Common Name: Showy Milkweed (Asclepias speciosa)
Appearance and Habitat: A stout, sparingly branched, pubescent perennial 1 1/2-3 ft. tall, with large, oval, blue-green leaves and showy, spherical clusters of rose-colored flowers. Flowers occur at the top of the stem and on stalks from leaf axils. A grayish, velvety plant with erect leafy stems and with umbels of star-like pinkish flowers in upper axils and at the top. Sap milky The flowers can also be pink, green, and purple and bloom May – September. (2) The leaves and stems are densely downy and the oval leaves grow in pairs and up to 8 inches long. All parts of the plant ooze milky sap when injured. It grows in California from sea level to 6,000 feet and elsewhere in the West, from 5,000 to 9,000 feet. It is frequently encountered in undrained depressions along roads. It is wide spread but erratic and common where it grows. (3)
Warnings: Although no specific reports have been seen for this species, many, if not all, members of this genus contain toxic resinoids, alkaloids and cardiac glycosides. They are usually avoided by grazing animals. One report says that the plant is considered poisonous in large quantities by some Native American Indian tribes. (4)
Edible Uses: This is one of the least toxic of the milkweeds. There are even recipes for preparing this species as a vegetable, but the plants should be positively identified as some of the milkweeds are highly poisonous, and eating them can result in death. (5) The fresh or dried flowers buds were used by many of the plains people as a flavoring agent for stews and leftover soups, especially when they contained marginal game, overly greasy, or strong flavored meat. (6) Flower buds – raw or cooked. They taste somewhat like peas. They can be used to thicken soups. Young shoots and leaves – cooked. An asparagus substitute. One report says that they should not be eaten raw, whilst another says that the young spring shoots were eaten raw by some native American tribes. Tips of older shoots are cooked like spinach. Young seed pods, 3 – 4 cm long – raw or cooked. Very appetizing. The immature pods are peeled before being eaten. Flower clusters can be boiled down to make a sugary syrup or they can be eaten raw. Seed – raw. A chewing gum can be made from the latex contained in the stem and leaves. Root. No further details are given, but another report says that the root can be poisonous in large quantities. (7) Shoshones break the tall milkweed and collect the milk, roll in their hand and use a chewing gum. (8)
Medicinal Uses: The latex is used as a cure for warts. The latex needs to be applied at least once a day of a period of some weeks for it to be effective. The latex has antiseptic properties and has been used to treat skin sores, cuts and ringworm. A decoction of the plant tops can be strained and used to treat blindness and snow-blindness. The root is either chewed when fresh, or dried, ground into a powder then boiled, and used in the treatment of stomach ache. A decoction of the roots has been used in small doses to treat venereal diseases and also to treat coughs, especially from TB. A poultice of the mashed roots has been applied to rheumatic joints. Some caution should be employed when using the root since there is a report that it can be poisonous in large quantities. (9) For medical use collect the roots in the fall after the pods have seeded. The roots form large tuberous clusters on some plants. The roots never exceed the thickness of the stem. The roots dry hard and tough so chop into 1/2 inch sections when fresh. Milkweed stimulates urine production, softens bronchial mucus, dilates bronchials, and encourages expectoration. As a diuretic it increases the volume and the solids in the urine. It will aid kidney weakness when you have that dull ache in your lower back. For this purpose make a tea out of the root by boiling a tablespoon in a pint of water, drink 1/2 cup four times a day. For bronchial and the lungs, a teaspoon boiled in a cup of water and drunk while still hot. Drinking in excess can cause nausea and vomiting. Other Milkweed’s with broad leaves can also be used, like Pleurisy Root. That Milkweed has orange flowers and clear sap. The narrow leaf Milkweeds make you more prone to nausea, and if ingested should only be taken in small amounts. (10)
Foot Notes: ( 3, 10) Medicinal Plants Of the Mountain West by Michael Moore, 1st Edition, page 106-107, publisher: Museum of New Mexico Press ; copy right 1979 ISBN 0-89013-104-X
Foot Notes: (2, 5, 6) NPIN website
Common Name: Common Milkweed ( Asclepias syriaca)
Appearance and Habitat: A tall, downy plant with slightly drooping purplish to pink flower clusters. This plant differs from Showy Milkweed (A. speciosa), in having an unbranched stem. The plant contains cardiac glycosides, allied to digitalins used in treating some heart disease. These glycosides, when absorbed by monarch butterfly larvae whose sole source of food is milkweed foliage, make the larvae and adult butterflies toxic to birds and other predators. Bloom color is purple. (1) Thickets, roadsides, dry fields and waste places in Eastern N. America- New Brunswick to Saskatchewan, south to N. Carolina, Kansas and Georgia. A perennial growing to 1 m (3ft 3in) by 1 m (3ft 3in). It is hardy to zone 3. It is in flower from Jul to August, and the seeds ripen from Aug to October. (2)
Warnings: POISONOUS PARTS: Milky sap from leaves, stems. Toxic only in large quantities. Symptoms include vomiting, stupor, weakness, spasms by ingesting other species; need careful identification. Toxic Principle: Resinoid, cardiac glycoside in other species. (3) Although no spcific reports have been seen for this species, many, if not all, members of this genus contain toxic resinoids, alkaloids, and cardiac glycosides. They are usually avoided by grazing animals. The older leaves are poisonous if eaten in large quantities. The plant contains cardioactive compounds and is potentially toxic. (4)
Edible Uses: Leaves, new shoots, flower buds and firm seed pods. Gather leaves in early spring when they first open. Gather seed pods in summer. Parboil for three minutes, then discard bitter water and replace with clean boiling water. (Cold water tends to fix bitterness.) Repeat this process three times, then cook the leaves for 15 minutes before seasoning them. A pinch of soda can be added during cooking to break down the fiber and improve flavor.The young shoots under six inches long, found during the spring are used as a vegetable. Remove the fuzz on the shoot by rubbing it off. Preparation is the same as for the leaves. Collect flower buds and flowers during the summer. Dip buds in boiling water for one minute, batter and deep fry. When cooked like broccoli, buds are similar to okra. The flower clusters may also be battered and fried. After cooking, buds, flowers and leaves can be frozen. Use like okra in soups. A bit of baking soda in the water will help break down the tough fibers in the seed pod. Parboiled for several minutes, the young pods may be slit, rolled in a cornmeal/flour mixture and fried or frozen for future use. (5) Unopened flower buds – cooked. They taste somewhat like peas. They are used like broccoli. Flowers and young flower buds – cooked. They have a mucilaginous texture and a pleasant flavour, they can be used as a flavouring and a thickener in soups etc. The flower clusters can be boiled down to make a sugary syrup. The flowers are harvested in the early morning with the dew still on them. When boiled up they make a brown sugar. Young shoots – cooked. An asparagus substitute. They should be used when less than 20cm tall. A slightly bitter taste. Tips of older shoots are cooked like spinach. Young seed pods, 3 – 4 cm long, cooked. They are very appetizing. Best used when about 2 – 4cm long and before the seed floss forms, on older pods remove any seed floss before cooking them. If picked at the right time, the pods resemble okra. The sprouted seeds can be eaten. An edible oil is obtained from the seed. The latex in the stems is a suitable replacement for chicle and can be made into a chewing gum. It is not really suitable for use in tyres. The latex is found mainly in the leaves and is destroyed by frost. Yields are higher on dry soils. (6)
Medicinal Uses: The root is anodyne, diaphoretic, diuretic, emetic, expectorant and purgative. It has been used in the treatment of asthma, kidney stones, venereal disease etc. Caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity. An infusion of the pounded roots has been used by the women of some native North American Indian tribes to promote temporary sterility. The leaves and/or the latex are used in folk remedies for treating cancer and tumours. The milky latex from the stems and leaves is used in the treatment of warts. The latex needs to be applied at least daily over a period of up to a few weeks to be effective. The stems can be cooked and applied as a poultice on rheumatic joints. One reported Mohawk antifertility concoction contained milkweed and jack-in-the-pulpit, both considered contraceptive. Dried and pulverized, a fistful of milkweed and three Arisaema rhizomes were infused in a pint of water for 20 minutes. The infusion was drunk, a cupful an hour, to induce temporary sterility. The rhizome is used in homeopathy as an antioedemic and emmenagogue in the treatment of dropsy and dysmenorrhoea. (7)
Foot Notes:( 2, 4, 6, 7)
Common Name: Mexican Milkweed, Mexican Whorled Milkweed, Narrowleaf Milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis aka A. mexicana)
Native American Name: Banumb (Shoshone), Se-talcht (Yakima) (1)
Appearance and Habitat: A 1-2 1/2 ft. perennial with several erect stems and narrow, whorled leaves. Several 4-5 in. wide flower clusters occur from the upper leaf axils. Individual flowers are greenish-white, often tinged with purple. The subsequent milkweed pod is smooth and slender. (2) It is hardy to zone 6 (3)
Warnings:Although no specific reports have been seen for this species, many, if not all, members of this genus contain toxic resinoids, alkaloids and cardiac glycosides. They are usually avoided by grazing animals. The flowers are considered to be poisonous by some Indian tribes. (4) All plants in the genus Asclepias are probably somewhat toxic, some fatally so, to both humans and animals. The sap of some causes skin irritation in humans. Sensitivity to a toxin varies with a person’s age, weight, physical condition, and individual susceptibility. Children are most vulnerable because of their curiosity and small size. Toxicity can vary in a plant according to season, the plant’s different parts, and its stage of growth; and plants can absorb toxic substances, such as herbicides, pesticides, and pollutants from the water, air, and soil. (5)
Edible Uses: Young blossoms – cooked. Some caution is advised, see the notes on toxicity at the top of the page (6)
Medicinal Uses: In Northern California Native American’s use a poultice of the fresh leaves for snakebite. Juice of the plant and tea made from creosote bush are used to draw out poisons. (7)
Foot Notes: (1, 7 ) Indian Uses of Native Plants by Edith Murphey, page 47, 49, Publisher: Meyerbooks Copy right 1990; ISBN 0-916638-15-4
Common Name: Valerian, Tobacco Root
Latin Name: Valeriana edulis, V. acutiloba, V. arizonica are covered by Michael Moore
http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=VAOF Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, MIchigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland and north through New England (Valeriana officinalis)
Photos: (click on link after latin name after common name.)
(Saving Michael Moore for last. )
Native American Names: Gwee-ya (Nevada Paiute), Ku-ya (Northern Paiute) (1)
Appearance and Habitat: Open moist sites, moist meadows, ditches, swamps, and prairies, sometimes on saline soils in Western N. America. A perennial growing to 1.2 m (4ft). (2)
Warnings: The plant is considered poisonous raw. (3)
Edible Uses: Some plants have a root like a carrot. Along Reese River in Nevada it is boiled, smells bad, but tastes good. Some people think it smells and tastes like Star Plug, hence the name, Tobacco Root (4) Root – cooked. It requires a long steaming. The Indians would slow-bake it for about 2 days. A very strong and peculiar taste that is offensive to some people but agreeable to others. The root can be cooked and then dried and ground into a powder. Some caution is advised, see notes above on toxicity. Seed. No more details are given but the seeds of other members of this genus are parched and then eaten. (5)
Medicinal Uses: The Blackfeet Tribe would make tea from the root and drink it while it was hot to relief stomach troubles. (6) The whole plant, but especially the root, is antispasmodic, hypnotic, sedative, stimulant, urine inducing, and has agents that relieve and remove gas from the digestive system. It has powerful agents that affect, strengthen, or calm nerves. The crushed root has been rubbed on parts affected by rheumatism, swollen bruises, painful bleeding cuts and wounds. The root has been used as a tapeworm medicine. It should be used with caution. The Gosiute Indians used the pounded root rubbed on parts affected with rheumatism, or rubbed on skin for swollen bruises. The Menomini Indians used a poultice of pulverized root applied to painful, bleeding cuts and wounds. It was also applied to draw out inflammation of boils. (7) The whole plant, but especially the root, is antispasmodic, carminative, diuretic, hypnotic, powerfully nervine, sedative and stimulant. The crushed root has been rubbed on parts affected by rheumatism, swollen bruises, painful bleeding cuts and wounds. The root has been used as a tapeworm medicine. Use with caution. (8)
Foot Notes: ( 1, 4, 6) Indian Uses of Native Plants by Edith Murphey, pages 16, 45, Publisher: Meyerbooks Copy right 1990; ISBN 0-916638-15-4
Common Name: Western Valerian (Valeriana occidentalis)Appearance and Habitat: Moist open or shaded places, from foothills to rather high elevations in the mountains of Western N. America. It is a perennial growing to 1 m (3ft 3in). The flowers are dioecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but only one sex is to be found on any one plant so both male and female plants must be grown if seed is required) and are pollinated by Insects.
Warnings: Some caution is advised with the use of this plant. At least one member of the genus is considered to be poisonous raw and V. officinalis is a powerful nervine and sedative that can become habit-forming.
Edible Uses: Root – cooked. A strong flavour, it needs to be steamed for 24 hours. Seed – parched.
Appearance and Habitat: Grassland, scrub, woods etc. on dry or damp soils. Avoids acid soils. Europe including Britain bt excluding te extreme north and south, temperate Asia and Japan. A perennial growing to 1.5 m (5ft) by 1 m (3ft 3in). It is hardy to zone 5 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from Jun to August, and the seeds ripen from Jul to September. (It is found in N. America, but is not indigenous.)
Warnings: It is said that prolonged medicinal use of this plant can lead to addiction. A course of treatment should not exceed 3 months. Edible Uses: Seed. No further details are given but the seeds of other members of this genus are parched and then eaten. An essential oil from the leaves and root is used as a flavouring in ice cream, baked goods, condiments etc. It is especially important in apple flavours. The leaves can also be used as a condiment. The plant is used in moderation as a herbal tea.
Medicinal Uses: Valerian is a well-known and frequently used medicinal herb that has a long and proven history of efficacy. It is noted especially for its effect as a tranquilliser and nervine, particularly for those people suffering from nervous overstrain. Valerian has been shown to encourage sleep, improve sleep quality and reduce blood pressure. It is also used internally in the treatment of painful menstruation, cramps, hypertension, irritable bowel syndrome etc. It should not be prescribed for patients with liver problems. Externally, it is used to treat eczema, ulcers and minor injuries. The root is antispasmodic, carminative, diuretic, hypnotic, powerfully nervine, sedative and stimulant. The active ingredients are called valepotriates, research has confirmed that these have a calming effect on agitated people, but are also a stimulant in cases of fatigue. The roots of 2 year old plants are harvested in the autumn once the leaves have died down and are used fresh or dried. The fresh root is about 3 times as effective as roots dried at 40° (the report does not specify if this is centigrade or fahrenheit), whilst temperatures above 82° destroy the active principle in the root. Use with caution, see the notes above on toxicity. http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Valeriana+officinalis
Appearance and Habitat: A conspicuous, stately perennial with a 2-3 ft. stalk bearing opposite leaves with coarsely toothed leaflets, and a rounded clusters of small, tubular, aromatic flowers. The flowers are generally white but may have a pinkish tinge. Stamens protrude conspicuously. In fruit, each flower is transformed into a tiny, plumed parachute. In subalpine meadows where the protection of trees and other taller vegetation is lacking, Sitka Valerian may be only 6-10 in. tall. (1) Moist open or wooded places at mid to upper elevations in the mountains, often in wet meadows in Western N. America – Alaska to California. (2)
Warnings: (Same as V. occidentalis) (3)
Edible Uses: Root – cooked. A strong flavour, it needs to be steamed for 24 hours. Seed – parched. (4)
Medicinal Uses: Valerian is a well-known and frequently used medicinal herb that has a long and proven history of efficacy. It is noted especially for its effect as a tranquilliser and nervine, particularly for those people suffering from nervous overstrain. Valerian has been shown to encourage sleep, improve sleep quality and reduce blood pressure. It is also used internally in the treatment of painful menstruation, cramps, hypertension, irritable bowel syndrome etc. It should not be prescribed for patients with liver problems. Externally, it is used to treat eczema, ulcers and minor injuries. The root is antispasmodic, carminative, diuretic, hypnotic, powerfully nervine, sedative and stimulant. The active ingredients are called valepotriates, research has confirmed that these have a calming effect on agitated people, but are also a stimulant in cases of fatigue. The roots of 2 year old plants are harvested in the autumn once the leaves have died down and are used fresh or dried. The fresh root is about 3 times as effective as roots dried at 40° (the report does not specify if this is centigrade or fahrenheit), whilst temperatures above 82° destroy the active principle in the root. Use with caution, see the notes above on toxicity. (5)
Appearance and Habitat: Calcareous swamps, and wet woods, expecially with larix and thuja species, in Eastern N. America – Quebec to New York and Michigan. A perennial growing to 1 m (3ft 3in).
Warnings: (Same as V. occidentalis)
Edible Uses: None
Medicinal Uses: The root is analgesic, antispasmodic. It is used in the treatment of cramps, menopausal problems, headaches, sore throats and coughs. Large doses of the plant cause mental stupor. A poultice of the crushed root has been applied to cuts and wounds. http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Valeriana+uliginosa
(additional information to those covered by Michael Moore)
Common Name: Sharpleaf Valerian (Valeriana acutiloba)Appearance and Habitat: Small, slightly bilaterally symmetrical, white flowers in branched clusters atop a stem with largest leaves at base. The mostly undivided, basal leaves help distinguish this from other similar species, which have divided leaves. This species is variable, and by some botanists is divided into at least three species: Cordilleran Valerian (V. acutiloba), the most southwesterly, has hairless leaves and stems; Downy-fruit Valerian (V. pubicarpa), more westerly, has hairless leaves but hairy stems; California Valerian (V. californica), also westerly, has hairy leaves and stems. Valeriana comes from the Latin valere (to be strong) and refers to the medicinal qualities of the plants. Extracts were used as a nerve tonic and are said, under certain circumstances, to relax better than opium. Valerian was one of 72 ingredients Mithridates, king of Pontus in the second century b.c., compounded as an antidote to poison, using poisoned slaves as test subjects. http://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=VAAC
Appearance and Habitat: A small insignificant plant that forms little rosettes of two or 3 inch leaves in rich humus, tucked in moist crevices or attached to mossy rocks. The leaves are bright green and spade shaped, dividing into lobes as they mature, very much like mustard or cauliflower. The largest of the species is V. edulis but its medicinal effect is feeble. The more useful species V. sylvatica, V. arizonica, and V. acutiloba; are petite, and found in Arizona, Nevada, Idaho, Utah, California, and the Rockies. The flowers bloom in late spring and are a bright pink cluster of little mustard like flowers, with a slight but pleasant odor atop a six to 15 inch flower stalk. The basal leaves survive into the late fall and are often the last green herb showing by the first snow. The roots have a distinct odor, when fresh like a cross between rich dirt and tobacco. After drying the roots take on the smell of dirty socks. V. edulis has a deep yellow taproot, while the others have a root that is brown in color. It is found in moist areas from 5,000ft to 7,000 and higher. Moisture is the key.
Medicinal Uses: In the southwest species, collect the whole plant roots and all in early fall. If you are planning on tincturing, put the whole plant in blender or juicer when still fresh and add an equal volume of brandy or vodka. Let the mush set for several weeks and strain off the solids, squeezing the remaining mash through a clean cloth. Above all else, Valerian is a sedative with strong sure effect. It is useful for calming and sedating when under emotional stress or in pain. The root as a tea is very useful as an antispasmodic both for smooth and striped muscles. Valerian will lessen menstrual pain, muscle pain, bronchial spasms, and intestinal cramps. In some people the sedative effects may case some befuddlement. For some people Valerian is a stimulant, especially for circulation and respiration, but only upon first taking it. The fresh plant relies on two alkaloids, valerine and chatinine, upon drying, the dirty sock factor from isovaleric acid arises. The sedative effect is the same, but long-term ingestion in chronic doses can result in melancholy and depression. Use the tincture from 30 drops to 1/2 teaspoon or 1/2 to one teaspoon of the dried plant in tea. The whole root lasts almost indefinitely with the potency intact.
Foot Notes: Medicinal Plants Of the Mountain West by Michael Moore, 1st Edition, pages 157- 58, publisher: Museum of New Mexico Press ; copy right 1979 ISBN 0-89013-104-X
Reproduced, in part, (as well as previous postings under this title) in accordance with Section 107 of title 17 of the Copyright Law of the United States relating to fair-use and is for the purposes of criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research.