Herbs for American Independence Day
A guest blog by medical herbalist, Joseph Nolan
It’s Independence Day in the States and as good a time as any to look at some remedies native to the US. The central belt of North America, currently occupied by the United States, has given us many peerless herbal remedies.
Echinacea (Echinacea angustifolia) is a comely purple-flowered member of the daisy family, native to the midwestern prairies. Known as 'rattlesnake root' by Native Americans, Echinacea is used for minor infections nowadays - colds and ‘flu mostly, but back in the day it was used for the blood poisoning and tissue death associated with rattlesnake bites. I use it for virulent, nasty, deep-rooted, or stubborn infections, often of the skin. It works well for lingering chest infections too, the kind that just won’t go away.
Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa), that mainstay of natural menopause treatment, also hails from the US. The plant is well known as a hormonal balancing agent for the change of life, but its use goes well beyond that. The herb is helpful for pain of the muscles and joints, lumbago and the womb. And, it has a calming and relaxing influence. Duncan Napier included it in his Nerve Debility Tonic (now with the updated name Skullcap Oat & Passionflower Compound) for its soothing effects on both the nerves of the pelvis - including reproductive organs and water works - and the mind.
Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum) is another American herb, a somewhat underused remedy for colds and flu, especially with body aches as a symptom. The name allegedly comes from its curative prowess concerning a particularly nasty 19th century ‘flu whose main symptom was wracking bone pains. It still works very well to reduce the severity of those unpleasant winter ailments, and I usually put it in cold and 'flu tea.
There are a great many other naturalised herbs that followed European settlers across the continent, including Plantain (Plantago lanceolata or P. major), Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica), Shepherd’s Purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris), Burdock (Arctium lappa), Valerian (Valeriana officinalis), and Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris), that were adopted by native healers and can, despite not being original features, be properly considered American remedies.
Enjoy your barbecues and fireworks despite the rain! Happy 4th!