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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.

aka Bulrush, Candlewick, Cat-o-nine-tails, Cattail Flag, Great Reed-Mace, Marsh Beetle, Reed-Mace
(Typha spp)
[xiang pú]

Although eaten by humans, cattail is suspected of being poisonous to grazing animals!
Subject to LEGAL RESTRICTIONS in parts of Australia.

World wide a number of Typha species are used. Below are the most common.
Typha angustifolia aka NARROW-LEAF CATTAIL, SOFT FLAG, SMALL BULRUSH: North America, Europe, Asia. Grows to 6 feet with leaves 5/16" across. The male and female segments of the spike are usually separated a naked segment. imageImage
Typha latifolia aka COMMON CATTAIL, BROAD-LEAVED CATTAIL, NAIL-ROD, BULRUSH, COSSACK ASPARAGUS, XIAN PU: North America, Europe, Asia. Grows to 10 feet with leaves being 1/2 to 1 inch across. Spikes are dark brown to black with male and female zones usually contiguous. PART USED (Chinese medicine) = Pollen from male flowers (pu huang), leaves, fruit hairs. imageImage
Typha angustata imageImage
Typha domingensis (native to the southern United States) imageImage
Typha minima: Europe. Grows to 2½ feet with leaves 1/8 inch wide. Spikes are 5 inches long and brown with male and female zones separated by a naked segment of stem which is 1 inch long. imageImage
Typha orientalis: Used in Chinese medicine. imageImage
Typha bungeana No image available
Typha davidiana No image available

POLLEN = flavonoids, volatile oils, iso-rhamnetic fatty oils, hormonal substances, isorhamnetin, pentacosan, sitosterol..

The name 'Typha' is taken from the Greek and means 'marsh', which is where these tall perennial plants (approximately 15 species) are found growing, being native to North America (four species), Europe and Asia. The leaves are long, narrow, linear, flat, erect, and parallel veined; stem is is tall, erect and unbranched; flowers are small and borne on a dense spike which is brown to black at maturity; creeping rootstock; fruit is an achene with capillary bristles (fluff). Often grown in aquatic gardens, but can be invasive. They are considered a nuisance in irrigation ditches, rice fields, and reservoirs. In Florida they are an indication of fertilizer run off from surrounding farm land which can damage the fragile eco-system. Dense stands prevent the growth of other plants which supply food and cover for water birds and aquatic life. On the other hand, cattail marshes promote the production of muskrat population which feed on the rootstock. Cattails have been found in archeological digs at Kettle Hill and Ash Caves in Ohio dating back to 800 to 1400 AD.

The root of T. latifolia appeared in the list of Canadian Medicinal Plants.

NEEDS: Grown as an ornamental in wet soil or shallow water in sun or part shade.
HARVEST: Pollen is shaken from the flower spikes when blooming, then dried for use.
PART USED: Yellow pollen (medicinally); other parts of the plant have a variety of other uses, some medicinal.
T.l. 'variegata': Variegated cattail.


Sweet, acrid, astringent, diuretic, hemostatic, vulnerary, circulatory tonic, nutritive, promotes healing, uterine stimulant; affects liver, heart spleen. The pollen has been either dusted on externally, or taken internally for hemorrhage.
In Chinese traditional medicine the dried yellow pollen of several species is used uncooked as an anticoagulant and the cooked pollen as a coagulant. The pollen is also roasted over a slow fire until black and used as a wound dressing to stop bleeding; has been combined with Cuttlefish bone for bleeding injuries. The pollen has been used to treat bloody urine, other urinary problems, angina, amenorrhea, painful menses, postpartum pain, abscess (combined with honey), abdominal pain, tapeworms, vomiting of blood, internal bleeding, cancer of the lymphatic system. The underground stem has been used as a tonic, febrifuge, diuretic, lactogogue, and to treat dysentary. Also: the pollen has been combined with honey and applied to painful swellings and sores.
The species T. angustata is used in Chinese traditional medicine: The leaf as a diuretic. The pollen as an astringent, dessicant, diuretic, hemostat, vulnerary. The down as a hemostat. The root has been cooked with pork to treat dropsy. The plant has been used the same as T. latifolia.
The species T. latifolia: The leaf has been used as a diuretic. The pollen as an astringent, hemostat, refrigerant, sedative, suppurative, vulnerary. The flower has been used for abdominal pain, amenorrhea, cystitis, dysmenorrhea, dysuria, ecchymoses (bruises), epistaxis (nosebleed), vomiting blood, bloody stools, bloody urine, hemorrhoids, leucorrhea, uterine bleeding, urethritis, vaginitis. The root has been used as a diuretic, galactagogue, refrigerant, tonic, and used to treat caked breast, dysentary, fever.
Some North American tribes of Native Americans dipped the down in cleaned hog grease and used this to wash burns and scalds. The Ojibwa crushed the roots by pounding or chewing and used the pulpy mass as a poultice for sores. The Omaha powdered the root, then wet it and spread the resulting paste over burns and scalds; the flowers were then applied as a cover, and a strip of hide or fabric used as a binding to hold it in place. The Cheyenne made an infusion of the powdered roots and the white base of the leaves to relieve abdominal cramping. The Forest Potawatomi used the root as a poultice for inflammations.

All others buy commercial preparations and follow directions carefully!
POLLEN = 5 to 10 grams

The young roots, shoots, stem bases, flowering ends, and seeds of Typha angustifolia were eaten by a number of Native American tribes dwelling in Oregon, California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Montana, and British Columbia.
The juice of the root was used as a food by the Abenaki people of North America.
The macerated roots were once combined with sugar and boiled to make a syrup.
Flour and starch were obtained from the roots.

The dried spikes (cattails) are used for floral arrangements.

The dried leaves have been used to weave mats, chair seats, and baskets and to thatch roofs.
The downy material (fluff) from the cattails was once used to stuff pillows and mattresses and considered a substitute for kapok. It does has a habit of becoming lumpy after some use.
The Hurons of North America strapped their infants to a papoose board, swaddled them in furs and placed the Cattail fluff beneath the babe both to cushion it and keep it clean. Other Native Americans used the leaves to make bed mats as well as mats to provide sides and thatched roofs to their dwellings; some sewed the leaves together with nettle fiber and a needle made from the curved bone of a calf, the edges being woven together making mats several layers thick; the roof supports for the mats were made from pussy willow twigs. The Forest Potawatomi used the mats as the sides of their living quarters and sweat lodges while the down was used to make matresses, but the cattail heads were first boiled to destroy any bugs, then dried and the fuzz removed. The Chippewa made the mats by weaving on frames, using basswood twine; they also used the outer covering of the cattail to make toys which could be sailed on the water. The Menomini used the root as a caulking for leaks in their canoes; they also used the leaves for mats in their winter lodges and for thatching for their roofs. The Meskwaki wrapped their winter-born infancts in a quilt of cattail down to keep them warm. The Flambeau Ojibwa used the down for a war medicine, believing th fuzz thrown into the eyes of the enemy would blind them.
The leaves were twisted together and formed into rings to use between the neck of a draft horse and the collar to provide a cushion.
The down was combined with ashes and lime to make a cement said to be quite strong.
The seeds are said to kill mice.
The flour of the root has been fermented to produce an ethyl alcohol.
The fibers of the stem were once used to make a burlap fabric.
An adhesive was obtained from the stems.
The fuzz (down) was compressed for insulation.
The seeds were once processed for oil and the residue fed to chickens.

©2005 by Ernestina Parziale, CH