Friday, May 26, 2017

Ramble Report May 25 2017

Today's Ramble was led by Melissa Ray.
Here's the link to Don's Facebook album for today's Ramble. (All the photos in this post are compliments of Don.)
Today's post was written by Don Hunter.
Twenty five Ramblers met today.
Beginning next week Rambles meet at 8:30 AM (to avoid the summer heat). Rambles should end at approximately 10 AM.

Today's reading: Bob Ambrose, our poet laureate, read an original composition inspired by the evolution of plant life on earth. You can read it in the Rambler email with the link to this blog post.

Today's route: From the Arbor we followed the curving cement sidewalk through the Shade Garden to the Dunson Garden; then through the Dunson Garden to the Yucca planting; return via the Access Rd. and the cement sidewalk.

Our focus today was on native medicinal plants.

Our guest leader, Melissa Ray, provided us with a list of resources for herbs and books that she recommends.
Resources for Herbs
Traditional Medicinals Tea: found in many grocery stores (use 2+ tea bags/cup for medicinal effect)
Mountain Rose Herbs: dried herbs, glassware and other preparation supplies
Monteray Bay Spice Company: dried herbs, glassware, other supplies
Frontier Coop: dried herbs (only sold in 1lb quantities)
Earthfare: Frontier Coop herbs sold from bulk jars in health dept. near checkout (scoop, bag, and weigh your own!)    
Book Recommendations
Medicinal Plants of the Southern Appalachians – Patricia Kyritsi Howell
Peterson Field Guide to Medicinal Plant and Herbs: of Eastern and Central North America. –  Stephen Foster & James A. Duke
The Complete Illustrated Guide to Holistic Herbal – David Hoffmann 
Rosemary Gladstar's Family Herbal – Rosemary Gladstar
She also says, "If anyone has any additional questions, please feel free to pass on my contact information."

Shade Garden Arbor:
Blue gray gnat catcher nest
Avis discovered an amazing nest under a tree at the parking lot. The builder: a blue gray gnat catcher. The nest was empty and must have been knocked down by the recent thunderstorms. It would have been hard to spot, decorated as it was with bits of lichen interwoven with the pine needles.

A hawk flew over during Bob's recitation but we don't know what kind of hawk it was.

Before heading down to the lower Shade Garden, our guest leader Melissa introduced herself and indicated that she would be showing us various native medicinal plants, talking about the research she has been doing and discussing her personal experiences with using medicinal plants in her daily life. She makes her own salves, infusions and tinctures, as well as using the plants in other ways.

Lower Shade Garden:
Solomon's Seal (variegated horticultural variety)
Our first stop was at the planting of variegated Solomon's seal.  The native, non-variegated Solomon's seal has been used by many different cultures for many years.  Native Americans used it, as well as some Asian cultures, to get over prolonged illnesses, “getting over the hump”, so to speak.  It's the roots, predominantly, that are used.  Solomon's seal get's it's name, as the story goes, because King Solomon put his seal on the roots to lend legitimacy to the use of the roots, signifying the value of the plants.  The rhizomes have circular scars which look somewhat like the Hebrew seal used by King Solomon.  The leaves also have the same active compounds as the roots so the entire plant could potentially be used.  Native Americans would also burn the plant, much like sage is burned, to cleanse the sleeping area to ward off spirits and bring good fortune.  Melissa pointed out the remaining stems of the two flowers that develop at each leaf axil along the plant stem, distinguishing it from false Solomon's seal or Solomon's plume.  The early shoots are edible, but he primary way of preparing it for medicinal use is by making a decoction with the roots.  A decoction is a water-based infusion, made by simmering the muddled roots in water for about 20 minutes.  Tender leaves and stems can be used by simply making an herbal tea by pouring water over the leaves and letting them steep.  Native Americans would also grind the dried roots to make a flour for food use, providing some basic nourishment.  

Note:  Medicinal plants can be characterized as either activators and tonics.   Activators are more drug like and are used short term to cure a specific ailment.  Tonics are more restorative or food like, and are used long term to provide benefits of general wellness.   

Melissa with Black Cohosh

Closeup of Black Cohosh flowers
the flowers lack petals - the white structures are stamens.

Black cohosh was the next stop. It is one of the most heavily researched medicinal plants that is native to North America.  Most of the research, however, is done in Germany, where most of the leaders in the field of phyto-medicine are found.  In fact, German physicians are tested on their final exams on herbal medicines.  One of it's main uses is as a treatment for menopausal symptoms.  It is also known as a crone's herb.  (A crone is a withered, witch-like old woman).  It is used by making a decoction with the roots or by making a tincture with alcohol.  It's also an effective anti-inflammatory for arthritic or rheumatic pain.  It sometimes has a companion plant, blue cohosh, which is used for the transition from girlhood to womanhood, to balance hormones.  The roots are used.

There is no AMA or FDA certification for herbal medicines or practitioners of herbal medicine. All herbs sold commercially for “medical” use are sold as supplements.  Practitioners, though not AMA certified, are certified as herbal practitioners by a panel of known respected practitioners after serving basically a documented apprenticeship of several years, with upwards of a hundred or so cases of treatments.  If anyone is using herbal medicines for long term use, they should do it under the guidance of a certified herbal practitioner or physician. The plant kingdom is where we get 25% or our medicines....the plant derived active ingredients are chemicals after all.

Southern Maidenhair fern
Maidenhair fern was also used in herbal medicine by the Native Americans.  They would make an infusion with the aerial parts of the plants to brew a tea that provided stamina before their ritual dances and activities.  The roots are used to bring on early menstruation, effectively acting as a form of birth control.

Dunson Native Flora Garden:

Partridge berry
Partridge berry (squaw vine) was used by Native Americans to treat any kind of deficiency in the reproductive system and to regulate  menstrual cycles.  It is administered as a tonic.  Today, drugs containing the active ingredients are used during the third trimester of pregnancy to help prevent recurrent miscarriage.

Goldenseal; plant in center has developing fruit
Goldenseal is similar to ginseng and is considered a “cure all” or panacea type herb to promote general wellness.  It is an anti-inflammatory, an astringent and a anti-spasmodic used for anything that might be ailing you.  It is threatened due to over harvesting.  The root is what is used.  Berberine is the active compound in the root.  It's bright yellow and provides protection for the liver and is an anti-bacterial compound. The compound may prove to be a cure of one of the more drug resistant strains of tuberculosis.  It also helps with infections of mucous membranes and sinus infections.

Spicebush is not used much in modern herbalism but was used by Native Americans and early settlers.  It was used to make a spring tonic to cleanse the body after winter and was seen as a blood "fortifier." Being a highly aromatic plant, it also found a use as a substitute for all-spice in cooking.  In the mid to late 1800s, a judge got the recipe for the spring tonic from a Native American tribe and introduced SSS (or Three “S”) tonic.  The original ingredients included spicebush, sassafras and sweet birch, the three “S”s in the name of the tonic.  The entire plant, with the exception of the roots, was used to make the tonic. [The current tonic being sold under the same name contains three vitamins and iron - no herbal ingredients. (dh)]

Mayapple with developing fruit
The fruit is the only part of the Mayapple plant that is not toxic.  In herbalism, mayapples are not used but the plant has significant use as a modern medical plant.  It's the source of two semi-synthetic derivative compounds used to treat leukemia, testicular cancer and small cell lung cancer.

Witch hazel leaf with two "witches hat" galls
Witch hazel can be easily identified by the conical "witches hat" galls that are commonly found on the leaves. The plant has been used for many centuries and is one of the only products approved by both the FDA and endorsed by real witches!  The FDA has approved witch hazel for use as an astringent.  You can make your own liniment by collecting the new growth, grinding it and putting it in a jar with rubbing alcohol for about two weeks, shaking daily.  It was used by Native Americans both externally and internally.  Taken internally, it may provide relief from diarrhea.  On the skin it's great for abrasions or bruising and spider veins.

Bloodroot leaves
Bloodroot was used by Native Americans as a remedy for warts.  It's named for a compound, sanguinarine, in the roots.  It's a bright red, caustic substance and is used to remove warts and skin cancers by practitioners.  It was also used as a plaque remover in toothpastes for several years, until the mid '90s,.  It was found to form pre-cancerous mouth lesions and was banned. 

Horsetails (Equisetum)
Horsetails....Current day horsetails are descendants of huge, 30 meter tall plants in the Paleozoic.  They were used by early settlers to scour pans but several health issues have been identified with current day medicinal use of he plant, including possible liver damage.  It has an extremely high silica content and was ground into a powder to be taken internally to help promote healthy hair, skin and bones and any connective tissues. [This seems odd because hair and nails aren't made of silicon – they're made of a protein called keratin. (dh)]  Just the aerial parts of the plant are used.   Used fresh, it could be ground and used as an infusion or tea, or possibly a tincture.
This clarification added by Melissa: "While supplements are sold with claims of improving hair, skin, and nail health, those claims are less substantiated/rooted in Native American or Appalachian history. The Cherokee used leaf tea to treat kidney and bladder ailments, as well as constipation. Scientifically, horsetail has confirmed antiviral and antioxidant activity."

Tinctures are herbal extracts made using alcohol.  Menstruum, a ratio of water and alcohol, is typically used to make tinctures.  The ratio used depends on what is being tinctured.  Generally, the tougher the herb, such as a root, the higher the alcohol to water ratio is needed. 

A lichen, Old Man's Beard (Usnea strigosa)
, is used for respiratory ailments.   Use a decoction for any type of respiratory ailment, such as a cough.

Spotted pipsissewa has many active antiviral and antibacterial compounds, effective in treating urinary tract diseases.  It also can be used as an astringent.  Tonics are made using the leaves although the entire plant can be used.  It also has aspirin-like qualities and was used by Native Americans and early settlers to provide relief from pain and discomfort.

Melissa with Jewelweed leaves
Orange jewelweed has water repellent leaves which makes standing water form jewel-like spheres.  It was used by Native Americans and is an Appalachian folk remedy for poison ivy.  It can be crushed and rubbed on blisters and can also be used to help prevent getting affected by contact with poison ivy.  It has anti-histamine properties.  You can use fresh leaves or you can crush it and blend it and steep in water, then freeze in ice cube trays for use any time. 

Wild Geranium leaves
Wild geranium is a powerful astringent, used by the Cherokee and early settlers and can staunch discharges and stop bleeding.  Always use fresh leaves for poultices. It can also be used internally to reduce excessive mucous and diarrhea.  The whole plant can be used, harvested in late summer.

Is this Silvery checkerspot self-medicating?
Smooth coneflower/purple coneflower (Echinacea sp.) is useful for immune boosting properties, with scientifically backed claims.  The Midwest Plains tribes used it for coughs and sore throats.

Horsemint (Spotted beebalm)
Horse mint or spotted beebalm is an effective digestive aid.  It contains thymol, also found in thyme, a powerful antiseptic/antibacterial.  It is found in mouthwashes.  Native Americans would chew it up and swish with water to cure infections or sores in the mouth.

Beebalm is used as a digestive aid for cramps, bloat, stomach ache.  It also contains thymol.

Elderberry has a long history in Appalachian folk medicine.  Elderberry syrup was used as an immune booster and antiviral. It would help fight colds and flu.  The flowers and berries have the antiviral properties and are used to make the syrup.  The bark was used by Native Americans to induce vomiting.

Purple Passionflower vine is used to make tinctures and teas to promote relaxation.  It's a nervine, as well as a antispasmotic and mild sedative.   It is used for troubled sleeping and insomnia, and is a quick remedy anti-anxiety aid.

[On the way back to the Arbor we encountered many newly metamorphosed American toads , Bufo (Anaxyrus) americanus, prompting many Ramblers to wonder where they came from. Various low-lying areas on the flood plain retain water for several months after heavy rains. This is enough time for the early breeding American toad tadpoles to metamorphose into the tiny toadlets we saw today. Being so small, they can only be active on the surface under conditions of high humidity, otherwise they would lose too much body water by evaporation. So they hop around on cool, damp mornings, looking for small insects to eat. The wetter the forest floor the longer and further they can forage. Their problem arises when the sun comes out again. The leaf litter on the forest floor will begin to dry out and the toadlets will have to find shelter to avoid fatal dessication. Many that have wandered too far from the flood plain pools will die from water loss before they can find a suitably moist hiding place. The mortality rate of newly metamorphosed toads is enormous, but that leaves a lot of food for the survivors to eat.(dh)]


Solomon's Seal
Polygonatum biflorum
Black Cohosh
Acteaea racemosa
Cimicifuga racemosa
Maidenhair Fern
Adiantum pedatum
Mitchella repens
Wild Geranium
Geranium maculatum
Sanguinaria canadensis
Lindera benzoin
Hydrastis canadensis
Am. Witch Hazel
Hamamelis virginiana
Podophyllum peltatum
Chimaphila maculata
Impatiens capensis
Greater Horsetail
Equisetum hyemale
Xanthorhiza simplicissima
Echinacea purpurea
Monarda didyama
Spotted Beebalm
Monarda punctata
American Elder
Sambucus canadensis
Mountain Mint
Pycanthemum virginianum
also P. incanum, etc.
(P. muticum is toxic)
Passiflora incarnata

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