Maca – Officially known as Lepidium Meyenii, this plant is native to the high Andes of Peru and Bolivia. It has been harvested and used by humans for centuries, consumed as food, and for medicinal purposes. It is also known as “Peruvian Ginseng,” despite the fact that it is not a member of the Ginseng family, but because of its reputation for increasing strength, stamina, energy, libido, and sexual function. It is also said to be beneficial in treating fatigue, infertility, symptoms of menopause, and cancer.
Marshmallow Leaf/Root – Officially known as Althea Officinalis, this perennial herb is native to Europe and western Asia. Also known as Marshmallow Plant, Mallow, White Mallow, Common Marshmallow, it has a long history dating back thousands of years as an herbal remedy for cough, sore throat, mouth ulcers, and respiratory problems such as bronchitis and whooping cough. The ancient Egyptians were known to have used it in a honey-sweetened confection for sore throat. Other beneficial uses include treatment for diarrhea, indigestion, and for weight loss. External uses have shown to be effective as well for swelling, cuts, wounds, boils, eczema, and psoriasis. The flowers and young leaves can be eaten and are often added to salads or are boiled and fried.
Mayapple – Officially known as Podophyllum Peltatum, this plant native to wooded areas of eastern North America, it went by a number of other names, including American Mandrake, Ducks Foot, Ground Lemon, Hog Apple, Indian Apple, Love Apple, Racoon Berry, Umbrella Plant, and others. The ripened fruit is edible in moderate amounts, though when consumed in large amounts, the fruit is poisonous. All other parts of the plant are poisonous. The Mayapple is surrounded by folklore. It was said to have been used by witches as a poison and took on the name of Witch’s Umbrella. The English version of this plant, called Manroot (mandrake,) was believed to be alive, and its screams, when pulled from the ground, would render a man permanently insane. The edible fruit was used extensively by Native Americans, eaten raw, cooked, or made into jams, jellies, marmalades, and pies. Though other parts of the plant are toxic, Indian Healers obviously knew what they were doing, as they used the roots of the plants as a laxative to treat worms and for liver function. Externally, they used it to treat snakebite, warts, and some skin conditions. They also used it as an insecticide on their crops. Later, Mayapple was used as an ingredient in Carter’s Little Liver Pills. Because of its toxicity, this herb should only be used by professional Herbalists.
Milk-vetch – See Astragalus.
Milkweed – Formally known as Asclepias Syriaca, this herb, named for its milky juice, is also known as Common Milkweed, Common Silkweed, Cottonweed, Silkweed, Wild Cotton, Virginia-Silk, and Silky Swallowwort. Though it can be toxic if not prepared properly, Milkweed was used as a food and medicine, as well as in making cords, ropes, and coarse cloth. The young shoots, stems, flower buds, immature fruits, and roots of butterfly milkweed were boiled and eaten as a vegetable by various indigenous groups of eastern and mid-western America. The Meskwaki tribe steamed the flower buds as a food source, which was nutritious but not considered very flavorful. The Cherokee drank an infusion of common milkweed root and Virgin’s Bower (Clematis species) for backache. They also used the plant as a laxative, an antidote for dropsy, and an infusion of the root for venereal diseases. The Meskwaki and Mohawk used a decoction as a contraceptive; the Iroquois and Navajo to prevent problems after childbirth; and the Chippewa to produce postpartum milk flow. Other uses included treatment for stomach problems, female issues, chest discomfort, and externally on warts, ringworm, and bee stings. Warning: Milkweed may be toxic when taken internally, without sufficient preparation.
Mint – Known officially as Mentha, it originated in Asia and the Mediterranean region, but, today there are several varieties that are grown all over the world. Fresh or dried leaves have long been used in teas, beverages, jellies, syrups, candies, and ice creams, as well as in certain cuisines. It has also been long used to treat indigestion, respiratory problems, heartburn, colds, flu, allergies, headache, and as a mild sedative. Externally, it has been used to treat minor burns, itching, acne, and skin irritations. The Cherokee were known to have used the leaves and stems to lower high blood pressure.
Mountain Hemlock – See Native Hemlock
Mugwort – Also called St. John’s Plant, these names are common for several species of aromatic plants in the genus Artemisia. Both the leaves and roots have been used for hundreds of years to alleviate gas and bloating, as a digestive stimulant, as a uterine stimulant, to bring on delayed menstruation, for relaxation, and as a mild sedative.
Mullein – Officially known as genus Verbascum, and also known as velvet plants, this species of flowering plants are native to Europe and Asia and were first introduced to America by the Europeans. A tobacco-like plant and one of the oldest herbs, it has a long history of use as a medicine used to treat asthma and respiratory disorders. Native Americans, including the Menominee, Forest Potawatomi, Mohegan, and Penobscot, often inhaled the smoke from smoldering mullein roots and leaves to soothe asthma attacks, chest congestion, and other respiratory disorders. The roots can be made into a warm decoction for soaking swollen feet, reducing swelling in joints or other areas, and can soothe painful tissues. It is particularly useful to the mucous membranes. The Catawba Indians used a sweetened syrup from the boiled root, which they gave to their children for cough. A tea can be made from the flowers for a mild sedative. Extracts made from the plant’s flowers are used in the treatment of ear infections, and one species, called Great Mullein, is used as a herbal remedy for sore throat, cough, and lung diseases.
Native Hemlock – Officially called Tsuga, this is a type of Conifer tree in the Pine family. Unlike poison hemlock (conium), the species of Tsuga are not poisonous. Western Hemlock, technically called the west coast of North America. It was often used by area tribes as a dye for tanning hides, making baskets, and wooden items. The pitch was often applied topically as a poultice or salve for colds and to prevent sunburn. A decoction of pounded bark was also used in the treatment of hemorrhages. Another species, commonly known as Mountain Hemlock (Tsuga Mertensiana), was also used by Native Americans. The Menominee and the Forest Potawatomi used the inner bark and twigs it in a tea to relieve colds and fever. It was also used to treat flu, kidney or bladder problems, diarrhea, as a gargle for mouth and throat problems, and externally to wash sores and ulcers.
Oak – Scientifically called Quercus, these trees and shrubs have about 600 species found all over the world. Its fruit, the acorn, was a staple of many Native American cultures, and the inner bark of the tree was used for a variety of ailments. Acorns are an ideal food for those with degenerative, wasting diseases such as tuberculosis, and when it was rampant in the early 19th century, acorn porridge was often prescribed. Native Americans used the inner bark of the oak to make a bitter decoction used in the treatment of diarrhea, a gargle for sore throats, kidney and bladder problems, viruses, and menstrual bleeding. Poultices were also used for skin problems, ringworm, burns, sores, sprains, and swelling.
Oat Straw – Formally known as Avena Sativa, it is also commonly known as Groats, Herb Oats, Oatgrass, and Wild Oats.
Oats have been an elemental food source for both humans and animals since prehistoric times. It has also long been used in the treatment of a number of medical problems such as lowering cholesterol, increasing vigor and stamina, nervousness, exhaustion, insomnia, and digestive problems. More recently, it has been found to be effective in treating multiple sclerosis. ADHD, cancer, tumors, and diabetes.
Olive Oil – Obtained from the olive, a traditional tree crop of the Mediterranean Basin, Olive Oil has long been used in cooking, cosmetics, medicines, soap, and as a fuel for traditional oil lamps. Due to its high content of fatty acids and anti-oxidative substances, it has long been utilized in cooking and in traditional medicines. Olive oil, when used in food assists digestion, and prevent constipation. A spoonful has been used to relieve throat troubles. It has long been used as a moisturizer and cleanser on the skin. Today’s studies suggest that using olive oil in food, rather than other types of oils, can provide protective effects against certain malignant tumors, cancer and reduce the risk of heart disease
Osha – Formally known as Ligusticum Porteri, it is also called Porter’s Licorice Root, Osha Root, Bear Root, Colorado Cough Root. In some Native American cultures, it is called Bear Root and Bear Medicine. Of the celery family, this aromatic plant grows in the mountain woodlands throughout the Southwest. The whole plant has been used medicinally; however, the thick taproots are most highly valued. Having a wide variety of medicinal properties and being highly valued, it was commonly traded among Native Americans, so tribes far removed from the plants’ indigenous area also utilized the herb in their ceremonies and medicines. Osha roots, either fresh or dried, were in teas, tonics, and chewed for internal use and made into poultices and salves for external use. It has long been known to have warming properties that were used against cold and chills and to stimulate circulation. Salves and liniments were used for sore muscles, body aches, rheumatism, and arthritis, and because of their strong smell was used as a snake and insect repellent by the Apache and Indians and to treat insect and spider bites. Internally it was used for digestive problems, respiratory problems, headache, cold and flu systems, fever, heartburn, and sinusitis. Many tribes also used the Osha root as incense for purification and during ceremonies. The Chiricahua and Mescalero Apache use the aromatic root with chilies as a culinary spice to flavor meat.
Palo Santo – Officially known as Bursera Graveolens, Palo Santa is a tree that is native to Central and South America. Growing in dry tropical forests, it produces very fragrant resin that has hints of pine, mint, and lemon. Meaning “holy wood,” or “wood of the saints,” in Spanish, its wood, resin, and oil have been used for centuries by Indigenous people in sacred ceremonies, medicinal purposes, and to ward off evil spirits. Palo Santo tea has been used as a natural digestive aid, an anti-inflammatory, and to treat arthritis, headache, sore throat, colds, and flu. It is also said to support the immune and nervous systems which help with faster recovery from illness.
Of the citrus family, related to Frankincense, Myrrh, and Copal, it has also long been used in smudging, which can have immediate calming effects, helping with stress, anxiety, and depression. It is often utilized to clear negative energy, to purify, and have a cleansing effect on the body and mind. The holy wood also contains a high concentration of a compound called d-limonene, a compound that is thought to aid in the prevention of a variety of cancers. Burning of Palo Santo sticks is also widely used to repel mosquitos and deter ants, termites, and flies.
Partridgeberry – Officially called Mitchella Repens, it is native to America and is also known by the common names of Deerberry, One-berry, Squaw Vine, and Winter Clover. Although primarily employed in medicines, Partridgeberry had additional uses among Native American tribes, including ceremonial smoke, a love potion, and as food when the berries were eaten or used in sauces, bread, and cakes. Many Native Americans, including the Cherokee, who made a tea of the boiled leaves, that was drunk during the final weeks of pregnancy to ease childbirth. Nursing mothers applied a lotion made from the leaves to their breasts to relieve soreness. Early colonists also used the tea as an aid in childbirth and as a remedy for menstrual cramps. It has also been used to treat menstrual pains and cramps, regulate menstruation, and induce childbirth. It may also be effective as an abortifacient and should not be used by pregnant women.
Passion Flower – Officially called Passiflora, it is also commonly known as Passion Vine. Consisting of 500 species of flowering plants, it is found all over the world, but nine species are native to the USA, found from Ohio to the north, west to California, and south to the Florida Keys. One species, commonly called Maypop, has a long history of use among Native Americans that was adapted by early European colonists. The leaves and roots were used to make tea to treat insomnia, anxiety, hysteria, seizures, and epilepsy. It has also been used to treat depression, hyperactivity, tension, and muscle pain, as well as in poultices for injuries, wounds, boils, and earache. Do not take passionflower if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Pau d’arco – Scientifically known as Tabebuia Avellanedae, this herb, native to South America, has long been used to treat a wide range of conditions. Traditionally, it has been used to treat pain, arthritis, inflammation of the prostate gland, fever, dysentery, boils and ulcers, and various cancers. Today, it has been found to have active compounds that kill some bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites. It has flu.
Pennyroyal – Scientifically called Mentha Pulegium, this member of the Mint family has long been used as a culinary herb and folk remedy. It was commonly used as a cooking herb by the Greeks and Romans, and the Greeks also used it in making wine. American Pennyroyal is also known as Mock Pennyroyal, Mosquito Plant, Fleabane, Tickweed, and Stinking Balm. In colonial America, it was used to eradicate pests, including snakes. Though it is known to be toxic, American Pennyroyal was used extensively by Native Americans to treat headaches, stomach aches, itching, watery eyes, fever, and to stimulate menstrual flow. Externally, they crushed the leaves and applied them to the skin as an insect repellant. It has also been used to treat flatulence, gall ailments, gout, hepatitis, gums, tumors, and abortifacient. Pennyroyal should not be used in any way by pregnant women. Over ingestion of this herb has caused death.
Peppermint – Formally known as Mentha Piperita, it is a hybrid mint, a cross between the watermint (Mentha aquatica) and spearmint (Mentha spicata). Indigenous to Europe is now widespread throughout the world. It has a long tradition of medicinal use, with archaeological evidence placing its use at least as far back as ten thousand years ago. Most often known as a flavoring for gum toothpaste and tea, it has also been long used to soothe an upset stomach, heartburn and aid indigestion. Because it has a calming and numbing effect, it has been used to treat headaches, skin irritations, anxiety, depression, nausea, diarrhea, menstrual cramps, and flatulence. Externally, it has been used in chest rubs for the treatment of colds. Later it was found to be effective in boosting mental powers and energy, morning sickness, and irritable bowel syndrome. Do not give peppermint to an infant or small child as it has known to cause life-threatening breathing problems.
Persimmon – An edible fruit of a number of species of trees in the genus Diospyros in the ebony wood family (Ebenaceae), persimmons are eaten fresh, dried, raw, or cooked. They have also long been used in traditional Asian Medicine in teas for stopping hiccups, bed-wetting, constipation, fever, and improve circulation. They have also been found to be beneficial in preventing heart attack, stroke to reduce fluid retention and high blood pressure. In the U.S., the Catawba were known to have stripped the bark from the tree, boiled it in water, to use it as a mouth rinse for thrush and other conditions.
Pinon – Officially called Penus Edulis, this member of the Pine family is native to the U.S. found in Colorado, southern Wyoming, eastern and central Utah, northern Arizona, New Mexico, and the Guadalupe Mountains in westernmost Texas. The edible seeds and pine nuts were extensively collected by Native Americans, with some tribes referring to it as the “tree of life.” In addition to utilizing the tree for food and wood, it was often used for ceremonial purposes such as girl’s puberty rites by the Mescalero Apache and the Navajo in their Evilway ceremony. For medicinal purposes, it was used to treat colds by inhaling smoke from the needles or from burning resin. The Navajo used a poultice of buds to apply to burns, as well as using the heated resin to remove facial hair. The Zuni used the piñon for several medicinal applications, including consuming the needles or using them in an infusion to promote sweating. They also ground the resin for skin infections, cuts, and sores and as an antiseptic. They also chewed the needles to treat syphilis, after which they would drink large quantities of water, take a mile run, and upon return, would be wrapped in several blankets and made to sweat profusely. The Spanish New Mexicans treated the same disease by mixing the piñon pitch with whiskey and brown sugar.
Plantain – Scientifically called Plantago Major, it also has several other common names, including Ripple Grass, Waybread, Snakeweed, Cuckoo’s Bread, Englishman’s Foot, White Man’s Foot, and others. It was considered one of the nine sacred herbs by the ancient Saxon people and had a long history of use as an alternative medicine dating back to ancient times. Native to northern and central Asia and Europe, there are more than 200 species. Early colonists brought plantain to North America as one of their favored healing remedies, and Native Americans soon called it White Man’s Foot, as it is often found growing along well-trodden footpaths. Native Americans quickly adopted many of the traditional European uses for this beneficial herb. The leaves and seeds were used for several remedies – to draw out the poison of rattlesnake bite, soothe rheumatic pain, as a poultice to treat battle wounds, sores, insect bites, bronchitis, tuberculosis, sore throat, laryngitis, urinary infections, digestive problems, and a blood purifying tonic. The root of the herb was used to relieve toothache and the juice to relieve earache.
Pleurisy Root – Officially called Asclepias Tuberosa, this is a species of Milkweed native to eastern North America, also known by several other names, including Butterfly Weed, Canada Root, Flux Root, Swallow-Wort, Tuber Root, White Root, Wind Root, and Orange Milkweed. It has long been found to be an effective treatment for many respiratory disorders due to its ability to decrease inflammation. It has been used to relieve cough, pleurisy (lung inflammation), pneumonia, disorders of the uterus, pain, spasms, bronchitis, flu, ease breathing, and promote sweating. The Natchez tribe was known to have drunk a tea of the boiled roots as a remedy for pneumonia and to promote the expulsion of phlegm.
Poke – Formally known as Phytolacca Americana; this perennial herb is a native plant of the eastern United States. It has several other common names, including American Nightshade, Poke Weed, Inkberry, Pigeon Berry, Pocan Bush, Redweed, and others. Though parts of this plant are highly toxic to livestock and humans and are considered a major pest by farmers, some parts of the plant have long been used for food and medicine. Historically, it has been used to treat syphilis, diphtheria, cancer, asthma, intestinal worms, cramps, stomach ulcers to improve digestive, urinary, and immune systems; inflammation, as a purgative. Externally, poultices and washes were used on skin conditions, arthritis, rheumatism, abscesses, swelling, pain, sprains, and hemorrhoids. As this herb is toxic, it requires professional training for use.
Prickly Pear Cactus – Scientifically known as Opuntia Engelmanni, this plant has the distinction of being a vegetable, fruit, and flower, which has been used for both food and medicine. Common across the Southwestern United States and northern Mexico, it is also known by several common names, including Cow’s Tongue Cactus, Desert Prickly Pear, Texas Prickly Pear, and others. Native Americans used the younger pads for food, and mature pads were used as a poultice for wounds, burns, boils, to stop bleeding, swollen prostate, and as an antiseptic. Internally, teas were made to treat urinary tract infections, tuberculosis, immune system. It has also been beneficial in lowering cholesterol and preventing diet-related cardiovascular disease and adult-onset diabetes.
Psyllium Seed Husk – Also known as Ispaghula, Isabgol, or Psyllium, these husks are portions of the seeds of the plant Plantago Ovata, a native of India. A fiber-rich supplement, it has been known to relieve constipation, bowel and colon problems, diarrhea, and hemorrhoids. It also improves digestion and is thought to be beneficial in lowering blood cholesterol.
Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, and we make no medical claims nor intend to diagnose, treat, or heal medical conditions. Women who are pregnant or nursing or persons with known medical conditions should consult their physician before taking any herbal products.