• Goldenseal
  • Black Cohosh
  • Laddy Slipper Orchid
  • Trillium

by M. Kat Anderson USDA NRCS

Figure1Figure 1. Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis). One example of the many medicinal plant species that the American Indians gave non-Indian settlers. Adapted from a 19th century painting.In Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, a television series that ran from 1993 to 1998, the Cheyenne taught a white lady doctor about various kinds of native medicinal herbs that could be used to treat human ailments in the frontier town of Colorado Springs, Colorado in the 1860s. The generosity and compassion shown by the Cheyenne made an impression on many viewers. Although the series was fictional, key elements were based on historical fact, and notable among these was the transfer of medicinal plant knowledge from Native Americans to white settlers. Not only were American Indians the first to discover the healing properties of many of the medicinal herbs native to North America that we’ve come to know so well–goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), echinacea (Echinacea spp.), blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides), yerba santa (Eriodictyon californicum), and cascara sagrada (Frangula purshiana), to name just a few–they also passed along this knowledge to European missionaries, pioneers, and settlers, who integrated it into traditional American medical care.

Pirates for the Planet

by UpS Executive Director, Susan Leopold

The “At-Risk” Tool made its published debut in 2014 culminating in years of work by many in the UpS community.1 The visionaries of the “At-Risk” tool are former UpS Board Member Kelly Kindscher of the University of Kansas and Lisa Castle, the 2014 Medicinal Plant Conservation Award recipient, of Southwestern Oklahoma State University. The format of the assessment tool was in part patterned after the Blue Oceans Group’s Seafood Mini Guides.2 Similar to plants’ susceptibility to over- harvesting, wild caught seafood is also in deep decline from over-fishing. Vulnerability of species that are wild and in demand depends on many different factors, from intrinsic life history traits to market forces. Based on literature, logic, and discussions with conservation practitioners, five main factors that influence a species’ vulnerability to overharvest were determined: life history, effect of harvest on individual plants, population size, habitat, and demand.3 These five categories are the framework for the tool, and in each section a series of questions leads to a numerical answer, and the total scores then rate a species. The higher the number, the more vulnerable the species is to over-harvesting. In figure one you can see a graph of


American Ginseng Summit

by Glynis Board, West Virginia Public Radio

Attendees of The American Ginseng SummitUnited Plant Savers was honored to host the 2014 American Ginseng Summit at our Goldenseal Botanical Sanctuary in Rutland, OH where we discussed safe-guarding wild populations of American ginseng, as well as protecting the American ginseng export industry and creating a domestic market. Below is the write up of the NPR radio coverage. You can also listen to this program with a link from our website. Ginseng annually brings millions of dollars in revenue into Appalachia. But its future as a revenue option, or even its existence at all in these parts is far from certain. Growers are struggling to conserve the plant and ensure the vitality of the industry. Those concerns, as well as new research that sheds light on the therapeutic qualities of the plant were discussed at the 2014 Ginseng Summit.A small gathering of key stakeholders in the ginseng industry gathered at the Goldenseal Botanical Sanctuary just outside the small town of Rutland, in Meigs County Ohio, to discuss important topics surrounding the medicinal root. About 35 gathered, including producers, buyers, government enforcement agents, and academics to discuss relevant topics within the ginseng industry. United


Disjunct Medicine:  A History of the (Two) Mayapple(s)

by Sasha M. White

As early as 1731 Mark Catesby described the medicinal use of American mayapple root in his Natural History of the Carolinas . Image courtesy of the Lloyd Library & Museum.When Europeans came to North America, the mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum), also called mandrake, raccoon berry or wild lemon, was one of the earliest plants to be noticed. Samuel Champlain noted Huron tribes eating the fruit in 1616, and shortly thereafter it was collected and cultivated in gardens in Europe. Linnaeus gave the plant its official scientific name, Podophyllum peltatum, in his 1753 publication Species Plantarum. A perennial herb native to moist woodland edges from southern New England south to Georgia and west to Texas, mayapple became popular not just for its beautiful flower, edible fruit, and horticultural novelty, but also for the medicinal properties of its root. Medical theory of the 17th and 18th centuries relied on balancing the “humors”, or secretions of the body, to treat disease. Purgatives, bloodletting, sweating, and vomiting were general remedies for all types of illness. The dried or roasted rhizome and roots of mayapple were used by some Native American tribes as a purgative, and the medicine was quickly adopted by early American


Florida’s Threatened Herbs

by Emily Ruff

Wild cinnamon ( Canella winterana ) flowersSome 450 miles long and kept humid by the ocean on either side, the state of Florida supports plant species from temperate to tropical, coastal to wetland to upland. Boasting a melting pot of exotic plants naturalized from far away, this region also features an impressive array of native medicinal species. The climate variations of Florida support rare habitats of tropical and subtropical plants found nowhere else in North America. For this reason, when one wanders into a bookstore and picks up an average book on herbal medicine, many of the temperate herbs featured within the pages will only survive in Florida in a controlled garden. Conversely, few of these herb books cover the vast array of tropical medicinal plants found in the Sunshine State, which weave together a rich tapestry of culture, heritage, and tradition from across the globe. Practicing bioregional herbalism in Florida is a trailblazing craft. Many temperate plants such as mullein (Verbascum thapsus), pleurisy root (Asclepias tuberosa), lobelia (Lobelia inflata), and skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) have tropical cousins with similar, if distinct, medicinal actions to their temperate counterparts. Much of our apothecary is a cobbling together of various cultures;


Seeking the Silvestre Romero in Spain

by Susan Leopold

I landed in Spain for the International Congress of Ethnobotany, and as serendipity would have it, the hotel I had booked was in a small square located in what was once the Jewish/Arabic part of Cordoba. Next to my hotel was the only remaining synagogue that was not destroyed when the Jews were forced to leave around 1200. This particular square was dedicated and named after Maimonides, a Sephardic Jewish philosopher, who was also a famous doctor and wrote several herbal treaties on Greek and Arabic medicine. He was also famous for his writings on the afterlife and resurrection. In regards to my state of consciousness, I now felt connected to the ancient scholars of regional medicinal plant knowledge that were influenced by the convergence of many cultures—Roman, Arabic, Jewish, and Christian. Among the orange trees (Citrus spp.), geraniums (Pelargonium spp.), and aromatic plants Cordoba is a labyrinth of narrow streets that are reminders of over 2000 years of cultural history reflected in the architecture, art, and archeology. Maimonides had now become my spiritual guide through this maze from which to tap into the complexity of plant alchemy and philosophy. Being of Jewish heritage on my father’s side,


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