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Prologue: And now for another change of pace (away from the virtual tour missives, yet in a way complimentary due to the people and the subject matter). Let me explain.

Many of the diaries I've posted in the Dkos tour series entail prehistoric and historic to contemporary people of the Colorado Plateau. This diary also features Native American people of the Southwest, also a variety of other cultures that expound the wellness philosophy of ethnobotany. Namely, the kind of plants and food that promote a healthier diet. Some commentators (on the diaries) have also mentioned their interest in learning more about these native people. I plan to do a few special diaries on the Ancestral Puebloans and their successors, the Puebloans, but for now I will relate something about their life medicines and healing power of common plants found throughout the Southwest. You would be surprised how everything that creates dis-ease in humans, as various illnesses, finds a corollary cure in Nature's pantry. Read with me and find out about the innate transforming power of plants and seeds as fostered by ethnobotany. The following is also from a larger work that I composed, entitled Famous Landmarks Of The Southwest (from Book II's "Supplements")

Healing Seeds, Plants And Trees: How plants (and some trees and seeds, even flowers) throughout the Southwest were cultivated and used mainly for medicines denotes the focus of this supplement. This entails both the historical and present-day usage. Historically, plants found throughout the Southwest have been used for a variety of medical reasons as perceived across cultural societies. Ethnobotany is the scientific and cultural study of the relationships that exist between people and plants. More specifically, ethnobotany is the study of plants and their practical use in these societies. For example, how plants relate to foods and medicines, for divination, cosmetics and dyeing (textiles); and their relationship with construction, literature, rituals, tools, clothing, currency and social life. All these aspects provide valuable insights to these cultures and the practical aspects of plants. Indeed, even peyote is considered sacred and beneficial by some standards, by some people endorsing ethnobotany's healing powers. What a trip, huh?

The Academics of Ethnobotany: Ethnobotanists, such as the renowned Gary Nabhan, Michael Moore (not the filmmaker), and nonprofit organizations such as Native Seed Search aim to document, describe and explain complex relationships between cultures and the use of plants. In the beginning of the 20th Century, the field of ethnobotany experienced a radical shift from the raw compilation of data to a greater methodological and conceptual reorientation. This is also the start of academic ethnobotany. The founding father of this discipline is Richard Evans Schultes. However, Native American and Mexican cultures have also been working with plants for centuries, and for a variety of purposes. Indeed, Native American medicine men and Mexican curanderos (a lay healer) have served as intermediary healers of the sick for centuries. Nevertheless, Mr. Schultes, et al., have brought ethnobotany to the forefront of science, even culture given the way it has literally restored a historical importance to Native Americans and Mexican folk medicine over the past one hundred or so years.

Today, the field of ethnobotany requires a variety of skills: botanical training for the identification and preservation of plant specimens; anthropological training to understand the cultural concepts around the perception of plants; and linguistic training, at least enough to transcribe local terms and understand native morphology, syntax and semantics.

(Continues after the fold.)


The Science of Ethnobotany: An abundance of information about the traditional uses of plants is still intact with Native American tribal people and Hispanic communities, particularly throughout Mexico. Traditionally, native healers were often reluctant to accurately share their knowledge to outsiders. However, that mindset has since changed because of the infusion of ethnobotany in a societal structure that’s more prone to sharing than hoarding safeguarded secrets held for centuries. Science has also advanced the study of ethnobotany through culture in three important ways:

Paleoethnobotany is a branch of archaeology which studies how people historically used plants.
Plant remains found in archaeological sites reveal details about the people who once lived there (primarily their diets, eating habits and nutrition).
• The work of paleo-ethnobotanists who study the remains of ancient plants (mainly seeds) preserved in archaeological contexts which can be retrieved by flotation.

Like contemporary people, prehistoric people needed to eat a balanced diet with protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals. Such historical evidence reveals how people subsisted on a diet of hunted meat, and gathered wild nuts, plants and fruits. Plants particularly high in kilocalories were sought out (sumpweed, sunflower and squash). Hickory is even higher. Pinion (or piñon) pine nuts were, perhaps, one of the most important food staples for Native Americans of the Southwest and very high in calories. Plant oils were not only incorporated into food for these people, but also used as a base for body paints and for dressing hair. Equally, plants were used for cordage and clothing, housing and fire, tools, and of course medicines. The three sisters––maize, beans, and squash––were especially important in the diet of Native Americans throughout North America. Long domesticated in Mexico, these main crops quickly spread into the Southwest and were cultivated by tribal people.

Although hundreds of plants were used for a variety of reasons, in this supplement’s overview only the most popular plants will be mentioned as prime examples. Remarkably, in some cases evidence shows how different tribes used the same plants, but with a different intent for medicinal healing. In other words, one tribe might make use of a plant as a diuretic (elevates the rate of urination and thus provides a means of forced diuresis), while another tribe might use the plant for something entirely different. Thus, there are commonalities, as medicinal intent, shared by all plants, but also different applications pertaining to the culture, or even its tradition, applies.

Common Medicinal Plants: The medicinal benefits of plants shows the variety of ways in which plants are used by cultures across the centuries. Notably, it’s in the preparation that often makes the difference latent in the plant’s remedy. One can also have a veritable natural drug store to choose from in the plant kingdom if the intrinsic value of plant medicine is known. For example, common willows reflect part of their natural merit for humans as ideal for the reduction of inflammation, headaches, and fevers to mention some cures. This is because the glycosides (salicin and populin) are excreted in the urine as salicylic acid––the ingredient of aspirin. Willows are commonly found in riparian environments (streamside), but how does one harness its medicinal value as an antidote? The answer is found by reading books written about ethnobotany. The above-mentioned Michael Moore is one such renowned author.

Kindly note: To take three common examples of how various Native American tribes might use the same plant, consider THREELEAF SUMAC (Rhus trilobata).

Sometimes called Lemonade or Squaw Bush, historically this plant with its rounded, shrubby growth appeals to many Native Americans. For example, the high tannin content of sumac branches and leaves has led Hopi weavers to use it in making their natural dye mordants, which are prime chemicals used to set the color of a dye and make it insoluble in water. Hopi, Navajo and Puebloans all mix crushed sumac bracelets and leaves with yellow ocher mineral and piñon pine pitch to produce black pigment for dying wool or baskets. Navajo also use fermented sumac berries to produce an orange-brown dye. The other name of this plant, lemonade bush, is so named because of its tart berries that tastes like this citrus fruit. When ground up and mixed with water or tea, the result creates a favored drink. Hopi people suffering from tuberculosis once used a combination of sumac roots and piñon pine parts to combat the effects of the disease, while Navajo used pulverized leaves to treat stomach aches and a variety of skin problems. A concoction of sumac berries also has been used by the tribe as a treatment for hair loss. Alas, the same plant offers a variety of possibilities for different tribes.

LUPINE (Lupinnus spp.) is another prime example, for this plant of the pea family also provides a variety of uses.

For example, both the Hopi and Navajo apply lupine medicinally for external maladies (because lupines are poisonous and do not favor an internal application). Hopis make an eyewash from the plant, while Navajos grind the peeled roots into a paste, which is then applied to bruises, boils and poison ivy blisters. The plant is also used to cure earaches and nosebleeds. The Navajo even plant the leaves with watermelon seeds to ensure a good crop! This should not be surprising given how these plants are grown for fodder and help improve a soil’s nitrogen content.

EVENING-PRIMROSE (Oenothera spp) provides a third example of multi-use among Native Americans.

Hopis smoked it as a tobacco and used another species of primrose to ward off the common cold. They also treated sore eyes with evening-primrose parts and associate its white, lovely flowers with the northeast direction which is also important to their culture. By comparison, Navajos used many different species of this plant for medicine, and several are included in their Life Medicine mix. For example, used as a liniment evening-primrose has been effective for treating boils. Roots were also ground to treat stomach aches and the flowers mashed and applied as a dusting powder on sores or as a poultice for spider bites. Mixed with flax and wild buckwheat it was a remedy for kidney disease. Some Navajos even used the plant for gynecological problems, specifically a prolapsed uterus. Fairly recently, oil of evening-primrose has been shown to be effective in treating feminine disorders. It’s thus a common natural remedy found in all modern health food stores.

How and why various Native American tribes came up with various uses of plants is indeed intriguing. William W. Dunmire and Gail D. Tierney’s “Wild Plants and Native Peoples of the Four Corners” is one of the more popular and definitive works on this subject. It’s highly suggested reading material for those who have an interest in nature’s plant, flower, and tree life forms beyond their usual purpose and feature.

Note: In some plants, the genus is followed either by “sp” or “spp,” which should never be italicized. ‘SP’ indicates the scientists are confident that some individuals (of the mentioned plant) belong to a particular genus, but are not sure to the exact species they belong. “SPP” is a curt way of saying that something applies to many species within a genus, but do not wish to say that it applies to all species within that genus. If scientists mean that something applies to all species within a genus, they use the genus name without the specific epithet (‘sp’ or ‘spp’).

                                        POPULAR MEDICINAL PLANT LIST:

ACACIA (Acacia gregii): Common names are catclaw acacia; fern acacia.

These plants are found in all deserts of the Southwest except the central and northern parts of the Great Basin. Fern acacia is mostly in the southern part of Arizona; the others typically widespread. Medicinal use (of the pods) for conjunctivitis; diarrhea and dysentery

AGAVE (Llliaceae): Common names are century plant; maguey.

Similar to yucca, agave is a more robust plant with broader, thicker spiny-edged leaves and a flowering stalk forming armlike branches. The root contains sapogenin, hecogenin, tigogenin (etc.) which translates to ordinary soap and shampoo, and chemical ingredients common to manufacturing steroids. Otherwise, the fresh leaf tincture and the dried tea mixture are useful for GI tonics, indigestion, gassy fermentation and chronic constipation. Very helpful for gas pain and colic. Consider, too, the root can be used for arthritis, although use sparingly for this purpose.

CANAIGRE (Rumex hymenosepalus): Common names are red dock, pie plant, wild rhubarb.

This plant’s thick and somewhat succulent leaves are sour to the taste. The root is high in tannins and serves mainly as an astringent (a compound that tends to shrink body tissues, usually locally after topical medicinal application). Good for sunburn protection. The leaves (fresh or dried) have probable antihistamine effects and help to modify and depress local inflammations caused by hives and chafing. Navajos use the plant for sores and inflammations on the face, mouth and neck.

CHAPARRAL (Larrea tridentata): Common names are creosote bush, greasewood and hediondilla.

These plants are ubiquitous throughout the West and Southwest. When applied to the skin as a tea, tincture or salve, this plant slows down the rate of bacterial growth and kills it with its antimicrobial activity. Therefore, an excellent first-aid and long-term dressing for skin abrasions and injuries. Internally, if one can stand the strong (dis)taste, as a tincture, chaparral has a beneficial effect upon impaired liver metabolism. It can also aid those with poor-quality blood lipids. There’s even evidence this plant inhibits  damage to the liver and lungs. Thus, it’s a useful application in the treatment of joint pain, allergies, autoimmune disease, among other ailments. Some studies also show it can inhibit and stimulate the growth of cancer cell, so one has to know what kind of cancer is being treated (either the plant will inhibit cancer cells or spawn same).

CLIFFROSE (Cowania mexicana): Common name is quinine bush.

Not only is this a highly fragrant plant (when blooming), but using the chopped and boiled stems and leaves makes a soothing, though bitter, cough suppressant. The tea also aids backaches.

CYPRESS (Cupressus arizonica): This medium-sized evergreen tree has a scent crossed between juniper and pine, with a little citrus thrown in to confuse matters.


The tincture of its fresh twigs is effective at treating all skin fungus infections, including ringworm, athlete’s foot and jock itch, among others. A tea made from the rich, green twigs will also inhibits urinary tract bacteria when they are the cause of urethritis and cystitis. The ground dried twigs are also useful and make an aromatic incense and may be layered in stored woolens to repel insects.

ECHINACEA (Echinacea angustifolia): Common names are Black Sampson, purple coneflower, Kansas snakeroot and spider flower.

Used internally as well as topically, this plant stimulates the body’s defenses across a broad range. It speeds the responses of white blood cells during their attacking and digesting of bacteria, toxic immune-complex proteins, and the larger viruses that cause influenza, herpes and vesicular stomatitis. Excellent plant for boosting immune defense mechanisms. Ergo, an excellent universal healing plant. It can even accelerate the repair of tissue damage, help heal tendons, ligaments and muscle sheaths.

ENCELIA (Encelia farinosa): Common names are incienso and brittlebush.

The tea has a strongly bitter and slightly numbing effect. It’s a popular folk remedy in northern Mexico used for arthritis generated by cold and damp weather. Some Mojave Indians use it for a mouthwash and retained gargle for tooth and gum pain. A few sips of the hot tea will efficiently induce sweating when trying to break a cold or flu fever. Of course, as the Latin name suggests, encelia is often used as incense.

EUCALYPTUS (Eucalyptus globulus): Common name is blue gum tree.

This aromatic tea induces sweating, stimulates kidney function and inhibits microorganisms in the bronchial and sinus mucosa. An excellent respiratory treatment. Also can kill yeast or bacteria in the upper stomach lining (as a cure for stomach fermentation). Topically, eucalyptus can kill most bugs on the skin and is a decent cleansing wash, both astringent and antimicrobial (when used before bandaging or dressing a wound).

HOLLYHOCK (Althea rosea).

The root or leaf tea is an old and favored treatment for sore throats, stomach or duodenal ulcers, intestinal tract infections and vomiting and diarrhea, kidney and urinary tract infections; also as a douche for vaginal inflammations.

• JOJOBA (Simmondia chinensis): Common names are coffeeberry and goat nut.

The leaves are good for chronic mucous-membrane inflammation, ranging from chronic colitis, vaginitis, and hemorrhoids to stomach and esophageal ulcers. In part of Mexico jojoba is used for asthma and emphysema (albeit used mainly for aiding the injured pulmonary membranes than addressing any underlying causes). For sore throats or tonsillitis this is the choice tonic.

JUNIPER (Juniperus monosperma): Common names are cedar and sabina.

Primarily, these small trees or shrub-like plants are used as an urinary tract herb, and most often used for cystitis and urethritis. However, juniper should not be used when there’s a kidney infection or chronic kidney weakness. Of course, the juniper berries are a necessity in certain marinades (wild game, like venison) and in cooking any wild-tasting meat. Equally, the leaves make a good garnish for fish and wild fowl.

MANZANITA (Arctotaphylos): Common names are madrono borracho and pinguica.

Helps break down into various quinones (a class of organic compounds that are formally derived from aromatic compounds) in the urine by treating UTI or urinary-tract infections, also bladder gravel and the irritations that follow catheterization. Manzanita is for short-term use only. Internally, the tannins in the plant can irritate the stomach lining, also liver.

MESQUITE (Prosopis julifera): Common names are honey mesquite, screwbean and tornillo.

The tea of the powered plant is strongly astringent and somewhat antimicrobial. It can inhibit diarrhea and other GI track inflammations, from dyspepsia and ulcers to colitis and hemorrhoids. Externally, the tea is a cleansing wash for most any broken-skin injuries. The pods, if made as an eyewash, help conjunctivitis.

MILK THISTLE (Silybum marianum): Common names are variegated and St. Mary’s thistle.

This plant (in the form of silymarin complex) is an ubiquitous curing agent––clinically, experimentally, pharmaceutically and over the counter (OTC), all for self-medication purposes. Its present role is an accepted liver protectant and immunologic support. It also can be used for hemorrhagic blood disorders resulting from liver and spleen disease, as well as its beneficial effects on liver congestion. Generally, milk thistle combines well with echinacea, yerba mansa and cypress in treating overt infections.

MORMAN TEA (Ephedra spp). Common names are Navajo tea, squaw tea, cowboy tea, desert tea, American ephedra, joint fir and whorehouse tea.

This plant contains leonurine, an alkaloid with mild vasodilating effects. The herb itself is useful in smooth muscle, parasympathetic cramps. It’s frequently employed in menstrual camps associated with delayed menstruation caused by stress or illness. As a tea, it has been used by a variety of people (cultures) for a variety of reasons. It’s also a very common plant. Since this plant is from the ephedra family, it’s a popular treatment for asthma and hay fever, as well as for the common cold. At least this is what high-yield ephedra plants offer, though so-called Mormon Tea, the plant, is actually a low-yield variety.

MULLEIN (Verbascum thapsus): Common names are velvet plant, blanket leaf, candlewick, and gordolobo.

This plant is an herb commonly used for the lung and throat and can be consumed in any rational quality needed. Essentially, it’s free of toxicity. It is a mild sedative to the lungs and is especially useful in the initial stages of an infection when there’s a mild fever, a raspy sensation in the throat or a dry feeling in the chest. The chopped leaves have also been smoked for centuries and used to relax spasmodic coughing in chest infections and asthma.

PINON (Pinus edulus): There are many varieties of this common pine tree.

It’s generally associated with the so-called pygmy forest (because of the usual stunted growth) and is a common neighbor of the juniper tree. Its bumper crop of delectable pine nuts occurs anywhere from four to seven years. Pine needles make a pleasant tea mainly for the taste. They have a mild diuretic and expectorant function as well.  The inner bark boiled slowly for tea and sweetened with honey is still stronger as an expectorant, useful after the feverish, infectious stage of a chest cold has passed. Pine pitch is the most specific of all. It’s chewed and swallowed and is shortly afterward followed by strong, fruitful expectoration and a general softening of the bronchial mucus. The pitch also has some value as a lower urinary tract disinfectant.

PRICKLY PEAR (Opuntia phaeacantha): Common names are beavertail cactus, nopal; and tuna. Filleted pads are effective drawing poultices.

The gel in the cactus is strongly hydrophilic and hypertonic. Some of the fluid exudates that build up in the injury are absorbed osmotically through the skin and into the cactus pad itself, while the gel softens in the skin, decreases the tension against the injury, even alleviates pain. Smaller, skinned sections of the pad may be held between the gum and cheek to diminish the pain and inflammation from gum infections and mouth sores. In Mexico, the juice of the cactus is widely used as an anti-inflammatory diuretic. The juice also helps soothe irritated urethral tissue (and therefore great as an antidote for ‘honeymoon cystitis’). There’s even some indication this cactus works against diabetes.

SAGE (Salvia): Common names are all the typical colors of sage plants––purple, scarlet, red, crimson, white).

This ubiquitous plant decreases excess skin secretions when taken internally. It also acts as a reliable astringent for gargling and washing externally, and for clear antimicrobial effects. The classic use is for helping to wean infants from breastfeeding. Other purposes are obvious: cooking and smudging.

SAGEBRUSH (Artemisia tridentata): Common names are big sagebrush and chamiso.

The powered leaves are an old Native American remedy for diaper rash and moist-area chafing. The entire plant is strongly antimicrobial and has a trusted history of usage as a first air, disinfectant and cleansing wash. Sagebrush aromatics are also antimicrobial. Some people, perhaps most people, use the smoke of burning leaves or the steam rising from moist sagebrush on coals to clear the air of pestilence, even spirits of the dead. This plant is the tried and true sauna and sweat lodge plant for ritual and literal purification. Other uses are obvious: preserving foods and protection from bugs and rodent attack.

YUCCA (Yucca spp.): Common names are amole, Spanish bayonet, Joshua tree, datil and Spanish dagger.

Useful in the treatment of joint inflammations and typical arthritis disorders. The tea also has some value for urethra or prostate inflammation. Can also be added to shampoo or used by itself for washing dry hair.

Consider how the following plants also added to the replete medicinal store of plants growing in the wild:

agrimony, alfalfa, alum root, Amaranth, amole lily, Apache plume, arnica, arroweed, asparagus, baneberry, betony, birch, broomrape, burdock, California poppy, catnip, chicory, coneflower, corydalis, cow parsnip, dandelion, elderberry, evening primrose, figwort, fremontia, gentian, hop tree, horehound, jimson weed (a/k/a sacred datura), larkspur, lobelia, maidenhair fern, mallow, marsh marigold, mistletoe, mountain mahogany, nettle, oak, Oregon grape root, pennyroyal, penstemon, peony, pipsissewa, poplar, rabbitbrush, raspberry, red clover, spearmint, storksbill, sweet clover, toadflax, uva ursi, vervain, yarrow and yerba

All these mentionable plants account for some of the even longer list often used and studied in ethnobotany, and for a variety of purposes. Medicinal use, however, is one of the most popular utilities of plants, even select flowers that swell the list by hundreds more.

As previously mentioned, willows, particularly the COYOTE WILLOW (Salix exigua) variety, was one of the most functional and ubiquitous plants found along streams.

It was widely used medicinally as tea, mashed roots, or powdered bark to treat all sorts of ailments from toothaches and dysentery to dandruff. But its main compound, salicin (aspirin to most people) is more than likely the most common reason for its abundant use long before pharmaceutical companies made and marketed a variety of aspirin-like products intended for a wider use.

I'm thinking some of you, when passing a plant or a tree, may begin to think beyond the appearance and aesthetic value, indeed, if the plant is comely. Think, instead, how nature provides its own free outdoor market, only consisting of plants or trees, can be used for a variety of purposes. The trick is knowing how the life form can be used, but also the formulas that work best (boiling, eating raw, applied to the skin, as powers, and so on).

The next time you flip out over the price of pharmaceutical products, whether over-the-counter meds or prescription drugs, think about something Nature already provides for free. You just have to know where to look for it or make a connection with someone who knows how to cure ailments using natural products. Of course, you can also help yourself and wellness by adhering to a healthy diet and exercise. This way you can be assured of a better quality of life and a body-mind field that stays healthier.

If you are interested in learning more about this fascinating subject, here's a couple places to begin looking. . .

And here's a book and a source I highly recommend reading; also written by one of the top and most famous researchers in ethnobotany:


As always, thoughtful commentary is welcomed.


P. S. Believe it or not, this powerful substance was once sold to children and adults alike. My, my, how times and tastes have changed, huh?

Originally posted to richholtzin on Wed Jan 30, 2013 at 08:08 AM PST.

Also republished by Backyard Science, Baja Arizona Kossacks, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  republished to Backyard Science (12+ / 0-)

    as always dude - there is a lot here to study....

    Try again. Fail again. Fail better.

    by PHScott on Wed Jan 30, 2013 at 08:16:26 AM PST

  •  just heading out the door when this popped up so (5+ / 0-)

    will have to read it later but looks very interesting.

    Just give me some truth. John Lennon--- OWS------Too Big To Fail

    by burnt out on Wed Jan 30, 2013 at 08:22:34 AM PST

  •  This was a nice way to spend my morning. Thanks. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    broths, Mary Mike, ScienceMom

    I love nature, science and my dogs.

    by Polly Syllabic on Wed Jan 30, 2013 at 09:17:48 AM PST

  •  This is special, it is almost a book (4+ / 0-)

    thank you, I'm hot listing.

    ❧To thine ownself be true

    by Agathena on Wed Jan 30, 2013 at 09:25:15 AM PST

    •  matter of fact. . . (3+ / 0-)

      Agathena, this diary is extrapolated from one of my much larger (read "gabby" or "prolix") works called "Famous Landmarks Of The American Southwest." I decided some of this material might be good eating, as it were, for the DKos community, and so far this is turning out to be case. Thanks for the insightful comment!

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Wed Jan 30, 2013 at 09:50:12 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Another great diary. (6+ / 0-)

    I actually have a few of the plants on the list growing in my Chicagoland garden. I'm hot listing this for future reference.

    Thanks Rich.

    I am a work in progress. Still.

    by broths on Wed Jan 30, 2013 at 09:56:09 AM PST

    •  always can count on you . . . (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Polly Syllabic, broths

      broths, for your wonderful support. And I thank you very much for same. I love this subject matter and wasn't sure how the DKos community would take to it, but apparently people are. how awesome. Wellness beats illness any old day.

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Wed Jan 30, 2013 at 10:44:02 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for the link to Native Seeds, but I'm (4+ / 0-)

    suprised you didn't kick in the photo for 'glass gem corn', incredible corn there.

    •  thanks. . . (4+ / 0-)

      and I know I put that subject matter in the larger work (from which this downsized diary is based), Dr. Erich . . . but I can probably work up a supplemental diary if you think that's called for. Glass gem corn, indeed. And it's good to know a fellow ethnobotanist supporter. Thanks for posting your comment (and reminder).

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Wed Jan 30, 2013 at 10:42:28 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I don't know that I'd call myself (3+ / 0-)

        an ethnobotanist supporter, just a beginning gardener who likes using heirloom varieties when possible.  I put myself on the glass gem waiting list.  This year's crops will include Trail of Tears beans and blue jade corn.  Great diary :)

        Since you seem to be a good source of info, can you possibly point me to good crops for small gardens for areas like the central sections of South Dakota? (Dewey/Ziebach counties)  I was just starting to google around for extension agencies and the like.

        •  thanks for another comment. . . (4+ / 0-)

          and how about getting in touch with me on my profile's email and we can certainly come up with some ideas for you and good crops and small gardens (ideas). What source are you using, by the way, for tracking down items like the Trail of Tears or blue jade corn??? I have a source in Tucson, where I used to live, and I may be able to get back in touch with Gary Nabhan, who founded, I think, Native Seeds. (Of course, I used to date his ex wife, who lives in Prescott, and I'm not sure the guy sees me as a threat or an ally. HA!) Anyway, you'd have to be a supporter of this science given what you already know and do. So there! Catch you on the email and we can go fro there, good sir.

          Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

          by richholtzin on Wed Jan 30, 2013 at 11:25:13 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  eucalyptus is australasian, and a recent arrival (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wheeldog, broths, Polly Syllabic, jbob

    You didn't mention ephedrine in the ephedra. I ate mescaline near San Luis Potosi, hace muchos anos. Marvillosa!

    Those who quote Santayana are condemned to repeat him. Me

    by Mark B on Wed Jan 30, 2013 at 12:30:09 PM PST

    •  thanks for posting, (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      marsanges, broths, Polly Syllabic

      Mark B. . .and, yes, this plant (eucalyptus hailing from Australia and parts of Asia) is a recent arrival, a transplant species here in North America. Joint Fir (a/k/a Mormon or Navajo tea) also has a hit of ephedra, but the Asian variety more so. Still, the 'tea' makes a decent cough remedy because of the trace of ephedrine. Eucalyptus, of course, is much better. And it's here in quite a major amount, so who needs to go to Wal-Greene's and the like when feeling a bit poorly? As for mescaline. . .well, I leave that stuff to the shamans and the likes, or even yourself. I can't handle it. What about so-called "sacred datura" (jimsonweed)? Ever try that stuff? Well, try not to. Thornapple, it's other common name, will kill you deader than a rock. Those seeds are that lethal. Of course, thepsychotropic advantages (for shamans, mind you) comes from the leaves; not the seeds. Just passing on some good info because you did the same. Thanks for posting your comments.

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Wed Jan 30, 2013 at 01:04:28 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  too late (0+ / 0-)

        Thanks. I did try the leaves when I was about 20 (I'm 63).
        It was very unpleasant. Hyoscamine, scopalamine, and others. What's in eucalyptus that's good for cough? It contains syringealdehyde (I'm a chemist, with some mad-chem) which is a mescaline precursor.
        Mescaline, btw, is a very interesting drug. Euphoric, colorful, insightful.

        Those who quote Santayana are condemned to repeat him. Me

        by Mark B on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 09:27:17 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Re: Chaparral (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    broths, Polly Syllabic

    You noted one of its common names is greasewood and it's used internally.

    The greasewood here in southern Idaho -- Sarcobatus vermiculatus -- is highly toxic to people and animals except for a very short period of time in the spring when the first green shoots appear.

    There's a about a one- or two-week period when those green ends can be eaten but after that they develop high concentrations of oxalic acid--enough to kill people and cows.

    The wood of this variety, being long and generally straight, was useful for tools, however, especially atlatls, darts, and arrows.      

    When atlatls are outlawed, only outlaws will have atlatls.

    by wheeldog on Wed Jan 30, 2013 at 12:50:09 PM PST

    •  Understood. . . (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      broths, Polly Syllabic

      and thanks for posting this notice. Greesewood, as a common name, I prefer staying away from, which is why I try and also include the genus next to the common name of the plant. Chaparral in the desert Southwest, and more notably, Larrea tridentata, is not a dangerous plant, mainly because nothing essentially eats it. There is one life form, sort of like a mite, that has adapted to its poison, and is therefore the only species that can munch on the stuff and not keel over. So, your point is well taken about Greasewood ( Sarcobatus) wheeldog, which is a genus of one or two species of flowering plants. I think up there where you live and have fun the plant is in the family Chenopodiaceae, but can also be placed in the family Sarcobataceae. What about Adenostoma fasciculatum. . .do you folks happen to have that variety in your neck of the woods?

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Wed Jan 30, 2013 at 12:59:34 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm in the Boise area, (3+ / 0-)

        southwest Idaho.

        Don't believe we have the Adenostoma variety here.

        I work (seasonally--April through October) as an Interpretive Specialist in a archaeological/historic park in the Snake River canyon.

        One of the projects I started last fall was installation of a demonstration garden. We put in a drip irrigation system and some native plant starts. The idea is to get the plants going, then have informational brochures identifying them and what they were used, medicine, tools, textiles, etc.

        Hope to get more plants put in when I return this spring.

        Biggest problem is keeping the rabbits from eating them down to the roots.      

        We have tons and tons of the Sarcobatus greasewood, couple varieties of sagebrush, and rabbitbrush, along with other natives.

        When atlatls are outlawed, only outlaws will have atlatls.

        by wheeldog on Wed Jan 30, 2013 at 01:13:27 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  an excellent read on the subject (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    broths, Polly Syllabic

    of ethnobotany is "One River" by Wade Davis.

    A student of Richard Evans Schultes who went on his own field trips to the Amazon, tracing many of the same steps as he did.

    My sister got this book for me (knowing I would like it) when it was required reading in one of her classes at college a few years ago.  

    Definitely a page turner, if you like this subject.

    Btw, a most excellent diary!  Keep them coming, this was excellent!

    Obama saw this a**hole coming a mile away.

    by MusicFarmer on Wed Jan 30, 2013 at 01:12:42 PM PST

    •  thank you for the tip, MusicFarmer. . . (4+ / 0-)

      the book you refer to. . .usually Amazon comes through for me (inexpensive used books, since I am sometimes too poor to even pay attention) Ah well. . .what's one more small token of money to get one more great book and so I thank you for recommending it. Can you possibly write up a diary and let us know what you think of the book??? And thanks for being part of my growing and receptive audience. You folks are sine qua non.

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Wed Jan 30, 2013 at 02:17:20 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I can't believe this diary (3+ / 0-)

    is from the same guy who thought people wouldn't be interested in non-political essays. I'm sure glad I decided to follow you. I echo the comment that this is like a book. Good reading. And I tend to like Ojibwa's diaries also.

    Tell me a story of deep delight. - Robert Penn Warren

    by bisleybum on Wed Jan 30, 2013 at 01:24:25 PM PST

    •  WOW! (4+ / 0-)

      here goes the blush again. My own. Actually, I was intimidated by this site's excellent political pundits. I just didn't know or think the community might have other interests in reading matter, though now it's obvious I was foolish thinking this. And it's good DKos neighbors like you, bisleybum, that keeps me preparing these diaries. . .and on a variety of subject matter (if you folks don't mind). I mean, in addition to the virtual armchair tours of national parks and ruins and such. And, yes, I do keep track of Ojibwa's diaries. . .here is someone who really knows subject matter that ends up in a diary form.

      Saturday, by the way, I will post a Geology 101 fun-reading diary, and on Sunday I'm taking all of you to Zion National Park. Well, by way of another virtual tour. Just (also) putting the finishing touches on Desert Ecology. I think it will be a good offering for the community and I hope it's well received. Thank you, again, for such a lovely compliment. Truly. Really.

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Wed Jan 30, 2013 at 02:15:11 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  There are actually a lot of people who publish (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        broths, Polly Syllabic, jbob

        non-political diaries.  Foodies, gardeners, quilters, cat fanciers, you name it.  I've got a couple of geology degrees myself, but I've not really published anything once I left the degree programs.  I wandered off into other fields, just happy to have learned what I did about how the earth works along the way.

        •  Another geologist. . . (3+ / 0-)

          in the fold, is it? Well, "Dr," I'm hoping you're one of those who made the big bucks, shale oil geology and all that, which means I get to play and teach the usual stuff of monoclines, tectonic plates, geologic ages, rock types, and so on. . .speaking of which this Saturday there will be a Geology 101 light hearted overview of the subject, if you might have forgotten everything I ever knew. . .and on Sunday there'll be another tour, this time to that peerless Utah and Mormon country chasm, Zion. Anyway, I'll answer the email that you sent a bit later on (I think that was you. . .although I am meeting with a lot of erudite minds over this recent diary on ethnobotany, so I'm kind of coming and going at the same time and I sure like it. I have about 8 to 10 books I've never published, just messing about too much in the outdoors to do it, except at this time of my life, so it's about time I get something else published. Meanwhile, I really enjoy editing these diary-missives for you and others in the community, leaving out the research and academics, for the most part, and just getting to the nitty gritty. In short, a more or less erudite lay person's audience with the occasional professional, like yourself, mixed in.

          Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

          by richholtzin on Wed Jan 30, 2013 at 03:27:04 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Nope, I was the itsy bitsy kind. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Polly Syllabic

            I did x-ray diffraction, what few publications I've got are in journals with 'Mineralogy' in the title.  And all of my private sector work was spent on databases and websites for e-commerce, nary a rock in sight.

            I did always say, though, if I hit the lottery, I wanted my own atomic force microscope, darned neat toys, and dirt cheap as far as lab toys go.

          •  Don't be too eager to leave out the techie stuff (0+ / 0-)

            The Kossack Air Force posts diaries about vintage planes that often include cylinder compression ratios and bore measurements and stuff. I may not understand it, but I love the fact that there are kossacks who do!

            Tell me a story of deep delight. - Robert Penn Warren

            by bisleybum on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 06:50:00 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  This is beautiful. Thank you. I have a couple (3+ / 0-)

    of these and I'm going to be watching for more--Some I formerly wouldn't have tried will likely be more comfortable in SE michigan soon.

    I'll look for more of your work.   :)

    Nothing in the world is more dangerous than a sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity. Martin Luther King, Jr.

    by maybeeso in michigan on Wed Jan 30, 2013 at 02:26:05 PM PST

    •  maybeeso, there in Michigan, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Polly Syllabic

      thank you for posting your lovely commentary; I should also say, hopeful, give the import of the drift. I am happy to be in touch with you and so many others in the DKos community, and now with an entirely new subject at hand. . .ethnobotany. I'm usually rigging up special armchair (virtual) tours for folks out there, but now and again I try something entirely new and so there is a receptive audience in waiting. How wonderful! Thanks to you and all of you. There'll be more different topics to come, including more tours to special national parks and archeological ruins throughout the Colorado Plateau.

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Wed Jan 30, 2013 at 03:17:00 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  a treasure of a diary .. gratitude .. more please (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Polly Syllabic, DanC

    Humanity is one family ... with one heart.

    by abarefootboy on Wed Jan 30, 2013 at 03:15:31 PM PST

    •  my thanks. . . (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Polly Syllabic, abarefootboy

      to you, abarefootboy, and I am jazzed you think this diary or any others may fit well into the 'treasure' class. Wow! That's saying something. And not to worry, as long as the community is receptive to these diaries, and so far this appears to be the case, there will be more to follow. This Saturday, for instance, will be a light-hearted and fun Geology 101 overview, and on Sunday we're all going to Zion National Park on my dime. Well, at least another armchair tour to a very spectacular place in Utah. Hope to see you on that tour and others in the future. Thanks, again, for posting a commentary.

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Wed Jan 30, 2013 at 03:21:01 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Fabulous diary!!!! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Polly Syllabic

    thank you for sharing.  Took a while to read, but was well worth it.

    All the suffering of this world arises from a wrong attitude.The world is neither good or bad. It is only the relation to our ego that makes it seem the one or the other - Lama Anagorika Govinda

    by kishik on Wed Jan 30, 2013 at 04:09:23 PM PST

  •  Hotlisted (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Polly Syllabic

    great I will read a few times.  Looking forward to more like this !

    •  thank you, ScienceMom. . . (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Polly Syllabic, ScienceMom

      for the comment and the compliment. Matter of fact, the subject takes most of us, including me, of course, to read and reread given all the depth of information. This Saturday, now that I think of it, will be a lighthearted Geology 101 diary, followed the next day by another tour of a national park, this time featuring Zion. The following week (sometime) I will post a diary on desert ecology. Lots of science stuff in that topic, as well. So, thanks for being on board and I hope you'll be pleased with future postings, as well as those already submitted and listed in my profile.

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Wed Jan 30, 2013 at 05:04:38 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  now that I have (0+ / 0-)

        discovered your writting I will spend the weekend reading all of your past diaries.  Wonderful stuff !!

        •  uh-oh. . . (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          you best have someone prepare all your meals and beverages because there's a lot of reading in them thar hills (I mean, diaries). But I think it's the kind of reading material that is interesting and you may even enjoy some or most of it. Just think: I have the Geology 101 to post on Saturday, then Zion National Park the following day. Hope you can squeeze that in, too, ScienceMom. Glad to have your opinions, too, when you get around to sending same.

          Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

          by richholtzin on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 11:43:01 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Wonderful photographs (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Polly Syllabic

    of plants and very interesting.  Thank you.

    •  thank you, JayDean. . . (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Polly Syllabic

      and the pics compliment the text to a point people may not know what schumac or other wellness oriented plants look like, but the words make sense and the healing power in this science is, I can assure you, extraordinary. Thank you for posting your comment.

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Wed Jan 30, 2013 at 06:20:54 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Wow, Rich. You are amazing. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Polly Syllabic, jbob

    The pictures you choose for your diaries are always awesome. I know how much work you put into just the pictures alone. On top of all of that, you are an excellent writer. This is one lucky community, and the best part, they realize it! Daily Kos rocks!

    Thanks for this wonderful learning experience. I will save it for future reference.

    Reuse and commonality are the keys to a robust and profitable space program.

    by The NM STAR Group on Wed Jan 30, 2013 at 06:41:56 PM PST

  •  fascinating. (0+ / 0-)

    Thank you.

    I discover myself on the verge of a usual mistake. ― Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

    by dannyboy1 on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 04:49:15 AM PST

  •  Great diary about a fascinating subject, Rich. (0+ / 0-)

    and a starting point for further exploration.

    Is the photo for Manzanita in error?  Looks like a capsicum.

    Chili peppers are of great importance in Native American medicine, and capsaicin is used in modern medicine—mainly in topical medications—as a circulatory stimulant and analgesic. In more recent times, an aerosol extract of capsaicin, usually known as capsicum or pepper spray, has become widely used by police forces as a non-lethal means of incapacitating a person, and in a more widely dispersed form for riot control, or by individuals for personal defence.
  •  J. L. Hudson, Seedsman (0+ / 0-)

    I love this exchange from La Honda, CA, as a responsible source of seeds for many ethnobotanical and heirloom plant species and varieties.

    Their printed catalog is an absolute gem.


    •  Thanks. . . (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      and I'm not sure my previous post got through, but I thank you for this recommendation and have looked at their web site. They are indeed a very fine choice and something to add to the growing information I have on this fascinating subject, joegee. They're now on my 'good' list (as opposed to those other kind of lists). Glad you posted this recommendation.

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 05:17:28 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thank YOU for the wonderful original article. (0+ / 0-)

        And happy researching! :)

        •  and you are most welcomed. . . (0+ / 0-)

          but I think the originality goes to this wellness-oriented and ancient means of learning what's better for the body, both nutrition and medicinal use. I am also very pleased this previously tentative diary's theme (for me, tentative) turned out so well. I mean, the gratifying remarks that I have received from you and others in this very cool DKos community. Again, thank you for posting your comments, joegee.

          Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

          by richholtzin on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 05:19:40 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for writing about Southwest herbs (0+ / 0-)

     Excellent diary, Rich. Here are 2 others for you.
       I have been a big fan of Osha Root for over 25 years to cure everything from colds and flu to pneumonia.  Do you know it?  Folks need to be aware of it in these days of antibiotic resistant ailments. A spoonful or two per day of the ground up root at the first sign of dry throat or unexpected tiredness can blow out the germs like magic.  
      Yerba Santa is another favorite to assist expectoration by loosening up and lubricating the bronchia to clean out the lungs.  It's especially good for smokers of all stripes.

      Cap'n Davie  

    •  Thanks. . .Cap'n Davie. . . (0+ / 0-)

      and, yes, I do know of this wonderful and magical herb. I hope others notice what you recommend, as well. I believe it's part of Ensure Herbal (by Zand Corp.) mixed concoctions (along with the primary goldenseal and echinacea. . .which is my top potent herb for staving off illness (which my wellness stays intact and therefore no illness). Yerba Santa I also know. You apparently know a lot about this subject. So I am wondering if you might care to write a diary given what you know, and you could always say it's a sort of enhancement on what my diary generalized (because that was the primary purpose in composing this diary for the DKos community. I am tempted, though, to write something more specialized, and this time geared to select medicinal approaches of herbs (plants, seeds, flowers, trees) used by, say, the Hopi and Navajo, and show how each tribe uses such and such for treatment and include the steps. But, again, you may have better ideas in composing something similar, better. IN any event, I am glad you got in touch with me and I will add you to my list that I follow and keep an eye out for more information from you. Feel free to contact me on my profile email if that's more comfortable. Thanks, again, for posting your informative comment, Cap'n Davie.  

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 07:27:32 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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