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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 healing teas.

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 memory?

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.
  • Mint-Used to ease an upset stomach or a sore throat. Mint plants have a square stem.
  • Joe-Pye Weed-used by settlers to cure fevers.
  • Violets-medicine 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 peashooters.
  • Dandelion-a 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 and puddings.
  • 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.
  • Willow-water-loving 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 it aspirin!
  • 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.