A Handbook of Native American Herbs by Alma R. Hutchens, NOOK Book (eBook) | Barnes & Noble
A Handbook of Native American Herbs

A Handbook of Native American Herbs

by Alma R. Hutchens

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This authoritative guide—based on the author's classic reference work, Indian Herbalogy of North America—is a portable illustrated companion for the professional and amateur herbalist alike. It provides detailed descriptions of 125 of the most useful medicinal plants commonly found in North America, along with directions for a range of uses,


This authoritative guide—based on the author's classic reference work, Indian Herbalogy of North America—is a portable illustrated companion for the professional and amateur herbalist alike. It provides detailed descriptions of 125 of the most useful medicinal plants commonly found in North America, along with directions for a range of uses, remedies for common ailments, and notes on the herbal traditions of other lands. Entries include staples of folk medicine such as echinacea and slippery elm as well as common kitchen herbs—such as parsley, thyme, and pepper—whose tonic and healing properties are less widely known.

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pink, bitter bloom, bitter clover.

This plant is common to most parts of the United States. There are many species
and colors; the English distinguish between them by using the red centaury in
diseases of the blood, the yellow in choleric diseases, and the white in those
of phlegm and water. Variety is not limited only to color; the centaury family
will grow in many soil conditions—moist meadows, among high grass, on the
prairies, and in damp ditch soil. It flowers from June to September and is best
gathered at this time. The flowers close at night, and the American variety is
considered preferable to the European.

Water, alcohol.

PART: The whole herb.

INFLUENCE: Tonic, febrifuge, diaphoretic.

Excellent old American remedy, bitter tonic, preventive in all periodic febrile
diseases, dyspepsia, and convalescence from fevers; it strengthens the stomach
and promotes digestion. An aid to rheumatic and all joint pains. The following
in a warm infusion is a domestic remedy for expelling worms and to restore the
menstrual secretions: of the powder, ½–1 dram; of the extract,
2–6 grains.

loose dried herb, 1 teaspoonful to 1 cup of boiling water. Although bitter,
this effective herb is a good accompaniment to all herbal teas and
preparations. For taste, combine with other herbs such as anise, cardamom,
peppermint, ginger, fennel, etc.

CLINICAL: Used as tincture of root in cases as follows: coryza, diarrhea,
inflammation of the eyes, fever, homesickness, influenza intermittents,
vanishing of sight.

EXPERIENCE: Russian centaury,
"a thousand golden leaves" and many other beautiful names. Official
medicine very often prescribes centaury alone, but also with other herbal
preparations. Folk medicine: Centaury tea and a home extract, usually prepared
with vodka, is given in cases of high blood pressure and liver and gallbladder
malfunctions. The bitter tonic is antiseptic in stomach sickness, working with
nature without destroying the necessary secretions that stimulate desirable
digestion and appetite. The parasitic tapeworm cannot maintain its circlet of
hooks and suckers, which enable it to gain livelihood in the mucous membrane of
the intestines of its host, when centaury is taken persistently.


NAMES: Chaga, birch mushroom.

North America and Canada the birch is well known for its beauty alone. Its
medical purpose is served by a mushroom, or fungus-type growth, found in the
older trees (also grows on beech and other trees). This growth is rough, dry,
porous, crusty, with deeply cut and crooked separations having the appearance
on the outside of dull charred wood. The surface is almost black in color. When
this projection is sawed off the tree it is as if the tree were having cosmetic
surgery or the removal of an out-of-control wart. The matured and most desired
chaga is 30–40 centimeters wide, 10–15 centimeters thick, and may be
4–5 feet long, weighing 4–5 pounds. There are three layers: (1) the
outside, rough with some old bark and possibly twigs, must be cleaned; (2) the
side, very close to the tree trunk, must be cut off; and (3) the middle part,
granulated and not spoiled, which is the part to use. It can be collected at
any time of the year.

keep chaga in a dry and dark place (dark covered jar) as dampness and strong
light dissipate its power.

PART: Inside granulated parts of the three layers.

(not boiling) water, alcohol, vodka.

INFLUENCE: Tonic, blood purifying, anodyne, restorative.

It is well known that the Native Americans knew all plants and how they were
best used—for food, medicine, or if they are poisonous. In Anglo-American
literature we know that treatments of many sicknesses were kept as tribal
knowledge. We know they used the properties of many fungi, but from our
research work we cannot find a definite record of chaga being identified; we
are poorly informed.

EXPERIENCE: The existence of chaga and its uses are mentioned in Russian
literature and in such sources as monographs, medical books, encyclopedias, and
popular herbal books.

medicine of European Russia and Siberia gives nearly unlimited credit to chaga,
which for generations has been thought of as magical. Chaga has a long list of
uses by persons of experience and faith in herbal folk medicine. It was used
for all stomach complaints—gastritis, stomach pain, ulcers—and for cancer,
tuberculosis of the bones, and glandular organs where operations were not
possible due to the network of blood vessels.

folk medicine may be unrestrained in its commendation of chaga, science is
reserved and cautious. From year to year scientific medical literature
carefully gives it more credence. The apparent value of this plant has
warranted commitments to further research and to laboratory and clinical tests.
Since 1955

Medical Academy of Science in Moscow has promoted chaga for clinical and
domestic medicine, encouraged it commercially, and collected it for medical
use. In an atlas of medical plants published in Moscow (Tzitzin 1963), chaga is
carefully recommended but definitely approved for administration as a tea,
extract, or
in vodka) for malignancies. It is recommended in cases where the patient cannot
undergo surgery or radiotherapy. Chaga is recognized as a very old folk
medicine for stomach gastritis and ulcers, and especially for cancer,
tuberculosis, or conditions of malignancy unfavorable to surgery.

should be understood that not all advanced forms of cancer can be controlled,
but chaga will reduce pain, give comfort, and stop or slow growths. Some early
and less-advanced cases of cancer are arrested, and spreading may be prevented.
In swelling of the lower bowel, chaga decoctions are prepared for colonics in
addition to oral medication.

is very definitely restricted to milk products and vegetables—no meat,
conserves, sausages, or strong spices (Saratov University 1932). Chaga is blood
purifying and regenerates deteriorated organs and glands;

must be given for chaga to work. Recommended treatment is for three to five
months at seven-to-ten-day intervals. Domestic use: The bark and middle
portion, which have been carefully separated and cleaned, must be crushed or
shredded, then soaked in warm water (not over 500 degrees Fahrenheit). When
preparing chaga think of it as yeast; water too hot will kill the living
fungus. For 1 part of crushed chaga pour over 5 parts of boiled (not boiling)
water, let stand covered 48 hours, strain, pour in more boiled (not boiling)
water, perhaps twice as much, then drink three cups a day thirty minutes before
each meal.

Meet the Author

Alma R. Hutchens, a close associate of the late herbalist N. G. Tretchikoff, has been a student and practitioner of herbal medicine for many years.

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