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: Uva Ursi (north – generally), Manzanita (south – generally), Bearberry, Kinnikinnik, Creeping Manzanita, Coralillo, Hog Cranberry, Madrono Borracho, Pinguica
Latin Name: Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, A. nevadensis, A. alpina
http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=ARUV all states west of the Rocky Mountains, Alaska, all of Canada, N. and S. Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Virginia, all states north of the Ohio River and from Pennslyvania-NewJersey northwards. (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi )
http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=ARPA6 all states west of the Rocky Mountains except Idaho and Wyoming (Arctostaphylos patula )
http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=ARPU5 California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas (Arctostaphylos pungens )http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=ARCO3 British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, California (Arctostaphylos columbiana )
http://www.plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=ARNE Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada (Arctostaphylos nevadensis )
http://www.plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=ARAL2 Alaska, Maine, New Hampshire, in Canada British Columbia, Northwest Territories, Yukon, Nunavut, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Labrador, New Foundland (Arctostaphylos alpina )
Photos: (Click on latin name after after range.)
Appearance and Habitat: The leaves on Uva Ursi are leathery and almost plastic to the touch and are oval to hearshaped. They are deep veined. The flowers are pink to flesh colored and turn into red berries. Overall appearance of the plant is a mat or trailing vine. The plant may attain a height of 8 to 10 inches. The trailing part of the plant grows underground, just below the surface in coniferous mulch that might include its own fallen leaves. It is found in the mountains between 6,000 and 9,000 feet in its southern range, and 3,000 to 5,000 in its northern range. The most striking think about Manzanita is the red bark. The leaves are smooth, wide, and dull green. The flowers bloom in nodding clusters, are pink and urn shaped. the height of Manzanita is usually between 2 and 3 feet. Jojoba grows in Arizona at lower elevations, which are hotter, and has green-brown bark. Pharmacology is the same for both. (1) Red bearberry is a trailing, evergreen shrub with paddle-shaped leaves on flexible branches. The thick, leathery leaves, rolled under at the edges, are yellow-green in spring, dark-green in summer, and reddish-purple in the fall. Nodding clusters of small, bell-shaped, pink or white flowers occur on bright-red stems. Flowers in racemes on short branches. Bright-red berries succeed the flowers and persist into winter. This ground-trailing shrub has the papery, reddish, exfoliating bark typical of woody plants in northern climates. It is frequently seen as a ground cover in sandy areas such as the New Jersey pine barrens. It is very common on Cape Cod, where it covers vast areas in open, sandy, pine-studded communities. Its complete range is the largest of any in its genus, and it is the only Arctostaphylos species to occur outside of North America, ranging across northern Eurasia and across northern North America south to the mountains of Virginia, California, Arizona, and New Mexico, with isolated populations in the mountains of Guatemala in Central America. A similar species found in the Cascade Mountains and Sierra Nevada, Pinemat Manzanita (A. nevadensis), has a tiny sharp point at the tip of the leaf. One other species, Alpine Bearberry (A. alpina), is found on New England mountaintops. (2) Dry open woods, often on gravelly or sandy soils. It is also found on sand dunes along the coastline and is also found on limestone in the European Alps. Britain, Northern North America, N. Europe, Northern Asia. An evergreen Shrub growing to 0.1 m (0ft 4in) by 1 m (3ft 3in) at a medium rate.
It is hardy to zone 4 and is not frost tender. It is in leaf 12-Jan It is in flower from Apr to July, and the seeds ripen from Jul to September (3) Warnings: This plant is best not used by pregnant women since it can reduce the suppy of blood to the fetus. Large doses may lead to nausea and vomiting due to tannin content. Overdoses may result in tinnitus, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, convulsions and collapse. (4)(5)
Edible Uses: The Okanogan-Colville cooked the berries with venison or salmon, or dried them into cakes and ate the cakes with salmon eggs. Various indigenous groups in California prepared a cider-like beverage from the berries. (6) Fruit – raw or cooked. Insipid, dry and mealy, it becomes sweeter when cooked. Added to stews etc, it is a good source of carbohydrates. The fruit can also be used to make a cooling drink or used for preserves etc. It can be dried and stored for later use. The fruit is about 6mm in diameter. A tea is made from the dried leaves. (7)
Medincinal Uses: Kinnikinnick, an Algonquin word for many tobacco substitutes, is most frequently applied to this species, which also had many medicinal uses, including the alleged control of several sexually transmitted diseases. An astringent tea can be made by steeping the dried leaves in boiling water (sometimes used as a laxative). The Haida used it as a diuretic for kidney diseases and urinary tract infections. (8) Bearberry was commonly used by many native North American Indian tribes to treat a wide range of complaints and has also been used in conventional herbal medicine for hundreds of years, it is one of the best natural urinary antiseptics. The leaves contain hydroquinones and are strongly antibacterial, especially against certain organisms associated with urinary infections. The plant should be used with caution, however, because hydroquinones are also toxic. The leaves are antiseptic, astringent, diuretic, lithontripic, hypnotic and tonic. The dried leaves are used in the treatment of a variety of complaints. These leaves should be harvested in early autumn, only green leaves being selected, and then dried in gentle heat. A tea made from the dried leaves is much used for kidney and bladder complaints and inflammations of the urinary tract such as acute and chronic cystitis and urethritis, but it should be used with caution and preferably only under the supervision of a qualified practitioner. The tea is more effective if the urine is alkaline, thus it is best used in combination with a vegetable-based diet. Externally, a poultice of the infused leaves with oil has been used as a salve to treat rashes, skin sores etc, and as a wash for a baby’s head. An infusion of the leaves has been used as an eyewash, a mouthwash for cankers and sore gums and as a poultice for back pains, rheumatism, burns etc. The dried leaves have been used for smoking as an alternative to tobacco. One report says that it is unclear whether this was for medicinal purposes or for the intoxicated state it could produce, whilst another says that the leaves were smoked to treat headaches and also as a narcotic. The herb should not be prescribed to children, pregnant women or patients with kidney disease. Another report says that some native North American Indian tribes used an infusion of the stems, combined with blueberry stems (Vaccinium spp) to prevent miscarriage without causing harm to the baby, and to speed a woman’s recovery after the birth. Other uses: fluid retention and bed wetting. Claimed to strengthen the heart muscle and urinary tract and to return the womb to its normal size after childbirth . Treatment should be short (seven days) and used with an alkaline diet . Not recommended for children under 12.(9) The berries can be collected when just ripened in April or May. Place the berries in a cheese cloth fold and hang to dry in the shade. The leaves can be collected at anytime and can be dried in a paper sack or left on the branch until dried. The leaves are at their strongest just after the plant flowers. The active ingredient is arbutin and ericolin which breakdown in the urine giving the tea or tincture the disinfecting qualities. For the tea, boil the water (pint) and place in the water 2 to 4 ounces of chopped leaves and for mild infections of the urinary tract drink it 3 times a day. For the tincture use 1 part dried leaves or berries to 5 parts of 50% alcohol (vodka), and take one or two teaspoons in water up to 3 times a day. The tea and tincture are also valuable for infections caused by bladder gravel, acute cystitis, and urethristis. Manzanita and Uva Ursi are for short term use, the tannins can irritate the stomach and liver in long term use. If it doesn’t help within 3 days, try something else. For vaginitis the tea can be used as a douche for up to a week. (10)
Foot Notes: (1, 5, 10 )
Medicinal Plants Of the Mountain West by Michael Moore, 1st Edition, pages 102-103 (Manzanita), 155-157 (Uva Ursi) , publisher: Museum of New Mexico Press ; copy right 1979 ISBN 0-89013-104-X
Common Name: Buckeye, California Buckeye, Ohio Buckeye, Yellow Buckeye, Red Buckeye,
Latin Name: Aesculus Californica, A. glabra, A. hippocastanum, A. flava, A. parviflora, A. pavia
http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=AEGL all states east of the Mississippi R. except Florida, N. and S. Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont; found in Minnesota, Iowa, MIssouri, Arkansas, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, in Canada- Ontario (Aesculus glabra)
Photos: (Click on latin name after common name. )
Warning on all Buckeyes: The seed is rich in saponins. Although poisonous, saponins are poorly absorbed by the human body and so most pass through without harm. Saponins are quite bitter and can be found in many common foods such as some beans. They can be removed by carefully leaching the seed or flour in running water. Through cooking, an perhaps changing the cooking water once, will also normally remove most of them. However it is not advisable to eat large quantities of food that contain saponins. Saponins are much more toxic to some creatures such as fish, and hunting tribes have traditionally put large quantities of them in streams, lakes etc. in order to stupefy or kill fish. The flowers of this plant are toxic to bees.
Appearance and Habitat: Moist stream borders, scrub and the edges of oak and pine woods in canyons and dry slopes below 1200 meters. A deciduous Tree growing to 12 m (39ft) by 10 m (32ft) at a medium rate. It is hardy to zone 7 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from Jul to August, and the seeds ripen in September. It requires well-drained soil. (1) California buckeye is a broad, round, symetrically branching shrub, 10-20 ft. tall, with silvery-gray bark and lustrous, dark-green, palmately compound foliage with 4-7 leaflets. The shrub’s primarily white flowers are fragrant and occur in 4-8 in. panicles. Their orange stamens extend beyond the petals, providing a feathery texture. The pendent, pear-shaped seed capsule is 2-3 in. long. The fall leaves of this deciduous shrub are colorful. Thicket-forming shrub. (2)
Edible Uses: Seed – cooked. It can be dried, ground into a powder and used as a gruel. The seed contains about 23% protein and has an agreeable taste. The seed is large, and can be up to 5cm in diameter. It is often produced abundantly in the warmer areas of Britain and is easily harvested. This was the most commonly used Aesculus species in N. America. It does, however, contain poisonous saponins (see the notes above on toxicity) and so needs careful preparation before being eaten. The seed needs to be leached of these toxins before it becomes safe to eat – the Indians would do this by slow-roasting the nuts (which would have rendered the saponins harmless) and then cutting them into thin slices, putting them into a cloth bag and rinsing them in a stream for 2 – 5 days. Most of the minerals etc would also have been leached out by this treatment. (3) These nuts which belong to the horse-chestnut family are poisonous until roasted. Following the roasting, the nuts are reduced to meal, which is placed in a clear pool of running water for days. After 10 days the meal is taken out and cooked. (4)
Medicinal Uses: The seed contains saponins and can be used as an expectorant. The crushed fruit is applied as a salve on haemorrhoids. A decoction of the bark is used in the treatment of toothache and loose teeth. (5)
Foot Notes: (4) Indian Uses Of Native Plants by Edith Murphey, page 25, publisher Meyer Books, copyright 1990
Appearance and Habitat: Usually found in moist sites such as river bottoms and streambank soils, but is sometimes also found on drier sites though does not grow so well there. Southeastern – Central N. America – Pennsylvania to Nebraska, south to Tennessee and Oklahoma. A deciduous Tree growing to 20 m (65ft 7in). It is hardy to zone 5 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from Jun to July, and the seeds ripen in October. (1) Ohio buckeye, a medium-sized, canopy tree, 50-75 ft. tall, is often used as an ornamental because of its interesting fruit and bright orange fall foliage. Branches bend toward the ground then arch back up, creating a rounded outline. Dense, attractive, deciduous foliage is palmately compound and the showy, erect blossom clusters are held at the ends of the twigs. The tree’s fruit is a nut encased in a spiny, splitting husk. Twigs and leaves often have a slightly unpleasant odor when crushed. The seeds and young foliage are poisonous, and the toxic bark was formerly used medicinally. Flowers are yellow, green, and brown. (2)
Edible Uses: Seed – cooked. It can be dried, ground into a flour and used as a gruel. The seed is quite large, up to 35mm in diameter, and is easily harvested. It is quite rich in saponins and needs to be leached of these toxins before it becomes safe to eat – the Indians would do this by slow-roasting the nuts (which would have rendered the saponins harmless) and then cutting them into thin slices, putting them into a cloth bag and rinsing them in a stream for 2 – 5 days. By this time most of the minerals etc would also have been leached out. (3)
Medicinal Uses: Minute doses of the seed are used internally in the treatment of spasmodic coughs, asthma and internal irritations. It is used externally as a tea or an ointment in the treatment of rheumatism and piles. An extract of the bark has been used as an irritant of the cerebro-spinal system. (4)
Appearance and Habitat: Rich river bottoms and mountainous slopes. Woodland on moist rich soils found in Eastern N. America Pennsylvania to Tennessee and west to Ohio. A deciduous Tree growing to 20 m (65ft) by 8 m (26ft). It is hardy to zone 5 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from May to June, and the seeds ripen in September. (1) Yellow buckeye or sweet buckeye is an irregular to upright-oval, canopy tree, 50-75 ft. tall, with stout, picturesque branches which commonly sweep the ground. The bark sometimes is exfoliating. Creamy yellow, upright flowers panicles appear in late spring. Palmately-compound, deciduous leaves turn orange to red in the fall. Nuts are encased in a 2-3 in., tan husk. The largest of the buckeyes, it is abundant in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Native Americans made a nutritious food from the seeds, after removing the toxic element by roasting and soaking them. (2)
Edible Uses: Seed – cooked. Said to be as sweet as a chestnut. We have only eaten the immature seed, harvested in late August, but these were very tasty with no noticeable bitterness. The seed can be up to 45mm in diameter and is easily harvested. It can be dried, ground into a flour and used as a gruel. The seed contains saponins and needs to be leached of these toxins before it becomes safe to eat – the North American Indians would do this by slow-roasting the nuts (which would have rendered the saponins harmless) and then cutting them into thin slices, putting them into a cloth bag and rinsing them in a stream for 2 – 5 days. The resulting product is said to be tasty and nutritious, though most of the minerals etc would have been leached out. The flowers contain a sweet nectar which is delicious when sucked out. (3)
Medicinal Uses: None (4)
Appearance and Habitat: Mountain woods, found in Europe N. Greece to Albania. Naturalized in Britain (probably so in N. America, not listed on wildflower. org) A deciduous Tree growing to 30 m (98ft) by 15 m (49ft) at a fast rate. It is hardy to zone 3 and is not frost tender. It is in flower in May, and the seeds ripen in September.
Edible Uses: The roasted seed is used as a coffee substitute. Seed – cooked. It can be dried, ground into a powder and used as a gruel. The seed is quite large, about 3cm in diameter, and is easily harvested. It is usually produced in abundance in Britain. Unfortunately the seed is also rich in saponins, these must be removed before it can be used as a food and this process also removes many of the minerals and vitamins, leaving behind mainly starch. See also the notes above on toxicity. The seed contains up to 40% water, 8 – 11% protein and 8 – 26% toxic saponins. The following notes apply to A. californica, but are probably also relevant here:- The seed needs to be leached of toxins before it becomes safe to eat – the Indians would do this by slow-roasting the nuts (which would have rendered the saponins harmless) and then cutting them into thin slices, putting them into a cloth bag and rinsing them in a stream for 2 – 5 days.
Medicinal Uses: Horse chestnut is an astringent, anti-inflammatory herb that helps to tone the vein walls which, when slack or distended, may become varicose, haemorrhoidal or otherwise problematic. The plant also reduces fluid retention by increasing the permeability of the capillaries and allowing the re-absorption of excess fluid back into the circulatory system. This plant is potentially toxic if ingested and should not be used internally without professional supervision. Alterative, analgesic, haemostatic and vulnerary. The bark is anti-inflammatory, astringent, diuretic, febrifuge, narcotic, tonic and vasoconstrictive. It is harvested in the spring and dried for later use. The plant is taken in small doses internally for the treatment of a wide range of venous diseases, including hardening of the arteries, varicose veins, phlebitis, leg ulcers, haemorrhoids and frostbite. It is also made into a lotion or gel for external application. A tea made from the bark is used in the treatment of malaria and dysentery, externally in the treatment of lupus and skin ulcers. A tea made from the leaves is tonic and is used in the treatment of fevers and whooping cough. The pericarp is peripherally vasoconstrictive. The seeds are decongestant, expectorant and tonic. They have been used in the treatment of rheumatism, neuralgia and haemorrhoids. They are said to be narcotic and that 10 grains of the nut are equal to 3 grains of opium. An oil extracted from the seeds has been used externally as a treatment for rheumatism. A compound of the powdered roots is analgesic and has been used to treat chest pains. The buds are used in Bach flower remedies – the keywords for prescribing it are ‘Failure to learn by experience’, ‘Lack of observation in the lessons of life’ and hence ‘The need of repetition’. The flowers are used in Bach flower remedies – the keywords for prescribing it are ‘Persistent unwanted thoughts’ and ‘Mental arguments and conversations.
Appearance and Habitat: Rich moist soils in deciduous woods,. on streams and swamp margins in South- Eastern N. America, Virginia to Florida west to Louisiana. A deciduous Shrub growing to 5 m (16ft) by 3 m (9ft) at a fast rate. It is hardy to zone 5 and is not frost tender. It is in flower in June, and the seeds ripen in September. (1) Native from North Carolina south to Florida, west to central Texas, and as far north as Illinois, Aesculus pavia is a handsome shrub or small tree with showy panicles of deep red or yellow, campanulate flowers in early spring. The flower clusters are 6-10 inches long, and the individual flowers are 1-1 1/2 inches long. The stamens are rarely much longer than the top petals, usually shorter. The leaves are made up of 5 leaflets joined at a central point on a stem as long as the leaf. They are fine-toothed, glossy dark green above and whitish beneath. The leaves usually drop by the end of summer. Two varieties are recognized. Aesculus pavia var. pavia has red flowers and is found throughout the range of the species except the western Edwards Plateau in central Texas, where variety flavescens occurs. Variety flavescens has pale to vivid, yellow flowers and is found naturally in only a few counties in central Texas. Where the ranges of the two varieties overlap, hybridization occurs, producing flowers in various combinations of yellow and red. The seeds and young shoots are poisonous if ingested, and indigenous people crushed these parts and put them in water to stupefy fish for easier capture. Soap may be obtained from the roots and a black dye from the wood. (2)
Edible Uses: Seed – cooked. It can be dried and ground into a powder and used as a gruel. The seed is quite large, about 25mm in diameter, and is easily harvested. Unfortunately, the seed is also rich in saponins and these need to be removed before it can be eaten. See also the notes above on toxicity. The following notes apply to A. californica, but are probably also relevant here:- The seed needs to be leached of toxins before it becomes safe to eat – the Indians would do this by slow-roasting the nuts (which would have rendered the saponins harmless) and then cutting them into thin slices, putting them into a cloth bag and rinsing them in a stream for 2 – 5 days. Most of the minerals etc would also have been leached out by this treatment (3)
Medicinal Uses: The powdered bark is hypnotic and odontalgic . It is used in the treatment of ulcers. A poultice of the powdered seeds has been used in the treatment of cancer tumours and infections, and as a salve for sores. An infusion of the roots has been used as a bath in the treatment of dyspepsia(4)
Appearance and Habitat: Wooded bluffs and rich woods also along streams, on coastal plain. Found in Southern N. America, Georgia – Alabama to Florida. A deciduous Shrub growing to 4 m (13ft) by 4 m (13ft) at a slow rate. It is hardy to zone 5 and is not frost tender. It is in flower in August, and the seeds ripen from Oct to November. (1) A distinctive small buckeye, bottlebrush is a mound-shaped, thicket-forming, deciduous shrub, 6-12 ft. tall, with picturesque, ascending, candelabra-like branching. Lowest branches are horizontal and often rest on the ground. Palmately-compound leaves turn from dark-green to yellow-green in fall. Tall, cylindric spikes of feathery white flowers with pink stamens and red anthers bloom in the heat of early summer after other eastern buckeyes have finished. The smooth nut is enclosed by a bright yellow husk. Though susceptible to leaf scorch, bottlebrush is unique among the buckeyes for retaining its foliage, in good condition, well into fall. (2)
Edible Uses: Seed – cooked. It can be dried and ground into a powder and used as a gruel. The seed is quite large and easily harvested, though it is rarely produced in Britain. Unfortunately, it is rich in bitter-tasting saponins and these need to be leached out before the seed can be eaten. See notes on toxicity above. The following notes apply to A. californica, but are probably also relevant here:- The seed needs to be leached of toxins before it becomes safe to eat – the Indians would do this by slow-roasting the nuts (which would have rendered the saponins harmless) and then cutting them into thin slices, putting them into a cloth bag and rinsing them in a stream for 2 – 5 days. Most of the minerals etc would also have been leached out by this treatment. (3)
Medicinal Uses: Antiperiodic, antirheumatic. Used in the treatment of colic, piles, constipation and whooping cough. (4)
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