In part two of our series on NC mountain herbs, we are covering Blue Cohosh, Ginseng, Solomon’s Seal, Trillium, and Yellowroot. These brief descriptions are meant as an aid only in locating the plants and being able to identify them. For any medicinal use, we urge our followers to pursue more information or consult with someone knowledgeable in this area. We would also, once again, like to express our thanks to Appalachian School of Holistic Herbalism group on Facebook for their suggestions on native herbs..they have been a remarkable resource!
To the untrained eye, such as yours truly’s, the many variations of blue cohosh were confusing, so we have opted to share 4 different pictures of this plant..mainly because of the effects the use of this plant can have on the reproductive system, and we do not want anyone to make any mistakes. We do strongly suggest you do a lot of research on this particular plant, if you intend to use it, or to consult an herbalist.
Blue cohosh, also known as squaw root or papoose root, is most noted for its’ effects on the reproductive system, and this is why we urge caution when using this herb, and cannot repeat often enough to avoid it during pregnancy. It can be very useful in relaxing menstrual cramps, and is also noted for diuretic effects, as an anti-inflammatory, and a host of other treatments. Not to be confused with black cohosh..although they share the name cohosh, they are actually two very different plants. This particular plant enjoys hillsides, and enjoys well-shaded, nutrient rich soil.
Ginseng is probably one of the most well known of our mountain herbs. Used for centuries, the medical qualities of this plant are diverse, and include boosting the immune system and even for regulating blood sugar, although often it is the Korean or Chinese varieties used for this. It is a perennial, and prefers mountain and foothill regions, with a distinct liking for slopes that face north. Under tall trees and a loamy soil are also preferred sites. Due to ginseng’s popularity, it was often over-picked, and now has its’ own harvest season, which varies state by state..please see link provided below for information for NC. It also gives directions for sowing seeds, and mentions you can NOT harvest ginseng in any state park, etc. Ginseng is highly subsceptabel to a fungus that can destroy whole plant beds, if you are trying to establish a bed for personal use. Because the treatment for handling this fungus is varied, NC Culture does suggest you do some research if you are planning to put some effort into this. For harvesting wild, it is the root you are mainly after, and it is best to wait until after the plant drops its’ red berries. Please be sure not to strip the area of plants, so some are left to mature..many sites recommend harvesting only plants that are aging out..seven years or more. However, none of the sites we visited for this post actually tell you clearly how to determine the age!
also known as Polygonatum
Before we go any further with Solomon’s Seal, we do want to note that it is on NC’s list of poisonous plants, as the berries can cause vomiting and/or diarrhea. That said, the shoots and rootstock are edible, if prepared properly. Below, we have a link that can tell you a little more.
Preferred habitat for Solomon’s Seal is richly wooded areas, and you can often find this plant being used as an ornamental in gardens. For a plant with so many uses, there was a surprising lack of quick information for this plant. We do know that it has some popularity as a facial wash, and is also noted for most skin ailments, including promoting the healing process. Other uses have been for menopause, broken bones, and even some types of diabetes, but we could not verify this with any accuracy, so once again, we strongly suggest you do more research if you would like to try working with this plant.
Sometimes called birthroot, wakerobin or even “beth root”, trillium is probably another of NC’s best known plants and is a lover of our more temperate regions. Although trillium can also be found in the piedmont, the blooming period for our mountain dwellers is spring to summer. The plant has been noted for aid with bleeding and diarrhea. Please note: some species of trillium are considered endangered. For more information on the NCNatural’s Endangered Flowers List.
Late note: Once again, the Appalachian School of Holistic Herbalism responded to our request for help with trillium Although it is a little too late for us to include all the info they so thoughtfully provided, they also suggested this link which we do think folks interested in trillium would find helpful. For more information check out Henriette’s Herbal Homepage Trillium – Bethroot.
Yellowroot is a water lover, and can often be found in damp woods near a water source. Known for its’ help with the liver, it is popular for folks suffering from from cirrhosis of the liver, as it helps increase bile and bilirubin secretion. Yellowroot tea has been found helpful in mouth and stomach ulcers. In addition, it’s noted for helping to lower blood pressure, as an astringent, and a whole host of other ailments. Since it can be toxic if overly indulged in, Yellowroot is another we would urge using caution with, until you are very familiar with the plant. We did find an additional source for information on 2bnTheWild.com’s Yellowroot page.
Yellowroot actually has “yellow” roots, and a dye produced from these roots was popular with the Native Americans.
We so hope that everyone is enjoying this, and will find the visual aspects of this post helpful when traipsing our mountains. NC Culture does ask that everyone please respect state policies on harvesting, in order to ensure the continued presence of our native plants.