NATIVE HERBS AND TRADITIONAL USES
Teas made from green herbs
were given to people sick with fever. The liquid helped reduce the fever,
honey gave the patient some energy, and the flavor soothed a queasy stomach.
Morehound, catnip, sage, thyme, spearmint, and peppermint were used in making
Many early herbs used for medicine,
we now use for flavoring foods. Those include chives, sage, mint, dill, thyme,
and rue. Of course many of the values and uses of the herbs were exaggerated
and some just didn't work. How could the plant "forgetme-not" strengthen anyone's
All plants were important to
the settler's way of life. We take so many things for granted, but plants
are important to us. Learn to recognize them. Many of these grow profusely
along our roads and in our fields, yes, in our gardens.
- Wintergreen-white flowers, red berries
grows 2-6 inches tall. Oil of wintergreen used in medicines to soothe stomachs.
to ease an upset stomach or a sore throat. Mint plants have a square stem.
- Joe-Pye Weed-used by settlers to cure
to soothe the eyes found in violets, young leaves and flowers used in salads;
seventy-seven kinds are found in North America.
- Mayapple-lemon-like fruit used as
a substitute for lemon flavoring. Boiled roots used as a cathartic.
- Sour Grass-sour-tasting
leaves eaten as a salad; a remedy for a stomach ache-however, too much can
give one a stomach ache!
- Feverfew-wild quinine, used to ease
a fever, commonly found in fields and gardens. Yellow and white flowers, look
like small daisies.
- Poison-Ivy-"leaflets three, let it
be, berries, red, never dread." Leaves always in threes, large or small, but
berries never red, a greenish-white in color.
- Sassafras-was second only to gold
in value to early merchants; boiled roots made a good tonic; used as one of
the flavors in root beer.
- Nettles-leaves were cooked and used
in stews, and soups; stem fibers were used to make a linen-like cloth; plant
has stinging hairs that can give you a very painful rash.
- Shadblow - an early blooming tree;
its berries can be eaten fresh, used for pies and jams.
- Elderberry-a tall bush that has flat
white clusters of blooms, berries come later; used for pies, jams and wine.
Face lotion was made from the berries. Children used stems for flutes and
persistent pest to us, but the official remedy for illnesses that came on
in winter; a much needed source of vitamins because it grew so long; used
as a tonic, and a vegetable in salads.
- Goldenrod-considered rare and useful;
medicine made from it thought to make you solid, or well again.
- Tansy-tansy tea, bitter tea used to
fight fevers, stomach aches, and colds; old recipe books feature tansy cakes
- Mullein-leaves used to make cough
medicine. Grows as a tall spire, has large soft velvety leaves; flower stalk
was dipped in fats or oils and burned as a torch.
- Chicory-used in salads and soups;
ground roots were a substitute for coffee, also used in making love potions
to keep a lover faithful.
- Wild Onion-strong flavored and mild
flavored kinds, used as food flavoring and as a vegetable.
- Sunflower-seeds used for food or used
as food for birds.
- Bouncing Bet-a lovely pink flower,
has a sap that when rubbed in water makes a foam that was used to wash clothes
with in early days. Bouncing Bet, the detergent!
- Teasel-plant has spiny seed head,
used to brush up nap on woolen material to make it soft.
trees; the bark has been used as a medicine to cure headaches and to prevent
malaria. The twig contains a substance called salicylic acid, so now we call
- Cattails-a food plant that grows in
swamps, young shoots were eaten as we eat asparagus; ground-up roots were
made into flour; fluffy down from mature seed head was used to stuff sleeping
bags and pillows.
Remedies-turpentine and lard made hot
and rubbed on the chest for serious colds and coughs.
- Turpentine was used to stop bleeding.
- Skunk's grease
(really from a skunk!), was a remedy for whooping cough.