B section

Banana, banana flower, Plantain, Musa spp.
Baptisia, False Indigo, Indigoweed, Rattleweed (pods) (Baptisia tinctoria (L.))
Balm, Lemon Balm/Beebalm (Melissa officinalis (L)., Monarda didyma (L)., M. fistulosa (L.)
Barberry, (Berberis spp.)

Barley, Hordeum distichon
Basil (Ocimum basilicum (L). or O. sanctum)
Bayberry (Myrica cerifera L.)

Bay Leaf, Bay Laurel (Laurus nobilis (L.)

Bean pod, Phaseolus vulgaris
Bearberry, Kinnikinnick, (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (L.))

Belladonna, Atropa belladonna
Bergamont, horsemint (Monarda fistulosa L.) and other species.

Betel Nut, Piper betle
Bilberry, Vaccinium spp.
Bishop's Weed, Ammi visnaga

Birthwort, Aristolochia clematitis
Bitter Melon, Bitter Gourd, Balsam Pear (Momordica charantia L.)
Bittersweet Nightshade, Climbing nightshade (Solanum dulcamara (L.)

Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa (L.)( Nutt.)

Black Nightshade, Solanum nigrum
Blessed Thistle (Cnicus benedictus (L.)
Blood root, red puccoon, red Indian paint (Sanquinaria canadensis (L.)
Blueberry (Vaccinium species)

Blue Cohosh, Caulophyllum thalictroides
Boneset, Thoroughwort (Eupatorium perfoliatum (L.)

Borage (Borago officinalis (L.)
Buckeye, Aesculus glabra

Buckwheat, Fagopyrum esculentum
Bugleweed, Virginia waterhorehound, Lycopus virgincus

Bunchberry, (Cornus spp.)
Burdock, Gobo burdock (Arctium lappa (L). and other species)

Burning bush, Gas plant (Dictamnus albus)
Butcher's Broom (Ruscus aculeatus)

Butternut, Juglans cinerea

Banana, Plantain

Musa acuminata (Colla.), Musa paradisiaca and other species



Large semitropical and tropical herb with thick roots, grown on plantations throughout Mexico, Central America, South America and the Caribbean and other tropical/semitropical areas worldwide.

Food:  Eaten throughout the world.  Noted for its potassium content.  May be eaten raw, cooked.  Blended into shakes (smoothies) added to pancakes and waffles.  The flower in bloom is edible (see photo).

Recipes: Try cooking green bananas or plantains in their skins (boil).  Remove skins, mash banana paste between fresh soft corn tortillas shells (like a sandwich) saute both sides in canola oil.  

Flambe: Cook slices of bananas in butter, at low heat until butter begins to caramelize.  Add as couple tablespoons of rum, carefully light rum aflame.  Place cooked bananas on plate and pour over caramelized butter and rum.

Medicine:  In animal and laboratory studies banana fruit was found to be anti-microbial, anti-tuberculosis, ant-ulcer.  Considered a tonic, easily digested, starch rich.  Used in Central America and Mexico by traditional people to treat digestive problems:  diarrhea, ulcers, gastritis.  Fed to elderly and infants as easily digested energy source.  Fresh juice from the stem may be squeezed or expressed and applied externally to treat abscesses, recalcitrant sores, burns, blisters.   Stem juice and banana fruit used as source of potassium. 

Ripe bananas may have a mild laxative effect.   

Young unfurling leaves of plant used as wrap over burns, blisters.

The corm or root is cleaned grated and squeezed through cheese cloth, panty hose or like material to express juice.  Juice is used by mid wives to stop excessive bleeding in childbirth.  The extraction is taken by mouth, 1 tablespoon every 5 minutes, three doses, no more.  Strong astringent, styptic action.

In Jamaica the whole banana is cooked and eaten for treating diarrhea.

PLANTAIN (Musa paradisiaca)  Native to Malaysia, Whole fruit is cooked and is a staple in Malaysia, India, Africa, West Indies and South America.  Fruit must be cooked to cleave starch and make it edible.  Choose firm fruits for eating.  Browning or blacking does not effect quality of flesh.  Taste somewhat like a sweet potato.  Cook in stews and soups.  East African countries ferment fruit into banana beer.   You may peel and cook the fruit or bake it in the skin.  Skin should be washed thoroughly due to fungus and use of pesticides.  Bake whole with skin in oven at 350 degrees for one hour.

Chemistry: starch, protein (1 to 1.5%)vit  C, Vit. B6, magnesium, potassium, Vit. A, Folic acid, tannins, riboflavin.

Baptisia, False indigo, Indigoweed, Rattleweed (pods)

Baptisia tinctoria (L.)


Description:  Tall prairie flower to 5 feet, striking blue pea like flowers.  Large blue seed pods. (photo, more)

Food:  Inedible

Medicine:  Native Americans used decoction of roots as a wash for external skin problems, to wash wounds, bites and stings.  Considered an immune stimulating herb used externally on infected wounds or in decoction as a vaginal douche for vaginitis.  

CAUTION: Internally, root decoction is potent, overdose toxic.  

Extract considered a fair anti infection agent when used in the hands of a skilled medical practitioner.  Homeopathic doses safe for consumption.  Toxic dose will cause nausea and vomiting.

Chemistry:  Root has polysaccharides including arabinogalactans, quinolizidine alkaloids: cytisine, anagyrine, sparteine isoflavonoids, formonetin.  Also cumarin: scopoletine

Dye:  Inferior dye.  My daughter uses the seed ripe seed pods in a sun tea infusion to extract a blue dye.

Note:  Striking, decorative addition to perennial garden.


Hordeum distichon L.


Food:  I like it in soup, whole grain.  High in folic acid, vitamin E and B vitamins.  Most 12 grain and some 7 grain hot cereals mixes have barley.  It can be cooked like rice, flavor with your favorite cultural flavor principle.

Medicine:  Used to treat inflammatory bowel disease, gastritis, diarrhea.  Soothing dietary tract treatment.

CAUTION:  Not to be used during pregnancy 

Chemistry: Polysaccharides, courmarins, tyramine, hordenine, hordein.  Seed is approx: 10% protein.

Bean Pod, Kidney Bean

Phaseolus vulgaris L.


Food:  Heritage plant, edible bean.  Important food for all Native Americans.  Mexican style bean recipe.

Native Americans:  Beans and hickory nut soup, doesn't that sound great.  Beans are parched, then ground to powder and cooked into a soup.  Also cooked beans with corn and rice to provide a more complete protein dish for vegetarians.

Medicine:  Dried pod used  to treat urinary tract infections and kidney and bladder stones.  Approved for these uses by Commission E.  Beans are high in soluble fiber and may help reduce cholesterol, blood sugar and triglycerides.

Dried pods, cut and sifted are made in decoction.  Drink as a tea.  One half tablespoon of herb to cup of water just off the boil.

Chemistry:  Lectins, saponins, flavonoids.


Beebalm, Wild Bergamont, Horsemint

Monarda fistulosa L.



Uses: (photo, more)    Also see:  Beebalm.

Food: as with other mints. Great tea, anti-infective.  See edible flowers.

Medicine:  Stronger than  M. didyma, this is a strong oregano like mint.  Used in infusion as adjuvant therapy for colds, sore throat, fevers, headache.  Also, infusion rubbed on externally over skin eruptions, prevents excess mucus.

Side effects: None documented. This is a powerful aromatic strong tasting herb. Use sparingly.

Amount: Ten to twenty florets in salad.  Two heaping tablespoons of fresh herb, one teaspoon of dried herb infusion (one cup of water) two or three times per day. Better fresh than dried.

Balm, Lemon Balm, Balm Melissa

Melissa officinalis L.



Uses: See above photo and this photo

Food: flowers and young leaves in salads, desserts, toppings ; vegetables. Balm leaves are used in baths, tea., ice cream. Cold infusion with other mints is excellent. Stuff a jar with mint leaves all kinds and lemon balm leaves, ADD THYME LEAVES and two slices of lemon. Put in refrigerator overnight. Thyme leaves may make this a must have tea for mountaineers protecting them from mountain sickness.  See edible flowers.   Young shoots of spring make mild cold infusion tea.

Medicine: Both lemon balm and beebalm contain polyphenols and the anesthetic/analgesic eugenol. Photochemicals in balm may relax muscles in the autonomic system of the digestive tract and uterus. More research is needed.

Native Americans:  Used the infusion of the aerial parts to treats colds, flu, reduce fever.

catechins, luteolin-7-glucoside, protocatchuic acid, rosmarinic acid, linalool, caryophyllene, eugenyl-acetate, germacrene, succinic acid, thymol, ursolic acid.(3)

Side effects: I have used copious amounts of the herb without side effect.  May be a uterine stimulant avoid during pregnancy.

Amount: One handful of fresh herb to cup of water or multiples there of. One quart jar full of fresh herb, dumped into panty hose, tied off and thrust into bath...Very soothing. Preparation: first leaves of spring and flowers of summer, may be dried. In China, 1-4 gm dried aerial parts three times per day are used to treat stress.

Wildlife/Veterinarian: Eugenol is a chemo-attractant to Japanese beetles. this chemical can be purchased in the first aid section of some drug stores. Put the Eugenol on a piece of absorbent cloth and fashion a trap from a bottle (see Japanese beetle traps at your local garden center for construction ideas). Mint family plants are sought out by bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.  See organic/sustainable for more gardening tips.

GRAS.  To be avoided by pregnant and nursing mothers possible uterine stimulant.

NATURAL HEALTH: Lemon balm cooling in the second degree, like chamomile mint, valerian, passion flowers. Thus, central nervous system relaxant, calming. Indicated for psychological autonomic nervous system problems (stress). Peripheral vasodilator cooling to fevers. Monoterpene citronellol sedative effect.



Ocimum basilicum L. or O. sanctum


Uses: (Photo, more)

Food: Basil is one of the great "Flavor Principles" in Italian cuisine. The basic culinary combination that's Italian consists of: basil, oregano, olive oil, tomatoes. Cooking: Basil is a common kitchen herb for sauces, fish, meat, Italian dishes, fresh in salads and salad dressings, oil flavoring, minced on soup and cooked or steamed vegetables. Try making Pesto with peanuts and flax seed oil, or walnut and , sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds too make a fine pesto.

Medicine: Basil may kill intestinal parasites. In animal studies, basil extract enhanced immune response by 20% . A basil oil formula is used to treat acne in India. Seeds are considered traditionally as antispasmodic, aphrodisiac. Leaves are diuretic, expectorant, lactagogue, laxative, stimulant. Folklore use of leaves on warts. According to Jim Duke in his Handbook of Medicinal Herbs (CRC Press) a folk remedy for alcoholism, boredom, delirium, ringworm, snakebite, sinusitis, headache, nausea, halitosis, gout. In India as a nasal douche and seeds soaked in water for kidney ailments (J. Burkhill). Basil has been used traditionally to treat halitosis, headache, high blood pressure and respiratory problems as a mild expectorant.

Chemistry: Several anti-viral compounds. Basil contains estragol, eucalyptol, eugenol, borneol, anethole, camphor, safrole. 60% linoleic acid/21% linolenic acid (Duke 6). One hundred grams of fresh ground basil contains 211 mg of tryptophan (in diet may boost serotonin levels). It has good ratios of essential amino acids, and approximately 106mg phytosterols and 27mg of ascorbic acid. (5).

Side effects: Leaf juice may be slightly narcotic. Estragol and safrole in high doses have caused liver cancer in mice.

Amount: Up to a cup of fresh leaves per serving.  This can be achieved in pesto.   Two tablespoons of fresh leaves or 1 t of dried leaves as an infusion. 

Wildlife/Veterinarian: Basil oil has insecticide properties against flies and mosquitoes. When the mayflies hatch on Eagle Lake (usually at dusk) I rub basil leaves on my exposed skin to thwart mosquitoes as I whip the water with rubber bugs.



Myrica cerifera L.


Uses:  candle fragrance, incense. (Photo, more)

Food:  Not edible, may cause gastrointestinal pain, vomiting and ulceration.

Medicine:  Herb is considered a stimulating tonic.  Traditional folk use as a tea for diarrhea.

Dried root bark in decoction used externally as astringent, wound treatment.  

CAUTION: High tannin content makes the ingestion of this bark or root decoction potentially dangerous.  Avoid use.

Chemistry:  High tannin content in bark and root precludes its internal use.  Other chemicals include:  triterpenes: myricadiol, taraxerone and taraxerol and flavonoid glycoside myricitrin.

Bay Leaf, Bay Laurel

Laurus nobilis L.


Demonstration: Spiced fruit punch. Use bay leaves in your favorite spiced fruit punch recipe...Antioxidant qualities.

Uses: (Photo, more)

FOOD: Used to flavor soups, savories, leaf tea, fish soups, stews, teas, Italian sauces, best in French cuisine with fish, poultry and cooked vegetables. May cause stomach distress in a few. Don't overdue it.

Medicinal: Antioxidant activity, potential cancer fighter. Bactierialstatic and fungalstatic, anti-microbial. Cineole in bay leaf repels several insect pests including roaches. Raw berries used to induce abortions.

Chemistry: Eugenol, cineole, cineole (6) in bay leaves repels and kills cockroaches perhaps an excellent reason to keep a plant or two indoors.

Side Effects: Toxic in large doses. Do not eat whole leaf, indigestible and may lacerate internal digestive tract.

Amount: One to three leaves in tea, soup, sauce.

Growing Tip: Bring indoors in temperate climate winters. Water generously as you would rosemary during indoor winter months.

GRAS Generally Regarded As Safe by USDA.

Belladonna, Nightshade

Atropa belladonna


Not Edible.

Medicine:  Leaf and root extracts approved by Commission E to treat liver and gall bladder complaints.  

Externally used for muscular pain, gout and ulcers.  Internal use for bronchial asthma.  Anti-sialogogue action.  Also used for kidney and gallstones.   Used to treat myocardial infarction (heart attack).  To treat dysentery.  

Drug should be prescribed and administered under the supervision of a professional holistic health care professional.

Drug Interactions:  Do not use in combination with antidepressants.

Chemistry:  alkaloids: scopolamine, tropine, atropine (after drying).  Flavonoids and coumarins, tannins.


Bergamot, Beebalm

Monarda didyma L., Monarda fistulosa L.


Uses: (photo and more information)

Food: Eat young leaves raw, cook with for flavoring, flowers in salads or as tea, excellent over sauces, especially Italian.

Excellent edible flowers with very different flavors.

Medicine: bronchial complaints, sinusitis, digestive problems, flatulence, season meats, ancient anti-rheumatic, expectorant. add to black tea to get Earl Grey like flavor.  May provide protection from diseases of aging.  Good antioxidant tea with chemistry that prevents acetylcholine breakdown.

Chemistry: carvacrol,  thymol.

Side effects: Be careful should you have flower allergies. When used moderately in salads and teas no documented side effects.

Amount: I eat up to twenty floret per day. Teas contain several score of flowers for full flavor.

Betel Nut

Piper betle


Food:  I will never forget a flight in 1966 on a DC 3 from Katmandu to a little airfield in Nepal (photo); enroute the stewardess served us a sandwich in a brown bag.  Down in the bottom of the bag was half a betle nut   I watched the other Nepalese passengers stick the nuts in their mouths then suck and bite on it.  I followed the crowd.  First time around this was not a pleasant experience, it was as hard as rock, tasted a bit like clove, unmemorable, would have preferred coffee. 

Medicine:  Mild stimulant, analgesic.  Used traditionally to treat middle ear infections, inflammations.  May be prophylactic to worm infections.  Leaves and nut also used to treat dyspepsia, coughs, bronchitis, asthma (helps cut excess mucus) arthritis, impotency.

Chemistry:  Volatile oils: chavibetol, eugenol, anethole, chamicol, safrole.



(Vaccinium spp.)



Food: Eat a fistful daily when experiencing extended period of bowel discomfort, gas, diarrhea contains anthocyanidin. Traditionally cooked in pies, egg dishes as sauce or filling, pancakes, dried and in cereal. See recipes in Tress Shrubs Nuts and Berries video. Dry in food dryer and store in freezer for winter stomach problems. Add to cereals fresh or dried. Small berries may be dried in a food dryer and stored over winter (I usually store them in the freezer). Dried blueberries may relieve diarrhea (probably due to tannins and bulking pectin). Then use them in cereal, rabbit stew, fish dishes and on waffles. 

Medicinal: Bilberry trials suggest standardized extraction may be effective for atherosclerosis, prevention of macular degeneration, cataract prevention, circulation improvement, prevents night blindness, retinopathy, prevent varicose veins, diabetes treatment. (See bilberry next).   Anti-oxidant rich.

Chemistry: Contains antibiotic and diuretic arbutin, anthocyanosides (oligomeric procyanidins). Chlorogenic acid, coumarins, catechins, cyanidin, cyanin, isoquercitrin (leaf), caproic acid, butanoic acid, aesculetin, citronellol, malvidin, peonidin, vanillin, essential amino acids, eugenol, farnesol.(2) Anthocyonosides in blueberry may relieve bladder infections (Trees Shrubs Nuts and Berries video, Meuninck). Pecarin in blueberries is bacteriastatic to E. coli. Anthocyanidin extracts may improve peripheral circulation, improving eyesight and night vision...European studies when taken with Vitamin E.. Scientific studies suggest that arbutin from blueberries (and cranberry) may keep bacteria from adhering to bladder walls. Significant quantities of blueberries are need to be therapeutic, prophylaxis may require lessor amounts. Scientific evidence suggests that oligomeric procyanidins may protect myelin sheath from deterioration, also anti-inflammatory.

Side effect: No known side effects, a few may get mild diarrhea from overindulgence.

Amount: Over-the-counter 25% standardized bilberry extraction, 240-480 mg per day or as directed by your physician. As fresh fruit, a cup of berries should tone the stomach.

Wildlife/Veterinarian: Anthocyanosides from blueberry stimulate mucus flow in laboratory animals and may provide protection from ulcers. Bushes important habitat and food for song birds. Please don't spray with pesticides and herbicides.



Vaccinium myrtillus L.


(See Physician's Laptop)

Notes: Purple berry with purple meat.

Food: Edible see blueberry.  Bilberry is widely available as a dried fruit, add them liberally to cereal, salads, baked goods, or as an out of had trail snack.

Medicine and Chemistry: Known for its medicinal uses. Contains anthocyanosides bilberry, as does blueberry (blueberries are a lot cheaper).

More than 15 different anthocyanosides including three types anthocyanidin bound to either glucose, galactose or arabinose. Black currants and grapes contain these compounds. Medicine is extracted and concentrated to 38 % anthocyanosides. Folk use and native use to prevent scurvy. Leaves for treating diabetes in decoction with water. Concentrated extracts used to treat (prevent) macular degeneration, cataracts, retinitis pigmentosa, night blindness, diabetic retinopathy.

Works apparently by improving venous blood flow but reducing capillary flow to eyes and other organs. Also as an anti-oxidant preventing oxidative damage to eyes. Effects structure of collagen in eye providing protection from glaucoma. Facilitates the effectiveness of the retina by its affinity to that area and initiating and promoting capacities.

Side effect: No known side effects, a few may get mild diarrhea from overindulgence.

Amount: 25% standardized bilberry extraction, 240-480 mg per day or as directed by your physician. A fresh fruit a cup of berries should tone the stomach. events capillary fragility in extremities brain, kidneys. Has affinity for collagen and improves its function.


Murray, Healing Power of Herbs, Prima 1995. Pp. 50-59 also contains 54 references to literature.

Lininger, et. al.: The Natural Pharmacy, Prima Health 1998. Pp234.

Birthwort, Heartwort, Snakeroot

Aristolochia clematitis L.


Medicine: Mediterranean herb where the aerial parts are used in tincture to treat immune deficiency.  Traditionally tincture used in post-partum gynecological problems and to treat snake bites.  Externally wounds and infections.

Chemistry: Aristolochic acid, isoquinoline alkaloids, alpha pinene

Warning: Although used for thousands of years, recent research suggests the drug may be toxic and mutagenic (cancer inducing), thus we cannot recommended it for internal use.  Never to be used while pregnant.


Bishop's Weed,  Ammi

Ammi visnaga L.


Medicine:  Bitter herb, used by Bedouins for numerous conditions.  Fruit is used as medicine.  It is a circulatory stimulant and is an antispasmodic to smooth muscles.

Used to treat cardiac insufficiency, angina, tachycardia, asthma and abdominal cramps.  Dilates bronchial and urinary  blood vessels without raising blood pressure.

To be used by a skilled holistic physician.

Traditional medicine a gargle for toothaches. 

TOXIC: Overdose my lead to photo toxicity and reversible cholestatic jaundice.  May lead to queasiness, loss of appetite. insomnia, headache.

Chemistry:  pyranocoumarins, furochromones, and flavonoids quercetrin, isohamnetin, fatty oil: khellin.


Bitter Melon, Bitter Gourd, Balsam Pear

Momordica charantia L.


Uses: (Photo, more)     For more detail see:  Physician's Laptop Reference.   

Food: One of my favorite dishes with chicken of lean beef. A traditional Chinese therapeutic food. Delicious. You may grow this plant in your garden. Preparation: It's the thick skin you eat. Slice the skin Julienne style in strips. Discard seeds and white pulp. Saute in oriental flavor principal, with scallions or green onions, maybe some oyster sauce. Serve with rice and oriental vegetable stir fry.

Medicine: Used to treat diabetes, psoriasis and HIV. Traditionally used to treat cancer. It is antiviral. Has potent blood sugar lowering effect (hypoglycemic). Proteins alpha and beta momorcharin inhibit HIV (in vitro proof). Inhibits guanylate cyclase and may be of benefit to psoriasis sufferers.

Chemistry: Saponins to include: charantin, alkaloids, insulin like peptides, Alpha and beta momorchain proteins.

Side effects: Bitter juice can cause abdominal discomfort and diarrhea. Hypoglycemic people should avoid it as it may induce hypoglycemia. Do not take without medical supervision if you are on anti diabetic drugs.

Amount: I eat up to one whole bitter melon at a sitting. Fifty milliliters of fresh juice can be tolerated by many. It may be tinctured in alcohol, but for treating psoriasis I would not recommend this as the alcohol may trigger or inflame, aggravate psoriasis. Tincture equal weight to volume of skin of herb to 180 proof alcohol. Take 5 ml or less.

Bittersweet Nightshade, Climbing nightshade

Solanum dulcamara L.


Description:  A climbing vine with purple rocket shaped flowers, bearing a reddish-orange fruit.  Leaves lobed, alternate.  Found clinging to willow and other shrubs along streams in Michigan and Indiana. (photo)

No food use.

Medicine:  Approved by Commission E for treating warts, acne, eczema, furuncles.

Prepared as a tea, dried stem is cut and sifted, then infused.  Seek professional consultation and oversight when considering this herb.

Toxic, rarely fatal.  Contraindicated during pregnancy and nursing.

Roots were infused by Native Americans for nausea, anti-emetic.  Aerial parts of plant used as salve.

Chemistry: Steroid alkaloid glycosides and steroid saponins.


Black Cohosh

Cimicifuga racemosa (L.) Nutt.


Also see

Food: Not a food.

Medicinal: For female conditions (dysmenorrhea): uterine spasms (cramps), menstrual pain, hot flashes, mild depression, vaginal apathy, menopause. Traditional uses for fever, arthritis and insomnia. Estrogenic effect reduces luteinizing hormone levels.

Chemistry: Triterpene glycosides: acetin, cimicifugoside. Also isoflavonoids: formononetin, Formononetin binds to estrogen receptor sites and is active. The combination of estrogen effect and lowered luteinizing hormone secretions may account for its activity.

Side effects: Consult a holistic health care practitioner before using this herb for dysmenorrhea , hormone replacement therapy, menopausal symptoms. Avoid if you are lactating or pregnant.

Overdose may cause pain, headache, nausea, dizziness. Recommended usage should not exceed 6 months.

Amount: There are over-the-counter standardized extracts. Use as directed. Capsules, whole roots and alcohol tinctures are available. Up to 2000 mg per day of the dried root have been recommended and as little as 300 mg of the dried root powdered in tea, juice or water. Homemade alcohol extract 1:1 ratio 100 proof vodka to powdered root. Suggested amount is 1 teaspoon.

-Duker EM et al.: Effects of extracts from C. Racemosa on gonatropin release in menopausal women and ovariectomized rats. Planta Medica 57, 420-424, 1991.

-INR: Alternative Medicine an Objective View (1998) CME credits table 7 page 7.

Blue Cohosh, Squaw root, Papoose root

Caulophyllum thalictroides (L.) Michx.


Medicine: Roots (rhizome) is prepared as a liquid extract used to treat gynecological disorders.  Has an estrogenic effect used internally to treat dysmenorrhea, potential miscarriage, uterine spasms.  Used by Native Americans to ease and facilitate childbirth.  Analgesic and diuretic effect.  Also, used internally by Cherokee as anticonvulsive and anti-rheumatic.

Poison Oak and Poison Ivy:  Leaves crushed and rubbed on poison oak and poison ivy (Cherokee).  

Scraped root "skin" used by Chippewa as an emetic.  Analgesic effect of root decoction to take the edge off uterine cramps, stomach cramps..

Preparations may be prescribed by holistic health care professionals.

Chemistry:  Alkaloids to include:  isoquinoline alkaloids; quinolizidine alkaloids.  Also, saponins and flavonoid, caulosapogenin.

Warning:  Use only under the skilled hands of a holistic health care professional.  Do not take this uterine stimulant during pregnancy.  Avoid use is you have hypertension and/or heart disease.

Black Nightshade

Solanum nigrum L.


This solanaceous plant is found in North America and was used by Native Americans as an emetic, and used externally in decoction as a wash or poultice for skin ailments.  Smoke of dried plant inhaled to treat toothache.

Food: Cherokee eat the young plant cooked as a potherb.  Fruit and berries were also eaten.  Numerous plants of this species are considered toxic, others are quite edible to include: potatoes, tomatoes, tomatillas, peppers.

Medicine:  Toxic plant causing toxic symptoms including mydriatic action.  Whole aerial parts of the herb are collected in flower, then dried or the whole plant in fruit used.  Traditionally used to treat cramps, whooping coughs, gastric irritation (analgesic effect of steroid glycosides).  Externally to treat psoriasis, hemorrhoids, eczema.

Preparation: Herb is available dried and cut, powdered, in liquid extract such as a tincture.  Moistened plant is used externally as a compress or rinse: a cup of the dried herb to l quart of water.  Tinctures are 1:1 ratios dried or fresh plant to 95% ethanol.  tincture dose if 3-5 drops (minums) liquid extract, two or three times per day; and 5 to 10ml of tincture once a day.

Internal use should be carefully monitored by a holistic healthcare professional.

Plant extracts are used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine both internally and externally.  In India it is used like a food or in decoction to treat congestive heart failure (diuretic for treating edema of heart failure).  Fruit powder is used as alterative, tonic, diuretic.

Chemistry:  Alkaloids to include: solanine, solasonine, solamargine and phytosterols: saponins.



Blessed Thistle

Cnicus benedictus L.


Food: Leaf may be eaten in salads or stir fry. Cut away spines.

Medicine: As an appetite stimulant, improves digestion, constipation, gas, upset stomach. Experimentally for liver and gall bladder disease. Bitters to stimulate saliva flow, bile, HCL acid release and peristalsis leading to better digestion, absorption and elimination. May have anti-inflammatory activity.

Chemistry: cnicin as sesquiterpene lactone one of active constituents.

Side effect: Those with daisy plant allergies or other flower allergies should be careful.

Amount: I eat leaves (kind of a pain to prepare) but have had no problems. Suggested dosage of 2 grams dried herb to 250ml of boiling water steeped until cool...three cups per day. Or 1000 grams of fresh herb to the same amount of water three times per day.

Blood root, red puccoon, Red Indian paint

Sanquinaria canadensis L.


Uses:  (Photo, more)

Food:  Not edible.  Toxic.

Medicine:  Toxic.  Antispasmodic, warming. Native Americans used the herb to induce vomiting. Expectorant, said to lower fever. diuretic.  Some say a very small dose works as an appetite stimulant.  This may be attributed to the bitter alkaloids, stimulating the digestive system.  Root juice reportedly used to treat warts.  Modern research shows sanguinarine and chelerythrine to be anticancer.  Sanquinarine, although it is toxic has low oral toxicity and is antiseptic.  Small amounts of it are used in a name brand mouthwash and toothpaste.  Pioneers and First People used the root extraction in cough medicine, to treat rheumatism, fevers, laryngitis, as an anesthetic.  Other reported uses for treating bronchitis, throat infections, asthma and other lung ailments.

Cancer:  Cancer of nose and ear of human beings has responded to topical applications of bloodroot extract.

Chemistry:  Root contains opium like alkaloid isoquninoline derivatives:   sanguinarine, protopine, homochelidonine, berberine, coptisine, sanguirubine, chelerythrine, sanquidimerine.  Also polysaccharides in root and bioflavonoids.

Note:  The root color was used to dye Native American skin.  There are reports that the red exude when thinned with water and applied was an effective mosquito repellent.  In trials performed with human beings we have found this to be true.  More research is necessary.

Veterinarian/Wildlife: Perhaps the red skin of Native Americans was mosquito repellent.

Boneset, Thoroughwort

Eupatorium perfoliatum (L.)


Uses: (Photo, more)

Food:  Not edible.

Medicine: Leaf tea considered and excellent 19th Century break fever medicine for acute infections.  Used to treat influenza.  Leaf tea used to treat colds, malaria, arthritis, painful joints,  to induce sweating, to treat pneumonia and gout.   Whole aerial parts of plant used as poultice edema, swellings, tumors.  Considered to have immune stimulating properties.

Immunostimulating:  Dried commuted aerial parts of herb in infusion used to fight colds, infections, flu and other acute infections.

CAUTION: Small doses of herb are laxative and diuretic, whereas larger doses may induce catharsis and vomiting.

Chemistry:  volatile oils, tannin, resin, wax, flavone glucoside eupatorin.  Also, phytosterols:  sitosterol, stigmasterol....And sesquiterpene lactones: eupatilin and eupafolin.  Pyrrolizidine alkaloids makes this plant potentially dangerous to consume in any form, due to the alkaloids liver destroying capacity.

Wildlife/Veterinarian:  Grazing animals have displayed toxicity from eating E . perfoliatum symptoms included drooling, nausea, loss of appetite, weakness, thirst, loss of muscular control, paralysis and death.


Borago officinalis L.


Uses: (Photo, more)

Cooking: One of my favorite edible flowers. Add to salads, soups, desserts... Slight cucumber like taste.  Leaves may be added to salads judiciously.

Medicine:  Leaves or leaf extraction said to be restorative to adrenal glands (may be eaten after cortisone or other steroid treatment ( Vitamin D3 steroids). Anti-inflammatory, said to be anti-depressant, may stimulate milk flow in mothers (lactagogue).

Diaphoretic, expectorant qualities.

Chemistry: Seed= allantoin, essential amino acids; plant/leaves mucilage, pyrrolizidine alkaloids, supinine, silicic acid, rosmarinic acid (2).

Side effects: Use and eat leaves in judicious, small amounts because of the pyrrolizidines. Flowers are edible and bioflavonoid rich with no side effects in moderation.

Amount: I do not use this for treatment (see side effects). As a food the flowers are safe to eat, taste like cucumbers and are beautiful on a plate. This plant self seeds and is prolific.

Buckeye, Ohio Buckeye

Aesculus glabra (Willd.)


Uses: (Photo)

Native American Medicine:  Delaware: Mutton tallow mixed with ground nuts used to treat ear infections.  Nut meal used as poultice.  This ointment also used to treat piles, rheumatism.

Powdered nut use for cough, chest congestion, asthma (antispasmodic).  Nut power is considered poisonous.

Veterinarian/Wildlife:  Pounded roots used to knock out fish in pools, ponds.  Other sources suggest crushed nuts use for same purpose.

Survival:  Old dried wood of buckeye makes excellent fire drill.



Fagopyrum esculentum L.


Food:  Try the pancakes.  Roasted grain, then boiled to make Polish kasha or Italian polenta.

Medicine:  Fresh aerial parts when in flower, then dried.   Traditionally used to prevent hardening of the arteries.  Used to treat varicose veins, and stagnant blood (venous stasis).   Flavonoids strengthen and seal capillaries, improve venous circulation and is anti-edema.  May be taken as tablets or tea.   Available over the counter.

Chemistry:  flavonoid glycosides: quercitrin, rutin.  Also fagopyrine.

Contraindications:  Phototoxicity in animals, not recorded in humans.  

Veterinarians/Wildlife:  Excellent grain and provides cover for feral animals, especially valuable to birds.  

Bugleweed, Virginia waterhorehound

Lycopus virginicus L.



Medicine:   Use fresh or dried aerial parts harvested while plant is in bloom.  Commission E approves use in treating insomnia and nervousness and Premenstrual Syndrome.   

Cherokee used chewed root for snakebite treatment in humans and animals.

CAUTION:  Because it is used to treat mild thyroid dysfunction the herb should not be used with thyroid drugs.  Use only under medical supervision to treat thyroid dysfunction 

Chemistry: Volatiles, diterpenes, caffeic acid derivatives, flavonoids.


Burdock, Gobo burdock

Arctium lappa L.


Description:  Large elephant ear like leaves.  Deep taproot.  This is the plant that deposits burrs on your dog and your trousers.  Break open the seed capsule and plant the seeds.

USES: (photo more information)

Food: Harvest roots in Fall or Spring of first years growth. Root may be twenty or more inches long. Peel root, slice diagonally and stir fry, steam. First year's leaves may be peeled, cooked and eaten. Second year flower spike may be cut in late spring and sauteed or steamed called cardone in Italy. Leaf infusion over chronic skin problems. Soak root in olive oil for topical skin treatment (soak in refrigerator for one month, slice thinly, put in oil, strain 1 month later...).

Planting tips: Plant in shade or sun. Pull burrs off dog, crush them to release seeds, spread seeds on scuffed soil in late winter. Plant thickly. Thin seedlings and spread them in May. Fall leaf stems and roots edible.  

Medicine: Root: Anti-diabetic (diabetes) internally, lightly cooked. Used to treat acne. Therapeutic for hypoglycemia when prepared correctly, don't overcook. Immune system stimulant. Helps prevent colds/flu. Perhaps helpful with chronic immune deficiencies, may be helpful with autoimmune diseases. Reported to help treat psoriasis. Warming. tonic, detoxifier. Internally for skin diseases. Diuretic. Treat eczema and psoriasis with root and drink water root cooked in. Also useful internally and externally for acne. Antibiotic. Strengthens stomach, liver, and lymphatic system. According to Japanese studies may be anti-mutagenic (anti cancer) in animal studies. Chinese use leafy second year branches in infusion to treat rheumatism, arthritis (Tierra) and measles. This medicinal tea is often sweetened with raw cane sugar. 

Tincture of seeds also used for psoriasis. Essential oil reported to encourage hair growth and improve skin condition. To remove oil puree seeds in hot olive oil and squeeze out through cheese cloth.

Root polysaccharides said to lower blood sugar, but in use probably slows release of glucose from intestine because polysaccharides require more steps in digestion before being reduced to monosaccharides for absorption. Thus the release of glucose is slow, gradual to blood from gut.

Tip: Wash root then pound or macerate them in warm water to release polysaccharides (inulin and mucilage).

CHEMISTRY: Roots contain polyphenolic compounds, caffeic acid, arctic acid and polyacetylenes (antimicrobial). Inulin. Seeds contain tannic acid, arctiin, arctigenin; Root: high in vitamin C, B vitamins and vitamin E, good potassium to sodium balance, with numerous minerals including sulfur, silica, manganese, iron...Bitter compound lappatin.(4)

Side effect: Root is edible and is eaten liberally in Oriental countries. I have eaten copious amounts of the sauteed, stir fried root. Raw root polysaccharides may give gas as they are difficult to digest. Not recommended for pregnant or lactating women...Large amounts may have a uterine stimulating effect.

Amount: I can easily eat a whole 1/4 pound root in stir fry. 2-4 ml of burdock root tincture per day is recommended by herbalists or 1-2 grams of the dried root. Personally this is a small, conservative dosage. Make tincture with 25% alcohol. Lower amount of alcohol will keep polysaccharides from precipitating. Use fresh root one to one with alcohol weight to volume.

Veterinarian/Wildlife:  Excellent seed dispersal  mechanism (may have lead to the invention of vel cro).  We have all spent time pulling them off our jackets and from the hair of our pets, dropping them on the ground, spreading them worldwide.

Burning Bush, Gas plant

Dictamnus albus


Medicine:  All parts were used as medicine.  Considered anti-microbial and a febrifuge. Root bark infusion used internally to induce menstruation, to kill worms, to treat cramps.  Root bark decoction used externally to treat scabies, eczema, impetigo. Root infusion used externally used to treat arthritis, painful joints, inflammation.  

Medieval Europeans used of the aerial parts to assist the removal of the afterbirth.  Also used to treat wounds.  Later it was used externally to treat rheumatism.

CAUTION:  Use of herb may cause photo toxicity.

Chemistry:  Coumarins, furoquinoline alkaloids, flavonoids.

Butcher's Broom

(Ruscus aculeatus)


Food: Saute young shoots.

Medicinal: Used traditionally and in modern times for atherosclerosis, varicose veins, chronic venous insufficiency, kidney stones and hemorrhoids. Phytosterols (saponins) responsible for medicinal effects. Traditionally for gout, jaundice, kidney and bladder stones.

Chemistry: Neoruscogenin and ruscognin phytosterols that decrease vascular permeability and anti-inflammatory effect. May cause small veins to restrict. Increases perspiration.

Side effect: Standard dosage as food or medicine has no side effects. However any steroidal like compound should be carefully considered if you have a history of cancer in your family.

Also, because of venous constriction avoid if you have high blood pressure, or are on blood pressure reducing drugs.

Consult your holistic health care physician.

Amount: Roots are harvested and prepared in the autumn. Spring shoots eaten like asparagus. Over the counter ointments and suppositories for hemorrhoids. Extracts coupled with flavonoids ands vitamin C used for venous insufficiency 1000mg per three times per day. Standardized extracts of ruscognins can be taken follow label instructions.


Butternuts, Black Walnut

Juglans cinerea


Food:  Best of the walnut family,  spoils easily, southwestern Michigan northern limit of the tree.  Collect butternuts from ground, throw them in water, those that sink are worth opening.  Floating nuts have had an adventurous creature in them eating the nut meat.  Native Americans crushed and ground nut meats to paste as a baby food.

Medicine: Juglone in the bark, root, seed hulls is anti cancer, anti-microbial, cathartic and anti-parasitic (vermifuge).

Native American Medicine: Bark decoction used to treat diarrhea and as a purgative.  Infusion of buds to treat mouth sores, mouth ulcers, cleanse breath.

Chemistry:  Fats, tannins, juglone.

Veterinarian/Wildlife: Food source for rodents. Short shelf life, keep refrigerated.