fresh water. It has oval shaped, hairless leaves with small white to purplish-white flowers that appear in clusters on terminal stalks that arise from the upper leaf axils. The flowers have four petals and are cross-shaped.  Watercress only gets about 6 inches above the water's surface but can get to almost three feet long.  It blooms from April to July depending on the location.  It can be found in or around slow moving streams and creeks throughout North America, Asia and Europe.

Watercress is a native of Europe and Russia.  It has quite a history.  As far back as the 5th century it was prescribed by Greek physicians for brain disorders.  Hippocrates used it as an expectorant and a stimulant for bronchitis and coughing.  The Romans would mix it with vinegar for use on those with mental disorders.  They even had a proverb about watercress-'Eat cress and learn more wit'.  I know plenty of people today who could use a daily dose of watercress.

The juice was used for acne and spots, bronchial complaints, colds, etc.  The plant infusion was used to relieve water retention, help with diabetes, and assist in the prevention of gallstones.  Mixed with carrots in a soup, it was used for canker sores and mouth blisters.  Most often, perhaps, it was eaten raw for nutrition (high in vitamins A, B2, C, D, E, K, B6 and in the minerals iodine, potassium, calcium, copper, iron, sulfur, phosphorus, zinc, manganese, indoles and mustard glycosides), viral infections, blood sugar issues, goiter, tuberculosis, liver and kidney problems, asthma, boils, warts, tumors, scabies, flu, rheumatism, eczema, fevers, nervousness and baldness.

Watercress was also used for quite some time to prevent scurvy and as a contraceptive.  As it is high in sulfur compounds it stimulates the appetite and gastric juices, making it beneficial for those recovering from eating disorders. Pulped with some sea salt it was often used as a poultice for arthritis and gout.

Recent studies have shown that watercress also reduces DNA damage to blood cells which is something KEY when it comes to cancer.  In fact, the University of Ulster in Londonderry did a study on watercress using 60 healthy men and women (30 each and it included smokers in both sexes as well) who were charged with eating a cereal-bowl full of the peppery greens every day for eight weeks.  What they found was amazing!  Professor Rowland, who headed the study, said, "Our findings are highly significant.  Population studies have shown links between higher intakes of cruciferous vegetables like watercress and a reduced risk of a number of cancers.  Blood cell DNA damage is an indicator of whole body cancer risk and the results support the theory that consumption of watercress is linked to an overall reduced risk of cancer at various sites in the body."   The key findings of the study showed a 22.9% decline in DNA damage to the white blood cells, a 10% reductions in triglyceride levels, a 33% increase in beta carotene in the blood and a 100% increase of lutein in blood levels (which means lower incidences of macular degeneration, cataracts, etc), increased fiber in the body as well as higher levels of vitamin E, C and folate (B9).  The most significant increases were seen in smokers who had much less antioxidants in their blood supply at the beginning of the study.  Steve Rothwell, who was involved in the study as well stated, "This is ground-breaking research on two fronts:  it suggests the anticancer properties of watercress go beyond those attributable to PEITC (the mustard oil found within watercress) and, more importantly, the study is the first to demonstrate a direct correlation between eating watercress and reducing one's susceptibility to cancer."  

Watercress extract has also been shown to cause cancerous cells to die (called apoptosis).  This research was published in London but also in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in February of 2007.

Watercress is one of those plants key to man's long term survival.  It is high in nutrients that we might not get otherwise in the diet.  It is a spicy pungent green commonly used in V8 juice.  Some native american tribes would use it to dispel gallstones and they simply ate it raw.  So...try mixing it in with some dandelion and arugula for a salad, or adding some to your omelettes or stir fry dishes, in soups, meat dishes, salad dressings, sauces, smoothies or on sandwiches.  The possibilities are endless and the benefits are limitless.

CAUTION:  Watercress should not be used by pregnant women, people with kidney issues, stomach ulcers or duodenal ulcers as it can aggravate those conditions.  As it is high in vitamin K, those on blood thinners should partake of it only sparingly.  Also, people who take lithium or chloroxazone (muscle relaxant) shouldn't eat watercress as it affects the way the body utilizes those medications.  People with hyperthyroidism should also limit watercress as it is high in iodine.  Fresh watercress grown commercially is what is usually suggested as the wild varieties can contain liver flukes (parasite) depending on the water supply.

As is the custom with my posts I am including some links herein for your perusal.  Use them however you decide is best for you.


Echinacea-Echinacea Augustifolia, Echinacea Purpurea, Echinacea Pallida, Echinacea Paradoca, Echinacea Tennesseerisis, Echinacea Simulata

Also known as:  black root, black Samson, Missouri snakeroot, Purple coneflower

Parts Used:  leaves, flowers, root

Meridians/Organs affected: lungs, liver, stomach, immune, blood, digestive

Properties:  sialogogue, immuno-stimulant, tonic, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, vulnerary, alterative, carminatice, stimulant, antibiotic, analgesic, maturating, depurative, anti-scrofulous, anti-putrefactive, diaphoretic

Echinacea is a member of the Compositae (Sunflower) family.  There are nine species of echinacea native to North America.  It is a tap-rooted perennial that can get over three feet tall and is loved by gardeners for its beautiful pale pink to dark purple flowers.  Most species of echinacea have hairs on the leaves and stems.  The leaves are alternate and sometimes have toothed margins; they are longest near the bottom of the plant and progressively get smaller as they rise up the stem.  The plant blooms from June to August depending on the climate in which it is grown.  It can be found on open plains or in wooded areas throughout the usa and Canada.  The leaves of the echinacea are best gathered before the plant flowers while the root is best harvested in early spring or in late fall after the green has died off.

Echinacea is one of those plants well-used by the Native tribes and it is to them we owe our knowledge of this plant.  Several of the Indian tribes used it to treat snake bites and for most types of infections.  The chewing of the root (tincturing was unheard of back then so the root was chewed to 'tincture') can cause burning/tingling in the mouth which is why it was often employed as a pain killer for sore throat.  It was also used for inflamed gums, tonsillitis, lung and digestive issues and sinus congestion.  Echinacea was used externally for hives, wounds, stings, bites, ulcers, pain and to reduce putrefaction.  It was commonly used by the Plains Indians for earaches, pneumonia, to stop bleeding and to disinfect wounds.  Many runners (tribal members chosen to carry messages from one place to another) would use it to stimulate the production of saliva when they had to run long distances between water holes rather than carrying water with them.  They would take a petal off an echinacea plant and chew it and be on their way once more.  

Alma Hogan Snell ("A Taste of Heritage, Crow Indian Recipes and Herbal Medicines") told a story of a man diagnosed with gum cancer as he had lesions all over his gums.  She gave the man the leftover pulp she had from making tincture and told him to chew it instead of his tobacco.  After three weeks of chewing the pulp his lesions totally disappeared.  The Indians also used it in their bravery rituals as they believed it increased their tolerance to pain and gave them more stamina and courage.

Echinacea was in the National Formulary from 1916-1950 and is still in the Homeopathic Pharmacopeia.  Most herbalists today use it for blood cleansing as it is very effective for blood poisoning and blood disorders.  It also has been found beneficial for gangrene, insect bites, abscesses, typhoid, syphilis, boils, tumors, mononucleosis, myalgic encephalomyelitis, allergies, colds, flu, colic, etc.

Studies have shown that echinacea blocks the formation of hyaluronidase, the enzyme that destroys the natural barrier between healthy tissue and toxic organisms in the body.  It was printed in 'The Journal of Medical Chemistry' the echinacea extract was found to inhibit tumor growth in rats (1972) and in 'Planta Medica' it was stated that echinacea was effective against both the flu and herpes viruses (1978).  It also has been found to be effective as part of the treatment for eczema, psoriasis and candida.  Echinacea strengthens the immune system, stimulates T-Cell production, etc.  Michael Tierra (The Way of Herbs) said he has seen echinacea work even on the most severe inflammatory conditions including septicemia, pus like sores, and acute viral and bacterial infections.  Studies in Germany have found it useful for certain cancers, AIDS and acute arthritic conditions.  Dr. Christopher declared it useful for goiter and lymphatic tumors.  He also spoke of the Sioux Indians using the freshly scraped root for snake bites and rabies-very successfully apparently.

Echinace is one of the best herbs for inflammatory conditions, hands down.  It is a powerful immuno stimulant as well and should be kept on hand for emergencies.  Echinacea is not known to be toxic but it is best to take it in small amounts and let the body rest from it for a while so that the echinacea will keep working for you when you need it to (so do one week on and one week off kind of thing).  

As is customary with my posts I am including some links herein for your perusal.  Use them as you deem necessary!

Saturday, May 10, 2014


BUNCHBERRY-Cornus Canadensis

Also known as:  crackerberry, scarlet stoneberry, dwarf dogwood, pigeonberry, dwarf cornel, puddingberry, squirrelberry, grouse berry

Parts used:  berries, leaves, bark, root

Meridians/Organs affected:  kidneys, skin, digestive, nervous system, lungs

Properties:  antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, aperient (in large amounts), tonic, stimulant, nervine, anticarcinogenic, anodyne, febrifuge, analgesic, anti-venomous, cathartic, antispasmodic, hypotensive

Bunchberry is a member of the Dogwood family.  It is an evergreen perennial that gets up to six inches high with six oval-pointed leaves which overlap in opposite pairs.  It has white flowers that have four petals shaped much like an eye.  The leaves have very distinctive parallel veins that contain a sticky latex like substance (seen when the leaves are torn).  They bloom from April to June and can be found in moist, heavily-timbered areas all over the United States and Canada.  The flowers are replaced by red, bunched berries that are edible but bland.

This plant has been used a great deal by the Native American Indians and it is really due to them that we have as much of the information on western herbs that we do.  The Montagnais would make an infusion of the berries and use it for paralysis; the Malecites would use the whole plant to treat 'fits'; a tea was made from the root for colicky babies and many tribes used it internally or as a poultice to reduce the potentcy of poisons.  In fact, one person related an experience of eating a mushroom that wasn't an edible variety and becoming very ill.  That person ate a bunch of bunchberries and soon recovered.  The berries have also been chewed and used externally as a poultice for burns; the berries also have been combined with other high tannin plants in a tea and used as a wash for stings and rashes caused by poison ivy; leaf tea is used for fevers, coughs and aches and pains.  The leaves were also burned and powdered and applied to sores topically.  Teas have been made from the entire plant and used for kidney and lung issues while the berries are considered to be anti-inflammatory and very useful for stomach and intestinal issues.  When bunchberry was combined with wintergreen it was used for menstrual issues and bed-wetting.  Fresh leaves were also used topically for bleeding.

Both the leaves and stems of the bunchberry are considered cathartic, analgesic and febrifuge.  The berries are a good source of pectin which is a known tonic for the capillaries, as well as helping with water retention, spasms, inflammation, blood pressure issues and is anti-radioactive.  Pectin also inhibits the production and/or spread of cancer.  Bunchberry is, in fact, being studied for its potential use for cancer.  As it is high in pectin the berries have been used to thicken fruit stews or berry sauces as well as being mixed with a host of other berries in pies, jams and jellies.

As is customary with my posts I am including some links herein for your use. Please use them as you see fit.


BLUE CAMAS-Camassia Quamash, Camassia Leichtinii, Camassia Cusikii, Camassia Homellii, Camassia Scilloides, Camassia Angusta, Camassia Esculenta

Also known as:  camas root, giant blue camas, Cusick's camas, Howell's camas, wild hyacinth, prairie hyacinth

Parts used:  root/bulb

Meridians/Organs affected:  digestive

Properties:  nutritive, fibrous

Blue camas is a member of the Liliaceae family (although more recent studies have shown its components to be more like those in the Agave family so...take your pick). It is a slender perenneial plant that can get up to two feet tall.  It has thick, grass-like leaves and blue to lavender colored flowers that bloom from April to June.  The flowers are star shaped and have yellow sepals and the root is egg-shaped with a brown coat.  It can be found in moist meadows from British Columbia to California, Wyoming, Utah, Montana, Oregon and Idaho.

Blue camas has a long history with several Native American tribes.  The Nez Perce Indians perhaps used it most often in trade with other tribes such as the Cayuse, Crows, Umatilla, Warm Springs, Flatheads, and Walla Wallas.  In fact, there were often tribal disputes over who has the right to harvest bulbs in certain areas.  Some tribes would travel hundreds of miles to harvest camas bulbs so it was a big source of their diet and their way of life.  Aside from dried salmon, it was the most widely traded item among tribes.  It was also the job of the women to harvest and prepare them properly.  Any female wanting to be married could show her worth by digging camas bulbs.  The women would use a  sharp digging stick to harvest the bulbs and often could harvest as much as a bushel per day per woman under good conditions.  The bulbs were taken and baked in stone lined pits and roasted for up to four days.  (A large fire was built in the pit to heat the stones, then the fire was removed and up to 100 pounds of camas bulbs were put inside the fire pit and covered.  Then another fire was built on top and kept going for the entire roasting period which was usually about four days).

Bulbs were usually gathered after the flowering stage had passed.  During the flowering stage however, the INdians would weed around the blue camas plants to assure the death camas was not harvested instead when harvesting time came around.  (Death camas has white flowers when in bloom).  Apparently, many people, cattle and even bees dies by feasting on the wrong camas as the only way to distinguish one from another was at the time of flowering.  The two share the same growing spots.

Camas contains a large amount of inulin, which is an indigestible fiber that can cause immense intestinal gas, nausea and even vomiting if eaten raw-whereas roasting it converts the inulin to fructose (which is why they taste sweet when roasted) and was a sweetening agent for the Native Americans.  The bulbs were roasted and dried and then re-constituted for use.  Sometimes they were pressed flat and made into cakes before drying.  The concentrated liquid from boiling the bulbs was also made into a sweet hot drink or mixed with flour to make gravy.  Alma Hogan Snell (author of "A Taste of Heritage, Crow Indian Recipes and Herbal Medicines") said, "Pretty Shield would trade something with the Piegan Indians when they cam through with their roots.  They had already baked the camas in the ground for four days, and they were delicious.  The outside was black and a bit leathery-not really tough but rather chewy, kind of like a prune-and the whole thing had a wonderful licorice-like flavor."  Some have said it also tastes similar to molasses.  Meriweather Lewis spoke of how he and his men became ill from eating too much of it, and how the 'wind' inside an Indian tepee was almost overwhelming from the natives ingesting it raw.

Medicinally, camas was boiled down (decoction) into a syrup to induce labor and an infusion of the leaves was used to help expel the placenta and assist with vaginal bleeding after the birthing process.  The Nez Perce (some of which still gather and use the plant) boiled the bulbs, drained the juice and mixed it with honey for coughing.

There is no doubt that camas is an important plant and, to be honest, should only be used in survival times and only then should it be harvested by those who know the plant well to avoid being killed by eating the wrong kind.  Pregnant women should not use camas as it can stimulate the uterus.

I am not including any links with this post as to mistake one for the other kind of camas could be fatal.   I will merely leave you to surf the web on your own in search of books and/or more information to teach you how to use this plant in its entirety.  Be safe and live happy!


TRILLIUM-Trillium Erectum, Trillium Pendulum, Trilliam Grandiflorum, Trillium Sessile, Trillium Catesbaei, Trillium Nivale, etc.

Also known as:  beth root, birthroot, wake-robin, indian balm, ground lily, white trillium, toadshade, etc.

Parts Used:  root, leaves

Meridians/Organs affected:  spleen, heart, lungs, female reproductive

Properties:  astringent, expectorant, alterative, antiseptic, antispasmodic, emmenogogue, parturient, diuretic, ophthalmic, anodyne, emetic, stimulant, tonic

Trillium is a part of the Liliaceae family.  It has leaves and flower petals that come in threes.  It is commonly found in rich, rocky, damp soils and shady woods.  Flowering from April to June depending on its location, this plant has a very lengthy lifespan.  It takes 17 years to come to full maturity and can live to well over 70 years.  In many parts of the usa it is considered an endangered species due to irresponsible wild crafting.  It takes up to seven years for one plant to regrow after it has been plucked from the earth so it should be respected and used wisely.

The trillium flower contains three white petals that eventually turn pink/purple at full maturity.  The flower produces a pale green berry.  Trillium is native to the usa and is dispersed throughout the usa mostly by ants and white-tailed deer.  It is said that wherever trillium grows is a perfect place for ginseng as well.

Trillium is a plant with mixed history.  The Native Americans considered it to be a sacred plant and used it for female issues, hemorrhaging following childbirth, and heavy menses.  It also was often used to facilitate childbirth.  The root of the plant is what is used most for medicinal purposes although the leaves are used at times as well.  A decoction of the root bark has been used for earaches and an infusion of the root has been used to promote menstruation and help with cramping.  The raw root also was grated and applied to aching joints or to the eyes to reduce swelling.  The roots were often boiled in milk and drunk for dysentery and diarrhea.  Trillium is considered a tonic for menopausal women and for the female system, in general.  The root was used in early America as a cough syrup and to keep gangrene from forming or spreading.  It also was used as a poultice for skin diseases.  The leaves were boiled in lard and applied topically to tumors, anthrax and ulcers.  The young leaves also were considered edible and were used in place of spinach or in salads.

Trillium contains a saponin called diosgenin that has a close relationship to human sex hormones, cardiac glycosides, vitamin D, and cortisone (probably one of the reasons it works so well for inflammatory conditions).  An infusion of equal parts of lycopus virginicus(also known as American Water Hoarhound or sweet bugleweed) and trillium was said to cure diabetes although no clinical studies have been done to substantiate these claims.  Trillium is used also to help with chronic mucus discharges, leucorrhea, bronchial issues and nosebleeds.  Trillium us most commonly used, though, as a tincture, tea or syrup.  Pregnant women are advised against taking trillium as it can promote menstruation.

As is customary with my posts I am including some links here for your perusal and use.  Enjoy!


PERIWINKLE-Vinca Minor, Vinca Major, Vinca Rosea

Also known as:  myrtle, lesser periwinkle, greater periwinkle, madagascar periwinkle

Parts used:  leaves, seeds

Meridians/Organs affected:  brain, nervous, digestive, blood, circulatory

Properties:  antibacterial, anti-carcinogenic, antispasmodic, cephalic, depurative, sedative, carminative, styptic, diuretic, emetic, tonic, astringent, aperient, nervine

Periwinkle is a member of the Dogbane family.  It is a perennial with dark green oval, broad-shaped leaves that are opposite on the stems.  The lavender flowers bloom from March to August and have five petals.  It can be found throughout Europe and North America, mainly in the coastal areas.

There are a few different varieties of periwinkle.  There are the greater and lesser periwinkles and the Madagascar periwinkle amongst others.  Some say the Vinca varieties aren't related to the Madagascar one but other say it is so there is a bit of debate over the subject.  

Greater periwinkle (Vinca major) is most used in herbal medicine to help with menstrual issues, hemorrhaging, as a laxative and as a gargle for sore throats and oral infections.  It has also been used as an ointment for hemorrhoids and other inflammatory conditions.

Lesser periwinkle (Vinca minor) has been used for the same kinds of things but more in homeopathics or as a tincture for hemorrhages.

Madagascar periwinkle (Vinca rosea) is one of three species of this plant native to the East Indies and Madagascar.  It is the variety most often used for diabetes.

Vinca is a genus of plant that contains a large number of what are considered poisonous plants and trees, one of which is oleander, a beautiful plant most commonly grown for show.  The old English name, "Parwynke" was spoken of quite often by many old herbalists and poets including Chaucer and Wordsworth.  The French called it 'Sorcerer's Violet' and believed it was able to exorcise evil spirits, enhance love and loyalty in marriage relations, and spark desire.

Apuleis, in his writings, (Herbarium, 1480) said periwinkle was good for spirit/demon possessions, would protect people from poisonous beasts and poisoned food or water and anything unclean, including feelings of envy or jealousy.

Galen and Dioscorides both said periwinkle was effective for the flu.  Culpeper siad that it helped with bleeding gums and hysteria, nervous disorders, cramps and nightmares.  Greater periwinkle tea commonly has been used to clear mucus obstructions in the lungs and intestines, for congestion and diarrhea, scurvy, tonsillitis, and as a gentle purgative.  In 1923, the Madagascar variety gained a lot of interest as a possible aid to diabetes even though the other varieties had long been used for that.

More recently, periwinkle has been found to contain a compound called vincamine which is used to enhance memory.  It has been used for brain health as it can increase blood circulation to the brain, increase mental productivity, prevent aging of brain cells and support brain metabolism.  It has been found useful for chest pain, vaginal discharge, toothaches, water retention, blood purification, intestinal pain, and high blood pressure amongst others.  Recent studies have found that it may inhibit the growth of cancerous tumors as well.

Modern medicine would say periwinkle is unsafe and that is can cause vomiting, nausea, kidney, nerve and liver damage and in large amounts can cause very low blood pressure. Herbalists would disagree as more often than not these side effects come from allopathic medicine using the isolated components of the plant instead of the whole herb.  That being said, if someone is on high blood pressure medication it is suggested they not use periwinkle as it may cause their blood pressure to drop excessively.  Also, if one suffers with constipation periwinkle can aggravate the condition so it isn't recommended in such cases.  Pregnant women should not use periwinkle as this herb can stimulate menstruation.

As is customary with my posts I am including some links herein regarding periwinkle.  Please use them as you feel best.


BAY LEAF-Laurus Nobilis

Also known as:  bay laurel, sweet bay, noble laurel, indian bay, roman laurel

Parts used:  leaves, berries, bark

Meridians/Organs affected:  heart, spleen, digestive, kidneys, bladder, pancreas, reproductive, urinary, immune

Properties:  stimulant, emmenogogue, carminative, emetic, diaphoretic, aromatic, stomachic, astringent

Bay is a member of the Lauraceae family.  It is a frost-hardy, evergreen type tree that can get up to 50 feet tall.  It has leathery, oval-shaped leaves and cream colored flowers that appear in the spring in clusters followed by dark purple berries.  Commonly found in the Canary Islands, the Far East, Italy, France and parts of England and the Americas.  It does better in a sub tropical climate.

This plant has quite a lengthy history.  It was one of the most celebrated plants by early poets and athletes.  The leaves were used in crowns and dedicated to gods of music and poetry.  (This was back when poets were highly thought of and people aspired to be one).  Laurel crowns were placed on the heads of Olympians, and doctors were honored with a laurel crown upon graduation.  Court poets were even given the title of 'laureate'.  This gave rise to the term 'baccalaureate' which comes from 'bacca-laureus' meaning 'laurel berry' and has become an academic standard.

In Greece, the leaves were chewed by priestesses before reading oracles.  It was also believed that if you kept a bay leaf in your mouth you would be protected from misfortune and if you wore it on your head it would keep you from being struck by lightning.  (Don't ask me how people come up with this stuff...)  The older herbalists viewed bay as a virtuous tree.  Parkinson stated that it is "..both for honest civil uses and for physic, yea both for the sick and the sound, the living and the dead."  Culpeper wrote that, "The berries are very effectual against all poisons of venomous creatures, and the sting of wasps and bees, as also against the pestilence or other infectious diseases..."  He also recommended it for "..diseases of the bladder, pains in the bowels by wind and stopping of urine."  Culpeper was a very superstitious man who believed that bay was a "...tree of the sun and under the celestial sign Leo, and resisteth witchcraft very potently..."  Even Shakespeare wrote of it in Richard II saying that, "Tis thought the King is dead, we will not stay, the bay trees in our country are all wither'd." which was considered to be a bad omen.  The Greeks dedicated the bay tree to Apollo and believed it to be an emblem of the sun god.  It was believed to protect one from evil.

The leaves of the bay tree are diaphoretic and emetic in large amounts.  Bay oil distilled from the leaves and berries was used for bruises and sprains and in the ears for earaches.  Bay tea was used to relieve indigestion, gas and to improve one's appetite.  Jethro Kloss said that the bark is great for kidney and bladder stones as well as the spleen, pancreas and liver.  He said that an infusion of the berries was good during serious epidemics such as measles, smallpox, diphtheria, typhoid, etc.  The berries have been used for menstrual issues and the child-birthing process.  A tea from the berries was believed to be good for the flu, colds, fevers, chronic coughs, asthma, worms, to clear out the brain, the eyes and the lungs.  The oil has been used for eczema and itching, arthritic and rheumatic joints as well as bruising.  It is also said to be good for sunburns.  The berries have been used to remove obstructions in the system, and as an abortifacient so should NOT be used by pregnant women.

As is customary with my posts I am including some links below for your benefit.  Use them as you deem necessary.


FENNEL-Foeniculum Vulagare

Parts used:  leaves, stalks, seeds

Meridians/Organs affected:  digestive, urinary, respiratory, spleen, liver, stomach, kidney, female reproductive

Properties:  aromatic, antispasmodic, carminative, diuretic, expectorant, stimulant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, galactogogue, emmenogogue, stomachic, tonic, diaphoretic

Fennel is a member of the Umbelliferae family along with carrot, dill and Queen Anne's lace.  It has gray-green feathery fronds that protrude from celery-like stalks and produce lovely yellow flowers on flat topped umbels.  The flowers turn to grayish-brown seeds that taste similar to licorice but with a milder flavor.  Fennel can get up to four feet in height and is a native of the Mediterranean, particularly Italy, but can now be found all over the globe.  It is a beautifully aromatic plant that needs a long growing season and is best planted alone away from other garden plants in a sunny spot.

Fennel is one of those plants that date back to ancient times.  The Chinese, Egyptians, and East Indians all used it medicinally as well as a food.  Hippocrates and Dioscorides both recommended it to nursing mothers to increase milk flow (something it is still used for today) and Pliny used it for eye conditions.  The Romans used it for digestive complaints and would often eat it in cakes or breads after meals to assist with indigestion and to freshen breath.  The Greeks used fennel as a slimming herb as it helps to control appetite and acts as a mild diuretic.  It was an ingredient in 'gripewater' along with dill to ease colic in infants.  The Chinese used fennel to pull the poison from snake and insect bites.  Culpeper said it 'expels wind, provokes urine, and eases the pains of the stone and helps it to break."  During medieval times it was hung over doors to repel devils and witches and the seeds were put in locks to keep ghosts out (wonder if they were thinking about using a key after stuffing the lock full of fennel...).  

Fennel is known to freshen breath and help expel gas from the system and improve digestion.  It is commonly used in Asian cultures for gastrointestinal spasms, acid stomach, heartburn, abdominal pain and colon disorders.  Fennel is also used as an expectorant for asthma and bronchitis.  It has been proven effective for gout, pain, convulsions (except for epilepsy), and to help cancer patients after they have been through treatment.  It has been useful for menstrual issues involving irregular menses and to help with jaundice conditions when the liver is obstructed.

The first mention of fennel essential oil was in 1500 in a book called, 'On the Art of Distillation' by Jerome Brunschweig.  Fennel oil is distilled from the seeds and smells very similar to anise.  Fennel oil helps to detoxify the body, aid in cellulite reduction and suppress the appetite.  It has been used successfully for gout, arthritis, rheumatism, urinary tract infections, kidney stones, hiccups, nausea, vomiting, to strengthen muscle tone, fight gum infections and help rehabilitate alcoholics and drug abusers; it acts to counter alcohol poisoning and has a tonifying effect on the spleen, liver and kidneys.  It helps with puffiness, inflammation and conjunctivitis.  Perhaps the best known use for fennel is that of a culinary nature.  It is the herb most commonly paired with fish and is often used in soups and salads.  The seeds are used in salamis, breads, curries and in Chinese Five Spice.  The stalks can be cooked like celery or eaten raw (my favorite way to eat them).  Fennel is also used to flavor the liquor Sambuca.

Fennel should not be used by pregnant women as it can stimulate menstruation.

As is customary with my posts I am including some links below for your perusal.  Use them as you feel you need to.