Monday, January 26, 2015


CINQUEFOIL:  Potentilla Reptans, Potentilla Canadensis, Potentilla Anserina, Potentilla Erecta, Potentilla Fruiticosa, etc.

Also known as:  Five Fingers, Silverweed, Septfoil, Tormentil, Potentilla, Shepherd's Knot, Flesh and Blood, Red Root, Bloodroot, Biscuits, Ewe Daily, Earth Bank, Thormantle, English Sarsaparilla, etc.

Parts used:  root, flowers, leaves

Meridians/Organs affected:  digestive, oral, blood, nervous, immune

Properties:  analgesic, febrifuge, astringent, antiseptic, styptic (root), digestive, anti-hemorrhagic, tonic, anti-putrefactive, nervine, discutient, anti-inflammatory

Cinquefoil is a member of the Rose family.  It is a creeping plant for the most part although there are erect forms of the species.  There are over 300 species of cinquefoil so it depends on the variety.  Even as a creeping plant (also called false strawberry as it sends out runners to re-propagate itself) it can get up to five feet in length.  It has serrated leaves borne on long stalks.  The leaves often come in fives although there can be 6 or even 7 leaves on some varieties.  It has bright yellow flowers that present much like the wild rose having 5 petals.  It flowers from May to August or September but the plant is best picked in June for medicinal use.  It should be dried in the shade as well.  The root is best dug in April if using it medicinally.  It can be found in moist, sandy soils, gardens, meadows, roadsides, etc.  The root is considered an edible to many native american tribes.

The name cinquefoil is French and means 'five-leaf.'  The five leaves are said to be symbolic of the five human senses.  The leaves were often used by knights of old as a symbol on their shields.  It was believed that a knight with such an emblem had mastered himself.  Cinquefoil was also said to protect one from witches even though it seems witches used it in a variety of their own recipes, one of which was called 'Witches Ointment' and consisted of cinquefoil , wolfsbane (arnica), smallage, the fat of recently dead children and finely ground wheat flour.  Sounds like a real winner to me....yummo!  Cinquefoil was popular in love potions and with fishermen who had their own concoction they used in their nets to increase their yields.  Despite the many amusing ties it has to the past, cinquefoil is in fact a very medicinal plant.  First recommended by the Greek physician Theophrastus as well as Dioscorides and Hippocrates it was used widely to help with fevers.  (Modern science has found no proof from studies to substantiate its use for fevers...).  Dioscorides said that one leaf would cure a fever, and 3-4 leaves would cure the fevers associated with malaria.  Culpeper had ALOT to say about cinquefoil.  He said it was good for all fevers or inflammations, that it would help to cool the blood and that it would help with ulcers, fistulas, sore mouth, cancers and any running sore or foul infection.  He wrote that the decoction mixed with honey helped coughs and hoarseness.  He stated that if you drank 4 ounces of the juice at a time for a few days that it would cure jaundice.  One of the most interesting things he said about this herb was, "The root boiled in vinegar, being applied, heals inflammations, painful sores and the shingles.  The same also boiled in wine and applied to any joint full of pain, ache or the gout in the hands, feet or the hip-joint, called the sciatica, and the decoction thereof drank the while, doth cure them and easeth much pain in the bowels."  

Other herbalists have made a tea from the leaves and milk to treat dysentery and diarrhea.  The leaves have been used in tea as a mouthwash for toothaches and sore gums.  It is considered to be a tonic to the large intestine and has been used as a douche for leucorrhea.  It has been used in salves and ointments for wounds, hemorrhoids and other skin complaints.  Dr. Christopher said it is a very powerful astringent (no doubt due to its high tannin content).  He also said it was useful for opening obstructions in the spleen and lungs.  The juice of the root mixed with wheat bread was said to be an excellent styptic (why you need wheat bread for that one only knows as I am sure a gauze bandage soaked in the juice would suffice).  Cinquefoil is also supposed to be good to help those dealing with cocaine or nicotine addictions and acts as a powerful detoxifying agent.

What is surprising to many is the edible use of the plant.  An extract of the root is actually used in certain kinds of schnapps.  The Ditidaht Indians of British Columbia gather the roots and steam them in cedar boxes and serve them with duck fat even today.  Potentilla anserina which is the silverweed or silver leaf version of cinquefoil is a favorite of many native tribes.  The root has been likened to sweet potatoes or parsnips.  They are usually dug up and cleaned well, then roasted, fried or boiled or added to soups or stews.  Autumn is the best time to dig the roots for food use although they have been known to dig for them year round in some places.  For survivalists this could prove to be an important foraging herb. 

Do not give this to pregnant women as it can stimulate the uterus.
As is customary with my posts I am including some links below for your perusal.  Use them well and stay healthy! :)

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