Thursday 29 July 2021

Book Excerpt: Secret Medicines from Your Garden (pt 2)

Here's a second excerpt from the book Secret Medicines from Your Garden by druid and herbalist Ellen Evert Hopman. You can find the first one here. The book is published by Healing Arts Press.

Bear Medicines

The Midewiwin teach that every plant and tree on the Earth has a use and for the Anishnabe Herbalism is called “The Bear Path”. To follow the Bear Path means knowing how to get to root of things; bears delve deep into the soil with their claws and pull out medicines and foods by their roots. A person on the Bear Path will work with all aspects of the person; body, mind, spirit, to get to the root of their dis-ease. There is tremendous power in bears to heal others and that power can hit like a tidal wave. The real problem exists in knowing the natural order and timings in a healing as some people must get sick, suffer and even die.

A person destined to be an Herbalist may dream of bears. Bears walk upright just like humans and indigenous peoples studied their habits to learn Herbalism. Bears are particularly fond of cherries, acorns and June berries, pointing to these plants as potent plant allies and important additions for medicinal compounds. They eat Osha Root (Ligusticum felicinum, L. porteri) before and after hibernation, indicating that herb as a strong ally for digestion and also load up on berries and acorns before their winter sleep. 

When I undertook a traditional four day no food and water fast with traditional Ojibwa-Potawatomi elder Lillian Pitawanakwat (Thunderbird Eagle Woman - Ninkii BinessMijissi Kwe of the Thunderbird Clan) we began and ended with a tea of Osha roots and we finished with a celebratory drink made of mashed berries.

Bear Medicines strengthen the adrenal cortex and add strength and bulk to the body. These plants often have oily, brown furry roots. If they are berries, they may be sedative and cooling to the body. 

In a Spirit Medicine sense, people who need Bear Medicines are large, powerful, introspective types who like to sleep and dream but once they are awakened by some urgent calling, they will act decisively. Bear teaches us how to dream into solutions, to go deep into the dark to find an answer, re-emerge with a vision, and then act powerfully.


Angelica (Angelica atropurpurea)

The root tea was used to “bring on the menses”, for gas and colic and other stomach problems, for colds flu, pneumonia and fevers, as a blood cleanser, and to calm the nerves. It was also used as a gargle for sore throat or sore mouth.

A poultice of the cooked, pounded roots was applied to swellings, painful areas and broken bones.


Fernleaf Licorice Root or Osha (Ligusticum felicinum, L. porteri)

This root was considered a panacea and in particular was used as a lung strengthening tea for coughs.

The root tea was taken for catarrh, colds, coughs, bronchial pneumonia, flu and other respiratory infections. It was also used to treat fever, diarrhea, gastrointestinal disorders, hangover, sore throats and rheumatism.

The root was chewed by Medicine Men during ceremonies.


Fernleaf Biscuitroot  (Lomatium dissectum)

The powdered root was used in burn salves and sprinkled on wounds and sores in horses and people. 

A poultice of the roots was applied to wounds, cuts, bruising, infections, sore limbs and compound fractures and placed on horse’s sores.

The root poultice or a hot tea of the root was applied as a wash to rheumatic swellings, rashes and sprains.

The root tea was applied externally as a wash to wounds, sores and dandruff, and as a wash for the sick. It was also taken internally for stomach problems and added to tonics to strengthen the weak, for colds coughs and flu, hay fever, sore throat, bronchitis, pneumonia, tuberculosis, and venereal diseases.

The root tea was used as an herbal steam for lung and nasal congestion.

The root oil was used as eye drops for “trachoma” and gonorrheal eye infections. The root sap or oil was used to salve cuts and sores.

A tea of the dried, powdered stems leaves and root (or just the dried root alone) was taken for stomach pain.

The powdered root or a root poultice was applied to an infant’s severed umbilical cord.

The raw root was chewed for sore throats.

The portion of the plant above ground was smoked for the treatment of coughs, colds, hay fever, bronchitis, asthma, influenza, pneumonia, and tuberculosis.1

The powdered root was smoked for colds and flu and burned as incense, inhaled for asthma and bronchitis and the root smoke was given to horses with distemper.

Balsam Root

Arrowleaf Balsam Root (Balsamorhiza sagittata)

The smoke of the burning root was inhaled for body aches and used to purify the sick room.

 The steam of the tea was inhaled for headache.

A poultice of the chewed root was applied to sores and blisters and a root poultice was applied to deep wounds, insect bites, swellings.

The tea of the leaf, root and stem was taken for headache, fever, colds, stomach pain, for tuberculosis and whooping cough, and for venereal diseases.

The leaf tea was used as a wash for sores and poison ivy rash.

The root tea was taken by women at the start of labor and was also taken for rheumatic pain.

The root was chewed for sore throat or mouth and toothache and to allay hunger.

The leaf poultice was applied to burns

The powdered, dried root was applied to syphilitic sores.

The root tea was rubbed into the scalp to make the hair grow and was used as an eye wash.

The seeds were eaten to stop diarrhea and dysentery.

The young shoots were eaten for insomnia.


American Spikenard (Aralia racemosa)

The root tea was taken for diabetes, tuberculosis, coughs and menstrual pain, for rheumatism, whooping cough, as a spring tonic, for sore throat and tiredness, and for stomach aches. The roots were also abortifacient.

The root tea was used externally to wash deep wounds and was applied to a woman’s head during childbirth.

The sap of the mashed roots was applied to burns, wounds and cuts, and a hot pounded root poultice was applied to sprains, boils, strained muscles and bone fractures.

A tea of the roots and berries was taken for fever, as an expectorant, for lung diseases, asthma. The berry and root tea was given to children for colic and gripe.

The plant was chewed to pass tape worms.

The tea of the root and inner bark was taken as a blood cleanser and for kidney and liver diseases, for calf and shin swellings and for prolapse of the uterus.

The roots were dried and smoked with Red Osier Dogwood (Red Willow) (Kinnickinnic) for headaches.

A tea of the root mixed with Angelica root was taken for colds and coughs.


American Licorice (Glycyrrhiza Lepidota)

The root tea was taken for sore throat, for chest coughs and pains, diarrhea, stomach ache, and for children’s fevers. Taken in larger amounts the root tea was used as a cathartic.

The root was chewed by singers, and was chewed in the sweat lodge and at the Sundance ceremony as a cooling agent. The root was also chewed and kept in the mouth for toothache.

Externally, the root tea was used as a wash for swellings.

The leaf tea was placed in the ear and a leaf poultice applied to the ear for earache. The leaf poultice was applied to horse’s sores. Leaves were put in the shoes to absorb moisture.


Sunflower (Helianthus annuus)

The flower tea was taken for chest pains and lung problems.

The root tea was used externally as a warm wash for rheumatism. The fresh or dry root was chewed by a Medicine Person before sucking venom out of a snake bite and a root poultice was applied to snake bites.

The leaf tea was taken for fever and used as a wash for horses affected by screwworms.

The crushed herb was applied to snake bites, spider bites, cuts.

The seed oil was applied to the face and body for ceremonies and the dried, powdered seed was eaten by warriors to prevent fatigue. The seeds were eaten to increase appetite.

The pith was burned as moxa on warts to remove them.

A salve of the powdered seed and root was applied to injuries. The powdered leaves were used in salves for sores and swellings.

The hardened sap was chewed by elders to prevent thirst.

Western Sunflower (Helianthus anomalus)

The plant was used externally as a spider bite medicine.

Cusick’s Sunflower (Helianthus cusickii)

The root tea was taken for heart problems, gas, and tuberculosis. 

The root poultice was applied to swellings and placed on the body for chills and fever.

The root was burned in the home after a death or a long sickness with fever and chills, and to keep away disease.

You can view Secret Medicines from Your Garden on Amazon, on the publisher website and at Ellen's online shop

Note: This book excerpt is for information purposes only, it is not medical advice.


Jane said...

We don't just need a phrasebook when we go abroad - we need a grazebook telling us what herbs are indigenous and what they do!

Badwitch said...

Jane, that's a great idea!