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Ethnobotany Of Cypress Hill Region (Part One )

Posted by Rina Veltkamp on

I spent a week exploring southern Saskatchewan. I meet some amazing people as well as some amazing healing plants. I wanted to dedicate this blog to those healing plants and there Ethnobotany uses. 


Indian Paint Brush 

Once upon a time, a Blackfoot maiden fell in love with a wounded prisoner she was attending. The maiden realized that her tribe was only nursing its captive in order to torture him later. She planned an escape of the prisoner, accompanying him for fear of the punishment for such a deed.

After some time in her lover's camp she grew homesick for a glimpse of her old camp. She finally went to the site of her old camp, hid in the nearby bushes, and overheard two young braves discussing what would happen to the maiden who betrayed them, if only they could find her.

Knowing she could never return, but nonetheless longing to return, she took a piece of bark and drew a picture of the camp upon it with her own blood, gashing her leg and painting with a stick. (3)

After drawing the picture, the maiden threw the stick away and returned to her lover's camp. Where the stick landed, a little plant grew with a bush-like end, dyed with the blood of this girl, which became the first Indian Paintbrush.

The Ojibwe used a hairwash made from Indian paintbrush to make their hair glossy and full bodied, and as a treatment for rheumatism. The high selenium content of this plant has been cited as the reason for its effectiveness for these purposes. (1)

"Navajo Burn Dressing Plant used for burns. --- Gastrointestinal Aid Infusion of crushed leaves taken for stomach troubles. --- Navajo, Ramah Blood Medicine Compound decoction of root used to 'clean out the blood' after internal injury. Burn Dressing Poultice of leaves applied to burns. Gynecological Aid Decoction of leaf taken during pregnancy to keep baby small, for easy labor.

The Chippewa Indians called the Indian Paintbrush "Grandmother's Hair" and used it for women's diseases and rheumatism (maybe because of the selenium content).

The Navajos used these plants for medicinal purposes such as a contraceptive or to decrease the menstrual cycle.


Pearly everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea)

Pearly everlasting is a native plant of the North America, and as such has a long history of use by native peoples and early settler.  An herb the offers a multitude of benefits, I am surprised it an underused herb in the home apothecary.  I often think of pearly in the early fall when the first sign of sinus congestion from a looming cold takes hold, but also again in spring when seasonal allergies leave sinuses full and drippy.  As a tea or steam, pearly everlasting helps clear airways and arrest excessive mucus discharge. It is also an appropriate herb for a wet, chesty cough with persistent throat tickle and irritation.  When a stodgy fever with slight chills persists, a hot bath or sauna infused with loads of pearly will encourage perspiration and a releasing of the achy-ness and pain associated with colds and flu.  Pearly everlasting was even used as a herbal smoke for respiratory complaints like bronchitis and pneumonia, and as a tobacco substitute.(4)

Another traditional use of Anaphalis margaritacea it to free stiff, rheumatic joints.  Applied with moist heat such as with a poultice or herbal steam, this herb has been associated with improved range of motion.  This anti-inflammatory action combined with decreased joint stiffness could be very promising for rheumatoid arthritis sufferers. (4)

I use pearly everlasting in my “grounding” smoking blend that aids in bronchial support. The smoked flowers help the respiratory system and also have relieved headaches. And according to Michael Moore, the dried leaves were used by Native Americans to flavor their smoking blends. A good combination is Coltsfoot, Mullein, Raspberry leaves, Pearly Everlasting leaves and Horehound.  It is not recommended to smoke this plant in a blend habitually, yet for medicinal purposes. (5)


Creeping Dogbane  


No edible uses are known. All parts of the plant are said to be poisonous to dogs, humans, livestock, and other mammals. The sap that emerges when you break a stem or leaf of Spreading Dogbane contains cardiac glycosides that are toxic to humans. Spreading Dogbane roots contain cymarin, a powerful cardiac stimulant.

North American natives, however, reportedly employed Spreading Dogbane to treat a wide variety of complaints.

  • The Chippewa, for instance, used a decoction of the root for heart palpitations.
  • The Iroquois took a compound infusion of the roots for stomach cramps.
  • The Potawatomi reportedly used the root as a diuretic and a decoction of green berries as a kidney medicine.

In addition, the women of some native American tribes used dogbane stem fibers (best harvested in the fall) to make fine thread, used for sewing and for making twine, nets, fabric, and bowstrings. The Bella Coola dried and pounded the stems to make twine and fishing nets. (6) 

When i saw Creeping Dogbane last week it was in bloom and supplying nectar to all the pollinators that where in the area. I saw at least a couple types of bees and at least 5 types of butterfly's all near the dogbane. I spent a good 10 mins just listening to the buzzing of all the wonderful pollinator's and just being in there joy as they buzzed around me. 


I decide to break this blog up into a few separate sections as i felt that otherwise it would read as too long and more of a time commitment. This way you can take bite size pieces and get to know each plant a bit better.    





2. Moerman, Daniel E. Native American Ethnobotany. Portland/London: Timber Press, 2012.






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