P Section

Papaya, Carica papaya L.

Parsley, (Petroselinum crispum L.)

Passionflower, (Passiflora incarnata L.)

Pasque flower, Pulsatilla spp.

Pennyroyal, Mentha pulegium L., American:  Hedeoma pulegioides L.

Black Pepper,  Piper nigrum L.

Peppermint, Mentha piperita L.

Pine bark, pycnogenol, Pinus maritima

Plantain, Plantago ovata  Forsk., P. lanceolata L., P. major L. 

Pokeweed, poke salad, Phytolacca americana L.

Poison Ivy, Toxicodendron radicans (L.) 

Poison Oak, Toxicodendron pubescens P. Mill. 

Prickly Pear, opuntia, Opuntia spp.

Pumpkin, Cucurbita pepo L.

Primrose, Evening, Oenothera spp.

Pygeum, Pygeum africanum Hook


(Petroselinum crispum L)



Uses: (Photo, more)

Food: salads, garnish, soups, roots edible in some species. Use to make cold infusion tea for diuresis. Used on many Middle Eastern dishes.   Try fresh parsley on boiled new potatoes.  GRAS (Generally Regarded As Safe).

Medicine: For cramps and flatulence. Uterine stimulant. Mild diuretics and laxative activity. Seed in Asia and Europe to treat high blood pressure. Chlorophyll is antibacterial, breath freshener.

Chemistry Terpenes: 20% myristicin and 18% apiole. Also bioflavonoids, coumarins (bergapten), phthalides, chlorophyll. Vitamin content A, C, E and good source of iron. High in antioxidants, chlorophyll, psoralens. Consider very good source of vitamins and minerals. Diuretic property of seed and root good for treating gout, arthritis and inflamed joints by flushing and cleansing involved joint. My promote menstruation and relieve menstrual pain.

WARNING: May stimulate uterine contractions if eaten to excess.. Psoralen may cause photo-sensitive skin rashes. Avoid seeds if pregnant or with kidney disease, they are potent and potentially harmful. Use only under the supervision of a certified holistic health care practitioner.

Preparation and dosage: Add leaves to salads or eat on the hoof up to 110 grams. Seeds may be chewed or made into tea by decoction (simmer) or pour over boiling water and consume when cool.


Passiflora incarnata L.; P. spp.



Range:  Perennial vine, with worldwide distribution, numerous species, across 7 climactic zones.  Often introduced.

Food:  Tea, infusion, mild sedative properties.  Fresh fruit may be eaten raw or juiced or made into beverage: mixed with cornmeal or flour.  Leaves have been eaten by Native Americans.  Typically, leaves are par boiled and pan fried in oil, fat.

Medicine:   Used fresh or dried. Fresh aerial parts or whole dried herb used in infusion as mild sedative.  Used to treat nervousness or insomnia, sleep aid.  Antispasmodic effect of infusion is a gastrointestinal aid.  In animal studies, infusion was sedative, antispasmodic, inhibited motility.  Native Americans used infusion of crushed root for earache.  Also,  pounded root used as poultice on inflamed contusions, boils, cuts.  Lie corn and water, root water of plant was used to wean babies. Considered a blood purifier for many tribes.  Used in bath salts and infusions as sedative bath aid.   Rinse for treating hemorrhoids. 

Dosage:  One teaspoon of cut and sifted herb infused with 150 ml of water for at least ten minutes.   One to five ratio (grams herb to ml water) for treating hemorrhoids.  Daily dosage not to exceed 4-8 grams of herb, three times per day.

Chemistry: Flavonoids, volatile oil, trace cyanogenic glycosides (less than .1%).


Mentha pulegium L., American:  Hedeoma pulegioides L.

Labiatae, Lamiaceae

Uses: (M. pulegium: historic habitat Central Asia) (Photo,more)

Food: Knowledgeable food preparers add a few leaves to sausage, scrambled eggs, bread puddings, to tea in small amounts, usually I add three or four leaves to pep up mountain mint tea or lemon balm.  Spanish use in sausage, try leaves cooked with chorizo (SEE CAUTION).

Medicine:  Dried aerial parts of M. pulegium are astringent, warming, diuretic.  Known as a uterine stimulant and must be avoided during pregnancy.  Leaf tea used as a wash for skin irritations, poison ivy.   In the hands of a midwife or physician, may be used to treat menstrual complaints (once again do not use during pregnancy).  Also, used to treat liver an gall bladder complaints. Oil is more toxic than dried leaves.  Oil use reserved for insecticides, chasing off rodents....Do not use internally or externally, externally may actually cause allergic reaction and/or dermatitis.

WARNING:  Do not use as a drug without professional administration, due to liver toxicity.

Chemistry: M. pulegium: Pulegone, menthone, isomenthone, piperitone, neoisomenthylacetate, tannins: rasmaric acid,numerous bioflavonoids to include:  hesperidin, diosmin

Notes:  Add to potpourris as an aromatic.  Leaves in a sock, in a bath, soothing.  

Wildlife/Veterinarian:  Oil use to repel mice, other rodents, insects.

Black Pepper

Piper nigrum L


Lore: most widely used spice in world, its discovery in the East and subsequent trade to the West created the great trace routes.

Peppers rank number two to the use of black and white pepper.


Food: White pepper is black pepper with pericarp, outer skin removed.

spice for salads, savories, soups, vegetable dishes, fish..

Medicine: anesthetic, analgesic, warming, lowers fever, digestive aid, expectorant, in Chinese medicine used as anti-emetic, tranquilizer (anesthetic in minor surgical procedures). Western internal uses to dispel flatulence. May relieve constipation. Rubefacient may exacerbate rosacea. In Chinese medicine white pepper used for protection and therapy for fish and shellfish poisoning, chills, cholera, diarrhea, dysentery, vomiting. In India (Ayurvedic) mixed with clarified butter (ghee) used externally nasal congestion, sinusitis, stinging nettles rash, erysipelas and epilepsy.

Chemistry: piperine, monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes, myristicin, safrol...Piperine is a central nervous system stimulant in animal studies. In dogs it decreased blood pressure and respiration rate. May form potentially carcinogenic nitrosamines when in presence of nitrite. Piperine broadly antimicrobial in lower digestive tract.

Preparation: often mixed with other Piper species as a colorful spice; mixed with clarified butter and oils and applied externally as a pungent aromatic or counterirritant. Do not combine with astringents as they may neutralize each others effect. Mixed with salt, and vinegar used as poultice or wash to extract corns.

Toxicity: piperine and safrol may be carcinogenic in ample amounts.

Wildlife/Veterinarian: see chemistry for effects on animals...insecticide to cowpea and rice weevils. Benzene extract fungacidal.


Mentha piperita L.


Uses: (photo, more)

Food: Teas, salads, drinks, all cooking, Jelly. Try peppermint leaves in olive oil when cooking peas and other greens. Add a dash of lemon or lime. Also peppermint, coconut and wild rice are delicious. Cook the rice for thirty minutes then add the grated coconut for ten minutes of cooking, and finally minced peppermint over the finished dish.

Medicine: same uses as mountain mint, including antiseptic and anesthetic, analgesic effects. Good for lower bowel as a tea or in salads, cold drinks, and with vegetables and protein dishes.

Women special: morning sickness nausea, also irritable bowel syndrome, gastroenteritis, sinusitis, asthma, itchy skin, cooling for fevers and influenza, colds. Carminative, digestive aid. May stimulate bile secretions and help heal ulcers.

Menthol from mint is anesthetic, germicidal, decongestant found in: Solarcaine, Ungentine, Ben Gay, Noxzema, Vicks, Mentholatum.

Large amounts may stimulate uterine contractions.

Two studies showed essential oil increases productivity and accuracy in work place.

Preparation: as a tea, hot or cold infusion. Also in salads and drinks. Use in salad dressings and sauces.


Pine Bark (Pycnogenol registered trademark)

Pinus maritima



Medicinal: Antioxidant, treat capillary fragility, venous insufficiency, degenerative eye diseases: diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration and venous insufficiency, varicose veins. Pine bark extract called pycnogenol reduced platelet aggregation in atrial with cigarette smoking volunteers. Pycnogenol was as effective as aspirin at a smaller dose (1/5 the dose in milligrams). Unlike aspirin pycnogenol did not increase bleeding. More studies underway to assess long term effects of pycnogenol, an antioxidant, on platelet aggregation in smokers and non-smokers. Study performed at U. of Munster, Germany and U. of Arizona, Tucson on human volunteers.

Chemistry: flavonoid rich antioxidants procyanidolic oligomers (PCO) a potent bound mixture of procyanidins.


-PR Newswire, May 19, 1998.

-Murray and Pizzorno, Prima Publishing, Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine 1998.


Plantago ovata L., P. lanceolata L. P. maritima L.


Uses: (photo and information)

Food: In the spring, I pluck whole leaves from my garden and yard and chop them into salads or saute them with wild leeks, nettles, dandelions and watercress. Summer and autumn leaves need to be torn from the tough mid leaf vein (rib) before entering into salads. The flowering heads may be stripped off between thumb and forefinger into hot water to form mucilaginous drink for treating constipation.

Medicine: Native Americans chewed the leaves mixing in saliva and defensin to provide an antiseptic and immune stimulating poultice to be applied to wounds, scrapes, cuts, bruises. It is styptic, stopping blood flow. Simply chew the plantain leaf and fix it in place over the wound. Defensin is a chemical in our mouth that is antibiotic and immune stimulating. Digestive enzymes in our mouth are also weakly anti-microbial. Lotions and ointments used to treat hemorrhoids skin fistulae and ulcers. Tea is diuretic, decongestant, expectorant. May be helpful in diarrhea, dysentery, irritable bowel syndrome, laryngitis and urinary tract bleeding. Acubin increases uric acid excretion by kidneys and may be helpful in treating gout.

Chemistry: Iridoid: aucubin; flavonoid apigenin; mucilage, tannins.

Preparation and dosage: I chew the leaf for external application. And eat the leaf for internal use.

Pokeweed, Poke Salad

Phytolacca americana L.


Uses: (Photo, more)

Food: The young shoots of this plant are edible in the spring. The leaves should be boiled in a change of water. My rule of thumb when harvesting poke is to avoid it once the stem has started to turn purple as lectin content rises as the plant matures. Cooking destroys some of the lectins, and digestive juices get others, but...Be careful! Your window of opportunity is short. This is an excellent tasting green. If you are not sure of yourself, you can find these greens canned in Kentucky and places south. Stems when young and tender may be blanched and pickled. One of my students eats pokeweed rather late into the season, and has said to eat them with the flower buds on. She also confessed to their potent cathartic activity. Seeds, berries and roots are toxic. 

CAUTION:  Berries are toxic and more than ten berries may be harmful to an adult according to FIRST EDITION: Herbal Monograph P.1030-1031 PDR for Herbal Medicine, Medical Economics company, Montvale, NJ.

Medicine: Purgative and anti-arthritic. Antiviral proteins in leaves reported as a possible treatment for cancer and viral infections. Native Americans traditionally used the root poultice over rheumatoid joints. Berries were made into tea for rheumatic conditions. Berry tea also used to treat dysentery.

Chemistry: Phytolaccine (alkaloid); triterpene saponins (phytolaccatoxin); lignins: caffeic acid, americanine; histamine, various lectins collected as pokeweed mitogens; cyanidins: phytolaccanin (betanin). Sugars, polysaccharides: saccharose (cyclitol).

Overdose leads to diarrhea, respiratory distress, hypotension, dizziness, thirst, tachycardia, vomiting and if the dose is high enough acute spasm and death.

Berries are particularly toxic to children and the ingestion of just one berry by a child is cause for concern. Call your poison control center and be prepared for emergency institution of poison treatment protocols.

Overdose protocol: Treat by inducing vomiting and catharsis (gastric lavage with potassium permanganate solution (burgundy colored) and sodium sulfate. Administer activated charcoal. Provides electrolytes and sodium bicarbonate in the presence of acidosis.

Notes: Berries used by food industry as a coloring. Traditional people use the berries as a dye. In the fall, the root is brought into the cellars of Appalachian folks and watered to induce growth of new edible shoots. There is an often used protocol of eating one berry per day for X amount of days to purge your system. I know little of this process, perhaps your holistic health care practitioner can help. Sounds risky to me.

According to Francois Couplan, Ph.D the leaves contain 3 X as much Vitamin C as a lemon. Mineral rich.


Poison Ivy 

Toxicodendron radicans (L.) )

Poison Oak, T. pubescens P. Mill. 


Description:  A climbing vine or shrub. Hairy stem; leaflets in threes, white or pale yellow berries. (Photo)

Medicine:  Beware:  contact may cause dermatitis.  Jewelweed may help relieve symptoms. Algonquians actually rubbed poison ivy leaves on skin to treat the dermatitis.

Other tribes rubbed leaves over oozing boils  or seeping wounds.  Native Americans used in decoction as an emetic.  One of several compounds used as a poison in arrows manufactured by Rahman Navaho.

Prickly Pear, opuntia

Opuntia spp.


Uses: (photo, more)

Food: Flowers and flower buds are roasted and eaten.  The pads (what might be mistaken for leaves, actually the spines are the leaves) of many species, typically the most plump ones, may be thrown on hot coals of fire and roasted. The fire burns off the spines and cooks the interior. Let them cool, then peel the skin and eat the inner core. I like to slice the inner "meat" and stir fry, or chop into heuvo rancheros with yucca blossoms and salsa verde. I have eaten the flowers of several species as have many Native American foragers, but there is little about this practice in the literature. So do so at your own risk. The fruit when red and ripe is tasty, often made into jelly. I like it out of hand right off plant. The pads can be mixed with water, sugar, yeast and fermented into an alcoholic drink.  Saltbush and green fruits boiled together and eaten by Pima Indians.  Large joints of a few species may be cooked until tender, peeled and eaten.  Fruit beverage may be fermented.  

Medicine:  Flowers too are astringent and can be poulticed to wounds. Flowers as tea or eaten for stomach complaints: diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome. According to Andrew Chevallier (8) they have been used for treating enlarged prostate.  Stem ash applied to burns and cuts.  Pima believed the edible pads were good for gastrointestinal complaints.   Pima de-spined, cooked and poulticed plant on breasts as a lactagogue.  Infusion of stems of sonoran species , Opuntia polyacantha Haw. (Plains Pricklypear used to treat diarrhea.

Leaf pad sliced in half and used as poultice and cleansing, sealing agent on wounds, infections bites, stings and snake envenomations.  Pads first scorched of spines then slit and moist side placed against insult, wound.

Chemistry: Very mucilaginous, vitamin C in fruit, bioflavonoids, polysaccharides.

Wildlife/Veterinarian: Problematic to grazing animals and pastures because it is invasive and aggressive. Goats will eat it as starvation food. I have seen antelope graze on flowers and expect in a pinch they will eat the pads. I believe the gel should be tested on wounds of animals, may be just as effective as it is with humans.

PUMPKIN SEEDS, Field Pumpkin

Cucurbita pepo L.


Patents:  Prostate formula

DEMONSTRATION: HANDFUL OF PUMPKIN SEEDS PER DAY MAY BE ANTHELMINTHIC AND IMPROVE AND PROTECT PROSTATE PERFORMANCE, perhaps improving acute prostate hyperplasia conditions (see your holistic health care physician).


Food: In pancakes, waffles (great), hot cereals, salads, snack, stir fry, pesto.  Pumpkin Sweet Potato Soup....Recipe.

Pepitas: Try roasting pumpkin seeds in a non-stick pan. Raise temperature under pan until first seed pops, turn off heat and shake pan over burner as all pumpkin seeds expand or pop. Roasted without oil or salt, this is a beneficial snack, tasty too.

Medicine: Anti-helminthic and used to treat swollen prostate (prostate disease), prostate hyperplasia (used in conjunction with zinc tablet and saw palmetto berries). Pumpkin seeds have 5 chemicals that are considered anti-acne and is perhaps one of the best foods for acne sufferers to eat. Pumpkin seeds also contain a half dozen chemicals that are considered anti-inflammatory (anti-inflammatory).

Chemistry: Rich in amino acids alanine, glutamic acid, glycine which may reduce protrate enlargement 1/2 cup has more than therapeutic amount of these amino acids. Other anti-prostate hyperplasia nuts include: Brazinl nuts, peanuts, saw palmetto berries, flaxseed, watermelon seeds, cucumber seeds and sesame seeds. Contains essential fatty acids. Phytosterols main effective constituents are phytosterols. seed: arachidic-acid; linoleic-acid; alpha linolenic acid; oleic-acid; palmitic-acid; stearic acid; amino acids; ash; aspartic-acid; calcium; beta-carotene; copper; chromium; magnesium; phosphorus; selenium; tin; zinc, urease; phytic acid; phytosterols; alpha-spinasterol; beta-sitosterol, riboflavin; thiamin; salicylic-acid; Monounsaturated fats; DL-Citrullin; cobalt, cucurbitol, dehydroascorbic-acid; iron; lauric acid; lysine; myristatic acid.(2)



Pygeum africanum Hook



Evergreen tree of Africa.

Uses:  Patents:  Formula for preventing hair loss.   Prostate formula

Medicine: Traditionally used to treat urinary tract disorders. Sterols and fatty acids standardized to 15% triterpenes to include beta-sitosterol and .5 % n-docosanol. This extract does not compare as favorable to saw palmetto for treating BPH (Benign Prostate Hyperplasia). Urine flow and tolerance were more improved with saw palmetto and residual urine was less with saw palmetto.(1)

More recent research suggests that the combination of pygeum extract and nettle root extract may provide better results.

Pygeum extract has improved fertility where diminished prostatic secretion was a limiting factor.(3) Pygeum extract may improve the ability to achieve and maintain erection in patients suffering from BPH. (3).

Chemistry:  Triterpenes: beta sitosterol, n-docosanol


(1)Murray and Pizzorno, Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, Prima Press, 1998: pp 760.

(2) Bach, et al.: Phytopharmaceutical and synthetic agents in the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia. Phytomedicine 3(4): 309-313. 1997.

(3) ibid. Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine 1998 Pp 585.

Lucchetta et al.: Reactivation from the prostatic gland in cases of reduced fertility , Urology Int. 39 19984 222-4.

Menchine, et al.: New perspectives of treatment of prostatic vesicular pathologies with Pygeum africanum, Arch Int Urol 60 (1988) 313-22.

Calvert, et al.: Effects of an extract of the bark of pygeum africanum on prostatic secretions in the rat and man, Ann Urol 20 (1986): 3451-3.