Sunday, February 22, 2015
STILLINGIA: Stillingia Sylvatica, Stillingia Treculeana, Stillingia Sebifera
Also known as: Queen's root, Queen's delight, Yawroot, Silverleaf, Nettle Potato, Cockup-Hat, Indian Flearoot, Marcory, etc.
Parts Used: young root
Meridians/Organs affected: respiratory, skin, lymph, blood, mucus membranes, kidneys, bowels, glandular
Properties: anti-syphilitic, depurant, expectorant, sialagogue, anti-scrofulous, alterative, laxative, diuretic, tonic, emetic (in large doses), cathartic (in large doses), stimulant, anti-carcinogenic
Stillingia is a member of the Eurphorbiaceae (Spurge) family along with croton, poinsetta, cassava and the plants that produce tung and castor oils. Being a member of this particular family means that they produce both male and female blossoms on the same plant. They also contain a milky sap. Stillingia has a leather-like, lance shaped leaf that is fine toothed and gets up to 3-4 inches long. The flowers are a yellowish-green and bloom year round in tropical climates. The plant can get up to 4 feet tall and is native to the Pine Barrens of the southern states of north america. It prefers moist, sandy, well drained soil and warm temperatures.
The is MUCH controversy over this plant. Modern medicine would have you believe this plant is highly toxic and worthless, unproven by science against anything. Herbalists would tell you that it is an amazing medicinal plant but when it is overused can cause one harm and the ancient physicians would say use it for everything. Well perhaps not everything but you get the point. I find it so interesting how much opinions can change over the years. So...what is the real skinny on this controversial plant?
The Eclectic physicians (these would be referred to as 'integrative practitioners' now) were a group of people who used both the natural and modern methods of their time to help their patients. In many of their writings stillingia was something highly regarded and used regularly in small amounts as they found in high amounts it could make a person violently ill. Still they used this herb to treat severe chronic diseases to help the body build up resistance and prolong life in cases of tuberculosis and syphilis. In the late 1800's Scudder said stillingia was specific for laryngeal issues (laryngitis, loss of voice), bronchitis, croup, sore throat and lymphatic issues. He goes on to say that, "stillingia, either alone or in combination with other alteratives, has been employed successfully by hundreds of physicians in the treatment of scrofulous disease in all its forms....In secondary and tertiary syphilis it is considered by many of our best practitioners to be one of the most efficient agents in materia medica for the eradication of the disease."
Modern science would say that it doesn't work for syphilis at all. In some cases they have even said it has been disproven to work for that particular malady. Most of the old eclectics said that it would only work when the fresh root was used and modern day herbalists only use the dried which the eclectics considered useless. (See what I mean about controversy?) Scudder goes on to say that the oil of stillingia mixed with the oil of cajeput and the oil of lobelia was the, "most efficient remedy for the cure of long standing and obstinate coughs." In 1898 the eclectics Lloyd and Felter stated that in small doses stillingia is an alterative, "exerting an influence over the secretory and lymphatic functions, which is unsurpassed by few, if any other known alteratives." That is a pretty hefty statement about an herb that modern science says doesn't work. These two eclectic physicians also found it to be more effective as a fresh herb tincture or fluid extract rather than a decoction or a syrup so that is something to keep in mind. In 1905, Neiderkorn found it effective for chronic skin diseases and it was actually included in the first edition of Kings American Dispensatory until 1852. It is also an effective blood purifier and was part of the famous Hoxsey cancer formula for which the AMA drove him out of the country. (Very interesting story...if you wish to know more I recommend the book entitled, 'When Healing Becomes a Crime'). It has been used as a laxative for constipation, an expectorant to get rid of phlegm in the lungs and to create saliva. It has been used to rid the body of toxic chemotherapy chemicals as well. It was used by early physicians for eczema, psoriasis, acne, congested lymph, mastitis and swollen lymph nodes. Stillinga contains diterpene esters which are thought to be highly toxic by the medical community and can cause swelling and inflammation. However, recent studies on diterpene esters in vitro have found them to have anti-tumor abilities. And an extract of the root was shown to reduce tumor growth in mice with RC mammary carcinoma transplants. American indians used it as a flea repellant and the women of the Creek tribe would consume the boiled, mashed roots to prevent infections after giving birth.
If harvesting the plant for use wear gloves as the sap can cause blistering on the skin. The roots should be collected in the fall before they are 6 months old (use young plants only) and used fresh or sliced and dried for later use say modern herbalists. DO NOT STORE for more than 2 years as the efficacy of this plant greatly diminishes at that point. Do not give to pregnant or nursing women. Excessive amounts can cause diarrhea, vomiting, muscle weakness, gastroenteritis and tachycardia. USE WITH CARE.
As is customary with my posts I am including some links herein for your perusal. Use them with caution and only if you know HOW TO USE THE PLANT yourself or are with a qualified practitioner or herbalist who knows the herb well. Stay strong and healthy!