Common Name: St. John’s Wort (Hupericum perforatum)
Appearance and Habitat: Open woods, hedgebanks and grasslands, in dry sunny places usually on calcareous soils. Europe, including Britain, south and east to N. Africa, the Azores, and W. Asia (It grows here as well) H. perforatum is a PERENNIAL growing to 0.9 m (3ft) by 0.6 m (2ft in). It is hardy to zone 3. It is in flower from May to August, and the seeds ripen from Jul to September.
Warnings: Skin contact with the sap, or ingestion of the plant, can cause photosensitivity in some people.
Edible Uses: The herb and the fruit are sometimes used as a tea substitute. The flowers can be used in making mead
Medicinal Uses: St. John’s wort has a long history of herbal use. It fell out of favour in the nineteenth century but recent research has brought it back to prominence as an extremely valuable remedy for nervous problems. In clinical trials about 67% of patients with mild to moderate depression improved when taking this plant. The flowers and leaves are analgesic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, aromatic, astringent, cholagogue, digestive, diuretic, expectorant, nervine, resolvent, sedative, stimulant, vermifuge and vulnerary. The herb is used in treating a wide range of disorders, including pulmonary complaints, bladder problems, diarrhoea and nervous depression. It is also very effectual in treating overnight incontinence of urine in children. Externally, it is used in poultices to dispel herd tumours, caked breasts, bruising etc. The flowering shoots are harvested in early summer and dried for later use. Use the plant with caution and do not prescribe it for patients with chronic depression. The plant was used to procure an abortion by some native North Americans, so it is best not used by pregnant women. See also the notes above on toxicity. A tea or tincture of the fresh flowers is a popular treatment for external ulcers, burns, wounds (especially those with severed nerve tissue), sores, bruises, cramps etc. An infusion of the flowers in olive oil is applied externally to wounds, sores, ulcers, swellings, rheumatism etc. It is also valued in the treatment of sunburn and as a cosmetic preparation to the skin. The plant contains many biologically active compounds including rutin, pectin, choline, sitosterol, hypericin and pseudohypericin. These last two compounds have been shown to have potent anti-retroviral activity without serious side effects and they are being researched in the treatment of AIDS. A homeopathic remedy is made from the fresh whole flowering plant. It is used in the treatment of injuries, bites, stings etc and is said to be the first remedy to consider when nerve-rich areas such as the spine, eyes, fingers etc are injured.
Common Name: Giant Saint John’s Wort (Hypericum ascyron) Appearance and Habitat: N. America-Quebec to Manitoba, south to Kansas, Iowa, and Missouri. A perennial growing to 1.5 m (5ft). It is hardy to zone 3. It is in flower from Jul to August. (1) A stout, erect, 2-6 ft. plant with large, elliptic leaves and 2 in., yellow, 5-petaled flowers with very bushy stamens. The scattered distribution of this plant in Ontario is thought to match historical aboriginal encampments.(2)
Warnings: None (Made a note on this because of the above warnings) (3)
Edible Uses: Young leaves, shoot tips and flowering buds – cooked. The leaves are a tea substitute (4)
Medicinial Uses: The fruit is emmenagogue and is also used to treat skin complaints and gonorrhoea. The whole plant is depurative, febrifuge, poultice and vulnerary. A decoction is used in the treatment of boils and abscesses, headaches and stomach ache and vomiting. The root is considered to be specific for use in treating the first stages of consumption. A powder made from the boiled root has been applied as a poultice to draw the poison out of a snake bite (5)
Common Name: St Andrew’s Cross (Hypericum hypericoides)
Appearance and Habitat: Pairs of small, oval leaves lines the sparse, ascending to spreading branches of this 1-3 ft. shrubby plant. Showy, yellow, flowers with numerous stamens top the branches either singly or in branched clusters from the upper axils. The four petals of each flower are arranged in a cross. Three well-defined subspecies of Hypericum hypericoides occur in the eastern U.S.: ssp. hypericoides, ssp. multicaule, and ssp. oblongifolium. (1) Dry sandy soils in Eastern N. America – Massachusetts to Florida, west to Texas and Illinois. It is a deciduous Shrub growing to 1.2 m (4ft). It is hardy to zone 6. It is in flower from Jul to September. (2)
Warning: Contact with the sap can cause photosensitivity in sensitive people. (3)
Edible Uses: None (4)
Foot Notes: (2, 3, 4, 5)
(Now for Michael Moore)
Hypericum anagalloides, H. formosum, H.perforatum, H. scouleri
Appearance and Habitat: Their is crossbreeding in our primary western species. In the West they are all mountain dwellers with the exception of Klamath Weed ( H. perforatum) which is wide spread in the northwest but is confined to valleys/foothills and rarely in the mountains. Our species is rarely over two feet in height, usually un-branched, except to form more of the yellow flowers. The flowers have five distinct petals with numerous stamens. There is often a redish tinge to new flowers and buds. The leaves are oval to round and clasp the stem in pairs. The leaves can also have a bluish tint. The petals and leave margins have tiny black dots and the seed pods are three sectioned and horned. In Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and other mountain ranges you will find H. formosum from 6,000 to 10,000 feet. Look for it in wet meadows, along streams, and in semi swampy areas. At higher elevations the flowers take on a butterscotch or orange color. Most live in virgin forests with the exception of Klamath weed (H. perforatum) which grows in abundance in the northwest. St. John’s Wort is not easy to spot unless it is in bloom.
Medicinal Uses: It is a sedative or anti-spasmodic, which works well for some people. It has long been used as an anti-depressant. Hypericin is the main ingredient and is found in the spots on the leaves and flowers. It has also been used successfully for sciatica, lower back pains, even carpal tunnel syndrome. There are several ways to use it. Fresh flowering tops and buds are best. Wilt them in cheesecloth for a few hours, then stuff them in a canning jar and pour olive oil or vegetable oil over them to cover them up. Mash them around to get the air bubbles out and put more olive oil in the jar. Make sure all the flowers are covered, place in a warm dark place for a week then squeeze the oil out making sure that you avoid any sludge that settles at the bottom of the jar. The sludge can start a fermentation process in the red oil. To preserve the squeezed out oil add a tablespoon of tincture of Benzoin or gum benzoin per pint. This makes an excellent external ointment. You can also use a blender and alcohol at a ratio of 1 part plant to 2 parts alcohol with a teaspoon of baking soda added to each cup of liquid. Use the whole fresh plant. Add an additional amount of vodka, as you did at first, on the second day. Once again this must sit for a week. Take 20 – 30 drops three times a day for with the alcohol tincture. St. John’s Wort is useful as an expectorant and mild bronchial anti-spasmodic for children and older folks who have been chronically sick. There is a slight possibility of allergy like skin reactions if used constantly, especially by fair skinned individuals with black hair. Some ointments with extra hypericin added have caused photosensitization when used with heat therapy, so take care and don’t use it constantly.
Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West by Michael Moore, pages 144-45, copyright 1979, Published by Museum of New Mexico Press, ISBN: 0-89013-104-X (A book you should own!! As well as the 2nd Edition.)
Common Name: Sweet Root, Cicely, Mountain Sweet Cicely
Latin Name: Osmorhiza ambigua aka O. occidentalis (covered by Michael Moore)
Family: Apiaceae (carrot)
Rocky Mountains and west, most of Canada, South Dakota, Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, (Osmorhiza berteroi aka Osmorhiza chilensis)
http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=OSDE Rocky Mountains to the west coast, including Alaska, plus Nebraska, Michigan, Minnesota, Vermont, Maine and all of Canada (Osmorhiza depauperata)
Photos: (Click on latin name after range)
Common Name: Western Sweet Root (Osmorhiza ambigua)
Native American Name: Paoh-coi-au-saukas (Blackfeet) (1)Appearance and Habitat: Shady or partly shady areas, often on slopes and in valleys in Western N. America. It is a pernnial growing to 1 m (3ft 3in). It is hardy to zone 6. (2) The western species of Sweet Root is a mountain plant. It is a perennial with the older plants having stems of three or four feet. Younger plants have shorter stems (2 -3 foot) and more basal leaf growth. In a bloom year, the plants send out three parted leaves which spread out by mid summer into long petioled bipinnate or ternate-pinnate leaves that are finely serrated. The overall scent of the plant is strongly licorice and has a spicy taste. The flowers start in the spring and are pale yellow to yellowish green, which mature in late summer into angular, thin, dark seeds that taste of anise candy. This plant does not have clinging seeds with barbs like O. chilensis or O. berteroi. Another difference in the types of Osmorhizas are that O. occidentalis has thick hollow stems that stand up right, where O. chilensis or O. berteroi are a much smaller plant with thin spreading stems. As Osmorhiza occidentalis gets older it send out larger roots that are dark brown on the outside and internally are cream colored. The roots can extend rhizome growth that have many descending roots attached. When you uncover the roots they smell strongly of root beer and have a spicy flavor. O. occidentalis is found in all mountains of the West. In California it is found on wooded slopes above 3,000 feet in the Sierra Nevada range and along the upper most tops of the coastal range. It is quite common in older forests of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, and Colorado. (3)
Edible Uses: The root has a sweet liquorice or anise flavour and can be dried, ground into a powder and used as a flavouring for biscuits etc. The taste is probably too strong for the whole root to be used as a vegetable. The dried seeds are used as a flavouring. The unripe seed, when still fleshy, can be nibbled raw. (4)
Medicinal Uses: Western sweet-cicely was widely employed medicinally by several native North American Indian tribes who used it particularly to treat digestive disorders and as an antiseptic wash for a range of problems. It is little, if at all, used in modern herbalism. An infusion of the plant is used in the treatment of coughs and colds. The roots are antiseptic, carminative, febrifuge, oxytocic, pectoral and stomachic. An infusion has been used to induce labour in a pregnant woman and to treat fevers, indigestion, flatulence, stomach aches etc. An infusion of the roots has been applied externally as a treatment for swollen breasts, sores, sore eyes etc. A decoction of the root has been used as a wash on venereal sores and skin rashes. A poultice of the pulped roots has been used in the treatment of cuts, sores, swellings and bruises. The root has been applied to teeth to relive the pain of toothache. A hot decoction of the root has been used to kill head lice. (5) Collect the root in late summer to the middle of fall. Collect after the plant has gone to seed, the roots will be larger at that point. Cut them into smaller pieces and split them down the middle. Then place them in a cheesecloth pocket and hang them in the shade to dry. They will stay ‘usable’ for two years. You can collect the leaves in late spring to mid summer. Dry the leaves in a paper sack and if left whole they will last a year. The root can be tinctured and used for upper intestinal candidiasis or any low level stomach infections. A warm water couch is good for vaginal yeast infections and as an enema for candidiasis infections of the lower bowels. A tea made from 1 part Sweet Root, 1 part Licorice Root, and 2 parts Sarsparella (Aralia nudicauslis) has a tendency to modify blood sugar imbalance. This works well even with patients that are borderline onset of adult insulin resistant diabetes. (6)
Other Uses: Roots place in mares’ mouth and made to chew them. Drinks more water, and put them in good condition for foaling. (7)Foot Notes: (1, 7) Indian Uses of Native Plants by Edith Van Allen Murphey, page 49, pubished by Meyerbooks, copyright 1990, ISBN 0-916638-15-4
Foot Notes: (3, 6) Medicinial Plants of the Mountain West 2nd Edition, by Michael Moore, page 243-44, Copyright 2003, Publisher Museum of New Mexico Press, ISBN 978-0-89013-454-2
Common Name: Aniseroot (Osmorhiza longistylis)Appearance and Habitat: Rich, alluvial woods and thickets. Woods often along the sides of streams in Texas. Eastern N. America – Nova Scotia to Ontario, Alabama, Tennessee, Kansas and Colorado. It is a perennial growing to 1.2 m (4ft). It is hardy to zone 6. It is in flower from Jun to July. (1) The 1-3 ft. stems are usually solitary and covered with long, soft hairs. Leaves are divided into threes, two or three times. Open clusters (compound umbel) of small, white flowers rise above the foliage on stalks from upper leaf axils. Prefers shade and rich moist soils. (2)
Edible Uses: Root – raw or cooked. Very sweet, aromatic and fleshy. A spicy flavour similar to anise, the roots are chewed, made into a tea or used as a flavouring. Leaves and young shoots – raw. An anise flavour, they are added to salads. The green seeds have an anise flavour and are used as a flavouring in salads, the dry seeds are added to cakes etc (3)
Medicinal Uses: A poultice of the roots are used in the treatment of boils and wounds. A tea made from the roots is stomachic. It has been used in the treatment of stomach complaints, kidney problems, amenorrhoea, general debility, to ease childbirth and also to bathe sore eyes. (4)
Common Name: Woolly Sweet-Cicely, Clayton’s Sweetroot, Hairy Sweet Cicely, Sweet Jarvil (Osmorhiza claytonii)
Appearance and Habitat: Woods and wooded slopes in Eastern North America – Nova Scotia to South Dakota, North Carolina, Illinois, Nebraska, and Kansas. A perennial growing to 1 m (3ft 3in). It is hardy to zone 6. (1) A hairy plant with small sparse compound umbels of white flowers. The 1-3 ft. stems are usually solitary and covered with long, soft hairs. Leaves are divided into threes, two or three times. Open clusters (compound umbel) of small, white flowers rise above the foliage on stalks from upper leaf axils. The roots of this plant have an anise-like odor when bruised. Several species of this genus occur in the East, among them Anise Root (O. longistylis), which has styles to 1/4 inch (4 mm) long. The plant prefers shade and moist rich soil. (2)
Edible Uses: Root – cooked and eaten as a vegetable. Used for putting on weight. Leaf stalks – cooked and used as a vegetable. The aromatic roots and unripe seeds are used as anise-like flavourings. Pleasant to chew (3)
Medicinal Uses: The root has been chewed or gargled as a treatment for sore throats. A poultice of the moistened pulverized roots has been applied to boils, cuts, sores etc whilst a tea made from the roots has been used to bathe sore eyes (4)
Common Name: Mountain Sweet Cicely, Sweetcicely (Osmorhiza berteroi – O. chilensis)
Appearance and Habitat: Plants 1-3 ft. tall have erect stems clothed with large finely dissected ferny leaves. Tall umbels bear tiny white flowers that each become 1 in. long, needle-like fruits. The plant prefers partial shade and rich moist soils. (1) N. and S. America Deciduous Nothofagus forests and moist shaded cliffs to 200 meters in S. Chile. A perennial growing to 0.8 m (2ft 7in). It is hardy to zone 6. (2)
Edible Uses: Root – raw or cooked. It is considered to be a delicacy (3)
Medicinal Uses: None known (4)
Common Name: Bluntseed Sweetroot (Osmorhiza depauperata includes O. obtusa)
Appearance and Habitat: Shady or partly shady areas, often on slopes and in valleys. North America – Newfoundland and Labrador to New Brunswick and Quebec, south to California and Arizona. A perennial growing to 1 m (3ft 3in).
Edible Uses: Root – raw or cooked. At its mildest early in the season, it has a parsnip-like flavour. It is also used as a flavouring, imparting an anise-like flavour. Seed – raw or used as a flavouring.
Medicinal Uses: None Known
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