Central Oregon Medicinal Herbs

Delea ornata, Blue Mountain prairie clover

Delea ornata, Blue Mountain prairie clover

          Every summer I go on search for locally available medicinal herbs.  Recently I can across several that have historical usage by Native Americans.  Dalea ornata is probably the species of prairie clover that I came across.  Although this particular species does not have documented historical use, other prairie clover species have been used by several Native Indian tribes including Chippewa, Meskwaki, Navajo, Pawnee, and Montana.  Prairie clover ranges from white to purple, yet all have similar growth traits, so I would venture to say that medicinal values are somewhat similar.  According to references in  Native American Medicinal Plants

Western Medicinal Plants and Herbs the roots were chewed to alleviate pain, tea was made from the roots for abdominal pain and toothache.  The roots were made into a tea for snakebite.  Plant was made into poultice and used for wounds.  The plant also falls into the category of “life medicine” and was used as a tonic. Infusion of the root was used for measles, and the flowers were used as an antidiarrheal.

Sphaeralcea munroana, Orange globe mallow

Sphaeralcea munroana, Orange globe mallow

Another beautiful plant that is found in dry rocky soils.  It is similar to other species including Sphaeralcea angustifolia.  The plant contains abundant mucilage which is similar to other mallow species.  I accidentally broke off a branch and within minutes, it started weeping a thick slimy substance.  I am always excited to find this type of chemical constituent, in that it is often a good addition to cough syrups.  In this case the root was smashed and used as a poultice for sores, wounds, snakebite.  Wilted leaves were used externally for arthritic pain.  Leaf tea was used as an eyewash, and for many of the uses that other mallows have including coughs, upset stomach, diarrhea, and constipation.  Root tea was taken to treat broken bones, and as a prevention for pregnancy (I don’t think I would count on it for that).

Helianthus cusickii

Helianthus cusickii

Helianthus cusickii, or Cusick’s Sunflower is a lovely bright-colored sunflower.  I happily stumbled upon this plant as I was hiking up a butte.  It is the first time I have come upon this species of since most of the sunflower species are native other parts of the country.  I have tried to focus most of my attention of the plants that the Paiute’s used in they have a range that overlaps Central Oregon, or has plants similar to those in Central Oregon.  The Paiutes used the roots as heart medicine taken for heart troubles and tuberculosis.  The Shasta Indians used the pounded roots in a steam bath for internal pain, as a carminative.  Externally the roots were pounded and used as a poultice for swellings. The root was burned in a house after a death as a disinfectant.

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