May 11, 2005
Here are some of the more familiar plants in Cherokee country. As always,
remember that these plants are very valuable as medicines because of
the great chemical powers they contain. At the same time, these chemicals
can be potentially dangerous if used in the wrong way. Cherokee herbalists
have great experience, and have gone through extensive training and
observation. Novice herbal practitioners are advised to seek out and
develop a close relationship with Cherokee herbalists or their elders
to learn how to use these medicines properly.
Qua lo ga (Sumac)
All parts of the common sumac have a medicinal use. Mild decoctions
from the bark can be used as a gargle for sore throats, and may be taken
for a remedy for diarrhea. A tea from the leaves and berries also reduces
fevers. Fresh bruised leaves and ripe berries are made into a poultice
which soothes poison ivy. A drink from the ripened or dried berries
makes a pleasant beverage which is a good source of vitamin C.
Big Stretch, or Nuyigala dinadanesgi utana (Wild Ginger)
The Cherokee commonly recommend a mild tea of this herb, made from
the rootstock which is a mild stimulant for the digestive system. It
can also help colic, intestinal gas, or the common upset stomach. A
strong, hot infusion of the roots can act as an expectorant in eliminating
mucus from the lungs. Fresh wild ginger may be substituted for the regular
store-bought ginger roots as a spice for cooking.
What Rabbits Eat, or Jisdu unigisdi (Wild Rose)
The ripe fruit of the Wild Rose is a rich source of Vitamin C, and
is a reliable preventative and cure for the common cold. The tea from
the hips is a mild diuretic, and stimulates the bladder and kidneys.
When the infusion of the petals is used, it is an ancient remedy for
sore throats. Cherokee healers recommend a decoction of the roots for
Squirrel Tail, or Saloli gatoga (Yarrow)
Yarrow has many uses. The best known use is to stop excess bleeding.
Freshly crushed leaves can be applied to open wounds or cuts, and the
properties of the herb will cause the blood to clot. A fresh juice of
yarrow, diluted with spring or distilled water, can held internal bleeding
such as stomach and intestinal disorders. The leaves, prepared as a
tea, is believed to stimulate intestinal functions and aid in digestion.
It also helps the flow of the kidneys, as well as the gallbladder. A
decoction made of the leaves and stems acts as an astringent, and is
a wonderful wash for all kinds of skin problems such as acne, chapped
hands, and other irritations.
Looks Like Coffee, or Kawi Iyusdi (Yellow Dock)
This plant is not only a medicinal herb, but also a food. It is much
like spinach, but believe it or not, contains MORE vitamins and minerals.
Because of the long taproot, it gathers nutrients from deep underground.
The leaves are a source of iron, and also have laxative properties.
Juices from the stems, prepared in a decoction, can be made into an
ointment with beeswax and olive oil, and used for itching, minor sores,
diaper rash, and other irritations. Cherokee herbalists prescribe a
warm wash made from the decoction of crushed roots for a disinfectant.
Juice from the root, not prepared in any certain way, is said to be
a cure for ringworm.