Berberidaceae / Barberry
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Medical Uses: Medical use of this plant was widespread among Native Americans and it is still used by herbalists today. Perhaps the most common use among aboriginal Americans was to promote childbirth, hence the Cherokee and other tribes referred to it as "Papoose Root" or "Squaw Root. From one to three weeks before a woman was due to give birth she would take small doses of root tea daily. This was thought to facilitate labor and make for an easy birth and rapid recovery. Taken earlier in a pregnancy the same tea may cause a miscarriage and thus it might have been used to cause spontaneous abortions very early in pregnancy and thus used as a contraceptive. R. R. McGregor states in his book Herbal Birth Control "The Chippewas are said to have used a strong decoction for contraceptive purposes". Inversely, it is recommended by some herbal practitioners as a uterine tonic and aid to fertility. It has long been used to regulate menstruation. (Erichsen-Brown) (Hamel/Chiltoskey) (Dobelis) (Foster & Duke)
In addition to the uses already mentioned a root decoction has also been use to treat rheumatism, bronchitis seizures, and as an anti-inflammatory. The Cherokee would "hold root ooze in the mouth for toothache" and rub leaves on poison oak rash. (Hamel/Chiltoskey) (Foster & Duke)
There are definitely active alkaloids and glycosides in the plant that might be responsible for many of the effects attributed to this plant. (Foster & Duke)
Warning! The powered root can be very irritating especially to mucus membranes. The seeds, which look like
berries and may taste sweet, are said to be toxic although they have apparently been used as a coffee substitute. (Grieve)
One of the best general guides to wildflowers of the North Eastern and North Central United States. Newcomb's key is an excellent, simple method for identifying plants. Newcomb has drawings for almost every plant mentioned that are excellent aids to identifying the species. Though only the more common plants are covered this is often the first book I pick up when trying to identify a wildflower.
This is perhaps the best of many field guides covering this region. Featuring 446 excellent color photographs (located with the text) and mentioning as similar to those illustrated are another 800 or so species for a total coverage of over 1,200 species. The start of each family section includes line drawings of some of the species showing important features. The text includes the usual description, bloom season, range, habitat and additionally includes information such as medical uses and lore and how the species was named. This is the official field guide of the Tennessee Native Plant Society.
Angiosperms / Flowering Plants
Dicots / Two Seed Leaves