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Herb Library

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DISCLAIMER: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.




Baneberry, RedBaneberry, White




BANEBERRY, RED
RANUNCULACEAE
aka Bugbane, Grapewort, Herb Christopher, Necklace Weed, Pearlberry, Poison berry, Rattlesnake herb, Redberry, Red cohosh, Snake berry, Toadroot
(Actaea rubra)
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WARNING! The entire plant is POISONOUS and especially the berries. The uses of this plant are of interest ONLY IN AN HISTORICAL CONTEXT.

This member of the buttercup family is found in rich, moist woods and thickets from southern Canada to northern New Jersey and West Virginia, then west through Ohio, Iowa to South Dakota, Colorado, Utah, California and Oregon. It is a smooth-stemmed perennial from 1 to 2 feet with alternate leaves which are divided twice into sharp-toothed leaflets. The white flowers have many stamens and appear april through May in globe-shaped or elongated clusters on reddish stalks. The fruit is cherry red and appears July through October.
Disturbances to the nervous system from ingesting the berries has been reported which might give some validity to early (1785) reports of its being used in Canada (cautiously!) in some nervous cases. It was included in a list of Canadian medicinal plants (1868).

HISTORICAL USES

MEDICINAL:
The root is emeto-purgative and parasiticide.
Native Americans used the root tea for menstrual irregularities, postpartum pains and as a purgative after childbirth. It was also used to treat coughs and colds.
At one point in its history it was regarded as a vulnerary and astringent.
Was used by the Cree of Hudson Bay as a purgative.
The Ojibwe used a decoction of the root to cure stomach pains caused by swallowing hair (in the literal sense or in a metaphoric sense is not clear). At certain times of the year, it was considered 'male' and given only to men and boys. At other seasons it was considered to be 'female' in nature and was used for complaints of women and girls. For women the roots were rolled up in basswood leaves and baked; when they became black, an infusion was made and administered.
The Pillager Ojibwe and the Potawatomi made tea from the root which was taken following childbirth to clear up the system. The root was also chewed by men for stomach problems.
Early white settlers sometimes used the root as a substitute for black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa). It was used for ovarian pain, uterine tenderness, and amenorrhea. It was sometimes used as a last ditch effort as a substitute for digitalis.




BANEBERRY, WHITE
RANUNCULACEAE
aka Doll's eye, Necklace weed, Snake root, White beads, White cohosh
(Actaea pachypoda)
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WARNING! The entire plant is POISONOUS and especially the berries. All parts can cause severe gastro-intestinal inflammation and skin blisters. The uses of this plant are of interest ONLY IN AN HISTORICAL CONTEXT.

A member of the buttercup family found in rich woods and thickets from southern Canada to Georgia, Louisiana, and Oklahoma. A smooth-stemmed perennial from 1 to 2 feet with alternate leaves which are divided twice into sharp-toothed leaflets. The white flowers have many stamens and appear in oblong clusters on thick, reddish stalks in April and May. The ivory-colored berries appear in July through October and have a conspicuous dark dot at the tip.

RELATED SPECIES:
EUROPEAN BANEBERRY (A. spicata): Has an acrid, bluish-black berry which has caused the deaths of children in Europe. The symptoms are severe stomach cramping, headache, vomiting, and dizziness. As few as 5 or 6 berries can cause symptoms of poisoning. It is used safely in homeopathic medicine for rheumatism (especially in the small joints like the wrist), vertigo, headache producing tears, pain in the upper jaw through the molars and into the temple, pains in the stomach and esophagus accompanied by difficulty breathing, sudden lassitude after talking or eating. Homeopathic Dose = 3rd potency.

HISTORICAL USES

MEDICINAL:
Was once considered useful for headaches due to female reproductive causes, also for uterine problems and some types of chronic intermittent rheumatism.
The Menominees used a small amount of the root to relieve the pain of childbirth and headaches caused by eye strain. It was also used for coughs, menstrual irregularities, colds and chronic constipation. It was believed to be beneficial to the circulation.
The Chippewa made a decoction of the root for excessive flow during menses.
The Meswaki name for this plant translates to 'sweet' or 'squaw' root. It was used as a genito-urinary remedy. The root was boiled and the drink taken to relieve the pain of childbirth.





©2000 & 2006 by Ernestina Parziale, CH

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