Medical disclaimer: always check with a physician before consuming wild plants, and make positive identification in the field using a good source such as Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West. Michael Moore also has a glossary of medical terms in his books, and maps in later editions. )
Common Name: Gourd, Field Pumpkin
Latin Name: Cucurbita foetidissima, C. pepo
Range: http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=CUFO California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia, Florida, south to Mexico. (Cucurbita foetidissima)
http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=CUPE east of the Mississippi R. all states except Wisconsin, Indiana, Florida, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Vermont, Maine; west of the MIssissippi R. Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, Texas, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, California; in Canada – Ontario and Quebec. (Cucurbita pepo)
Photos: (Click on link of latin name after Common Name.)
Native American Names: Arnoko (Moapa Paiute), Poonono (Shoshone) (1)
Appearance and Habitat: A malodorous plant with large, gray-green, triangular leaves growing along long, prostrate stems. The plants are often 20–30 feet across, with rough, hairy leaves as much as 12 inches long. The large, bell-like flowers, 2–4 inches long, are yellow to orange, 5-lobed at the opening, with stamens that have large anthers deep inside the throat. The globular fruits, about 4 inches across, are green-striped when young, maturing to tennis-ball size and turning yellow. The plant supposedly gets the name stink gourd from its foul odor. Southern California to eastern Colorado; east to Missouri, south to Mexico. (2) Dry or sandy soils from Mexico northwards to Missouri and Nebraska. South-western N. America. A perennial climber growing to 6 m (19ft 8in) at a fast rate. It is hardy to zone 10. It is in flower from Jul to September, and the seeds ripen from Aug to October. (3)
Warnings: The foul-tasting mature fruit is poisonous to humans if eaten. 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. (4) The sprouting seed produces a toxic substance in its embryo. There is a report that the root is poisonous. (5)
Edible Uses: Fruit – cooked. Used as a vegetable, it can also be dried for later use. The young fruit is used, it is bitter and becomes more bitter as it gets older. One report says that the fruit contains up to 23% protein, though this would be very unusual in a fruit. The fruit is up to 7cm in diameter. Seed – raw or cooked. The seeds can be ground into a powder and used as a thickening in soups or can be mixed with cereal flours when making cakes and biscuits. Rich in oil with a very pleasant nutty flavour, but very fiddly to use because the seed is small and covered with a fibrous coat. The seed contains 30 – 35% protein and 34% oil. An edible oil is obtained from the seed. Root – the source of a starch that is used as a sweetener, stabilizer or for making puddings like tapioca. Some caution is advised, see notes on toxicity. The flowers are said to be edible after preparation but no more details are given. (6)
Medicinal Uses: A tea from the wild melon cures gonorrhea, the same plant cures syphilis. (7) Pulverized root in tea to speed protracted labor in childbirth. Tea made from boiled peeled roots used to induce vomiting. Powdered seeds and flowers mixed with saliva to reduce swellings. Dried root ground to a powder, mixed with cold water and drunk for laxative. (8) Buffalo gourd was employed medicinally by many native North American tribes who used it particularly in the treatment of skin complaints. It is still employed in modern herbalism as a safe and effective vermicide. The leaves, stems and roots are laxative and poultice. The root is used mainly, but some caution is advised because of a report that it can be poisonous. A poultice of the mashed plant has been used to treat skin sores, ulcers etc. The seeds are vermifuge. The complete seed, together with the husk, is used. This is ground into a fine flour, then made into an emulsion with water and eaten. It is then necessary to take a purgative afterwards in order to expel the tapeworms or other parasites from the body. As a remedy for internal parasites, the seeds are less potent than the root of Dryopteris felix-mas, but they are safer for pregnant women, debilitated patients and children. (9)
Other Uses: The fruit is used as a soap substitute. The fruit is cut up and simmered in water to obtain the soap which can be used for removing stains. The fruit can also be dried and stored for later use. It is often used with the root which is also a soap substitute. The soap is said to be effective in removing stains from clothing. (10)
Foot Notes: (1, 7) Indian Uses of Native Plants by Edith Murphy, page 47, Publisher: Meyerbooks, Copyright 1990, ISBN 0-916638-15-4
Appearance and Habitat: Not known in the wild. (?) C. America? The origin is obscure. An annual climber growing to 0.6 m (2ft) by 5 m (16ft 5in) at a fast rate. It is hardy to zone 10 and is frost tender. It is in flower from Jul to September, and the seeds ripen from Aug to October.
Warnings: The sprouting seed produces a toxic substance in its embryo.
Edible Uses: Fruit – cooked. Used as a vegetable, it has a very mild flavour and is very watery. It is often harvested when still very young when it is called courgettes. The fruit has very little flavour of its own and so is often used as a base for making savoury dishes, the seeds being scooped out of the fruit and a filling being put in its place – this can then be baked. A nutritional analysis is available. Seed – raw or cooked. The seed can also be ground into a powder and mixed with cereals for making bread etc. Rich in oil with a pleasant nutty flavour but very fiddly to use because the seed is small and covered with a fibrous coat. A nutritional analysis is available. The seeds can also be sprouted and used in salads etc. Some caution is advised here, see notes above on toxicity. An edible oil is obtained from the seed. Leaves and young stems – cooked as a potherb. A nutritional analysis is available. Flowers and flower buds – cooked or dried for later use. A nutritional analysis is available. Root – cooked. We have some doubts on this report. (Excellent nutritional analysis on the website.)
Medicinal Uses: The pumpkin has been much used as a medicine in Central and North America. It is a gentle and safe remedy for a number of complaints, especially as an effective tapeworm remover for children and pregnant women for whom stronger acting and toxic remedies are unsuitable. The seeds are mildly diuretic and vermifuge. The complete seed, together with the husk, is used to remove tapeworms. The seed is ground into a fine flour, then made into an emulsion with water and eaten. It is then necessary to take a purgative afterwards in order to expel the tapeworms or other parasites from the body. As a remedy for internal parasites, the seeds are less potent than the root of Dryopteris felix-mas, but they are safer for pregnant women, debilitated patients and children. The seed is used to treat hypertrophy of the prostate. The seed is high in zinc and has been used successfully in the early stages of prostate problems. The diuretic action has been used in the treatment of nephritis and other problems of the urinary system. The leaves are applied externally to burns. The sap of the plant and the pulp of the fruit can also be used. The fruit pulp is used as a decoction to relieve intestinal inflammation.
Common Name: Prickly Lettuce, Wild Lettuce
Latin Name: Lactuca serriola
Appearance and Habitat: This is a roadside weed with 2 or 3 inch lobed or pinnatifid leaves that clasp the stem. The plant is between two and four feet in height. The plant starts out with a single stem, but as it flowers it sends out additional stems off the main stem. The flowers are dandelion like, yellow, and after blooming has seeds that float when the wind blows, similar to dandelion. In the west it is found below 7,500 feet and more common from 4,000 to 6,000 feet. (1) Waste places, walls, occasionally on more or less stable dunes. S. and C. Europe, including Britain, from the Netherlands south and east to N. Africa and the Himalayas. A biennial growing to 1.5 m (5ft) by 0.3 m (1ft in). It is hardy to zone 7. It is in flower from Jul to September, and the seeds ripen from Aug to September. (2)
Warnings: The mature plant is mildly toxic. (3)
Edible Uses: Young leaves – raw or cooked. A bitter flavour. The young tender leaves are mild and make an excellent salad, but the whole plant becomes bitter as it gets older, especially when coming into flower. As a potherb it needs very little cooking. Large quantities can cause digestive upsets. Young shoots – cooked. Used as an asparagus substitute. An edible oil is obtained from the seed. The oil must be refined before it is edible. A pleasant flavour. (4)
Medicinal Uses: The whole plant is rich in a milky sap that flows freely from any wounds. This hardens and dries when in contact with the air. The sap contains ‘lactucarium’, which is used in medicine for its anodyne, antispasmodic, digestive, diuretic, hypnotic, narcotic and sedative properties. Lactucarium has the effects of a feeble opium, but without its tendency to cause digestive upsets, nor is it addictive. It is taken internally in the treatment of insomnia, anxiety, neuroses, hyperactivity in children, dry coughs, whooping cough, rheumatic pain etc. Concentrations of lactucarium are low in young plants and most concentrated when the plant comes into flower. It is collected commercially by cutting the heads of the plants and scraping the juice into china vessels several times a day until the plant is exhausted. This species does not contain as much lactucarium as L. virosa. An infusion of the fresh or dried flowering plant can also be uses. The plant should be used with caution, and never without the supervision of a skilled practitioner. Even normal doses can cause drowsiness whilst excess causes restlessness and overdoses can cause death through cardiac paralysis. The fixed oil from the seeds is said to possess antipyretic and hypnotic properties. A homeopathic remedy is made from the plant. It is used in the treatment of chronic catarrh, coughs, swollen liver, flatulence and ailments of the urinary tract. (5) Wild Lettuce tea and the tincture are analgesic narcotics and are useful where a mild opiate are needed. It is self-limiting, in that regardless of the dose size, it never goes beyond the level of ‘feeble’. It can be used for children who have trouble sleeping over a constant cough. It functions as a spinal – cord referral pain and partially prevents the sympathetic ganglia of the thoracic parts from interpreting pain. It is especially useful when used with Valerian for wakefulness, Passion Flower or Silk Tassel for cramps, and Black Cohosh for muscular and joint pain. Gathering the Lacucrium First, find a area where there are many plants. Take a sharp small knife and slice a 1/2 inch slit in each flower. Return in a half hour and scrap the Lactucarium into a bowl from each slit and at the same time slit the plant another 1/2 inch. Continue with this process until the plants are completely bled and just above ground level. Then take the contents of the bowl and let it dry, out of the sun in a breezy spot, to a consistency of pudding. Dissolve the dried Lactucarium in 80% alcohol (not rubbing alcohol- vodka or staight grain. )at a ratio of 1:5 dosage as 1/2 – 1 teaspoon no more than 4 times a day. The same dosage for tincture. The directions for tincture are: chop the plant well, and then cover it in grain alcohol in a small jar for 2 weeks. At that point the tincture should be ready. For the tea use the dried chopped plant and make an infusion, taking 2 – 8 ounces as needed. Making a standard infusion: (this formula can be used for tea on all herbs) Bring 32 parts water to one part herb to a boil. Remove from heat. Place the herb in the hot water for at least 6 hours or over-night, strain out the herb when finished and return the water to the original level of 32 parts. (6)
(Personal Note: Test Procedure: I dried the chopped plant on a wire baking cooling rack in the house (or shade), when fully dry I place it in a blender to powder it. At a ratio of 32:1 I filled a glass beaker with 32 teaspoons of water then placed it on the stove. Before the water came to a boil, I wrapped 1 teaspoon of the herb in a coffee filter securing the top with a wire wrap after twisting the filter around the herb. When the water boiled I turned off the gas stove and hung the filter with herb into the water. Time 7:30 PM. I left the herb in over-night. By morning the water was a medium to dark green in color. I removed the filter with the herb, squeezed it out and refilled the water to the original level (added 5 teaspoons of water). Test: 7:30 AM next morning – Using a shot glass I drank two ounces of the tea. It had a very pleasant green tea flavor. Within a half hour, a nagging pain, that I have had since my stroke along the right side of my neck, was reduced in intensity (feeble narcotic) . I also noted reduced pain in my right arm and hand, also a left-over from the stroke. Analgesic properties of Lactuca serriola “proved”. It is a feeble analgesic, but Prickly Poppy would also work and is easier to collect in my area.)
Foot Notes: (1, 6) Medicinal Plants of the Desert and Canyon West by Micheal Moore, page 128-29, Publisher: Museum of New Mexico Press, Copyright 1989
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.