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Earthnotes
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.




BETHROOT
LILIACEAE
aka Bath root, Birthroot, Coughroot, Ground lily, Indian balm, Indian shamrock, Jew's harp plant, Lamb's quarters, Milk ipecac,
Nodding ground lily, Nodding wake robin, Pariswort, Rattlesnake root, Snakebite, Squaw flower, Three-leaved nightshade, Trillium,
Wake robin

(Trillium erectum) and (Trillium pendulum)
(Both have been used interchangeably)
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CAUTION!! Must be used DRY. Fresh root and leaves possibly toxic

CONTAINS: Yields no more than 5% ash, also volatile and fixed oils, tannic acid, steroidal saponins (diosgenin - related to human sex hormones and cortisone), a glucoside (similar to convallamarin), steroidal glycosides, gum, resin, starch. Rootstock of T. erectum exhibits hormone-like activity.

A North American perennial member of the Lily family with 3 broad, rhombic leaves, 3 green sepals, an erect stem up to 15 inches and a single, 3-petaled flower, varying from white to maroon, petals ovate and acute, styles erect, stigmatas recurved; fruit a pink or red, 3 or 6 angled berry. It is found growing in damp, shady woods. The rhizome(an oblong tuberous root) has a distinct odor with a faint scent of turpentine about it, and an odd taste that is sweetish and astringent when first chewed, but quickly becomes bitter and acid, causing salivation.

T. erectum was first mentioned by Constantine Rafinesque in his Medical Flora (1828-30; 2 vols) and is native to the northeastern to eastern central portions of North America. It was listed in the NF from 1916-1947. Was grown by the Shakers as a medicinal. The fluid extract was an ingredient of the Compound Elixir of Viburnum Opulus.

T. pendulum is found growing in rich soils and shady woods from the central to the western United States.

PROPAGATION: By seed sown in spring (must be stratified and flowers take 3 to 4 years to appear; first year growth consists of a single leaf), or by division during dormancy.
NEEDS: Grown as an ornamental in moist, well-draining, neutral to slightly acid, humusy soil in part shade. Hardy to -31 degrees F. Susceptible to slug damage.
HARVEST: Rhizomes are dug after the leaves have died back in late summer, then dried for use in liquid extracts, decoctions and tinctures.
FLOWERS: May and June. Unpleasant odor and pollinated by flies.
PART USED: Rhizome
SOLVENT: Diluted alcohol, water.
RELATED SPECIES:
T. kamtschaticum: Contains steroidal saponins which have hormonal effects; used gynecologically.
T. tschonoskii: Same as T. kamtschaticum
T. erectum var album: White flowering variation.

USES

MEDICINAL:
Sweet-sour, astringent, warming, expectorant, diaphoretic, alterative, pectoral, controls bleeding (nose, mouth, stomach, bowels, and bladder); of benefit to the female reproductive system (uterine tonic).
Was used internally for uterine hemorrhage, blood in the urine (combined with Bidens tripartita), and for blood from the lungs. Was used for excessive blood loss during and between menses (combined with Cranesbill or Periwinkle) and blood loss associated with menopause.
Was used externally for vaginal discharge (douche), ulcers (combined with Ulnus rubra and/or Lobelia inflata) varicose ulcers, skin problems, insect bites and stings. Also used in ointment form for ulcers and wounds.
Native Americans preferred the white flowered variety and used it for treating sore nipples, controlling post partum hemorrhage, vaginal discharge and excessive menstruation (was often combined with Vinca major or Geramium maculatum). Was also used to promote the onset of labor in an overdue pregnancy.
Was once used as a poultice for skin diseases; a handful of leaves was boiled in lard and applied to ulcers and tumors.
Maude Grieve (A Modern Herbal) accounts T. erectum and related species useful in fevers and chronic affections of the air passages due to action of checking secretions of the mucous membranes.
T. pendulum, specifically, was used during the last month of pregnancy in place of raspberry leaf to strengthen and vitalize the uterus and pelvic area. Acts as a mild diuretic and astringent (used to reduce excessive menstrual bleeding). Also used by Native Americans to prevent miscarriage and ease childbirth.
J. Kloss in Back to Eden recommended it for coughs, bronchial problems, pulmonary consumption, hemorrhage from lungs, excessive menstruation, leucorrhea, prolapsed uterus, diarrhea (boiled in milk) and dysentary.
Was often used as part of a compound formula in solution for enemas and douches; was combined with equal part Cranesbill and made into an infusion or decoction (wine glass full dose taken 4 to 5 times daily) for prolapsed uterus and leucorrhea.
Poultice of the root was used for insect stings.
The Potawatomi of North America used an infusion of the root of T. grandiflorum for sore nipples.
The Menominees grated the root for a poultice to use on swollen eyes; also grated, steeped and drunk as a tea for cramps and irregular menses.

DOSE: TRADITIONAL DOSAGES FOR PROFESSIONAL NOTE ONLY
!All others buy commercial preparations and follow directions carefully!
EQUIVALENT = 1 drachm of powdered root, 3 times daily, OR, 30 grains, OR, 0.5 to 2 grams
INFUSION = 1 tbsp dry, powdered root to 2 cups of boiling water, steeped 15 minutes; 1/2 cup taken 3 times daily.
DECOCTION = 1 tsp powdered root to 1 cup water (or milk for diarrhea) taken hot or cold before bed
FLUID EXTRACT = 30 minims
TINCTURE = 1/4 tsp daily in 1 cup water
COUGHS = 10 to 20 grains of powdered root in a little water 3 times daily
ANTISEPTIC POULTICE = Equal parts Bethroot and Slippery Elm combined; poultice applied to open wounds. Effect can be boosted with a pinch of powdered Lobelia seed in the mixture.

HOMEOPATHIC:
Used for bloody cough, catarrh of the bladder, climacteric, diabetes, bleeding fibroma, dribbling of urine after labor, hemorrhage associated with childbirth (threatened abortion), menorrhagia, metrohagia, writers cramp.

OTHER:
An infusion of the root was taken by the Menominees to cleanse any supposed defilement caused by engaging in sexual intercourse during menses.





©2003 by Ernestina Parziale, CH

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