The Original Medicinal Plant Gatherers & Conservationists

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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.

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Ramps Now on the “To-Watch” List

rampsreturned

by Susan Leopold Time to Ramp Up Conservation Efforts Last spring trespassers dug trash bags, laundry baskets and buckets full of ramps (Allium tricoccum) from the woodland ravine of Goldenseal Sanctuary neighbor, Diane DonCarlos.1 Fortunately police responded to a call from Diane, and they were able to track down the ramp thieves. When the police …

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

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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 …

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American Ginseng Summit

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. …

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Pirates for the Planet

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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 all the at-risk and to-watch plants that have been reviewed, which illustrates the numerical risk and the colors indicate scores within each of the five main factors.

atriskgraphFigure one: See www.unitedplantsavers.org for all scoring data, assessment tool, and Journal article

 

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The Two Sides of Chaga

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by Robert Dale Rogers Chaga ( Inonotus obliquus )Over the past decade, herbalists have increasingly embraced the use of medicinal mushrooms in clinical practice. These members of the Fungi Kingdom offer many health benefits, and there remains much to be learned about them. Some mushrooms, such as reishi (Ganoderma lucidum), turkey tail (Trametes versicolor), and …

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