Tag Archives: Alaska Natives

Oplopanax horridum

Botanical Name : Oplopanax horridum
Family: Araliaceae
Subfamily: Aralioideae
Genus: Oplopanax
Species: O. horridus
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Apiales

Synonyms : Echinopanax horridus, Fatsia horrida

Common Names: Devil’s club or devil’s walking stick , Alaskan ginseng (though it is not a true Ginseng), Araliaceae

Habitat : Oplopanax horridum is found from Southcentral Alaska to western Oregon and eastward to western Alberta and Montana. Disjunct native populations also occur over 1,500
kilometres (930 mi) away in Lake Superior on Isle Royale and Passage Island, Michigan and Porphyry Island and Slate Island, Ontario. This species usually grows in moist, dense forest
habitats, and is most abundant in old growth conifer forests.

Description:
Oplopanax horridum is a large understory shrub. It generally grows to 1 to 1.5 metres (3 ft 3 in to 4 ft 11 in) tall; however, instances exist of it reaching in excess of 5 metres (16 ft) in
rainforest gullies. The spines are found along the upper and lower surfaces of veins of its leaves as well as the stems. The leaves are spirally arranged on the stems, simple, palmately lobed
with 5-13 lobes, 20 to 40 centimetres (7.9 to 15.7 in) across. The flowers are produced in dense umbels 10 to 20 centimetres (3.9 to 7.9 in) diameter, each flower small, with five greenish-
white petals. The fruit is a small red drupe 4 to 7 millimetres (0.16 to 0.28 in) diameter.

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The plant is covered with brittle yellow spines that break off easily if the plants are handled or disturbed, and the entire plant has been described as having a “primordial” appearance. Devil’s
club is very sensitive to human impact and does not reproduce quickly. The plants are slow growing and take many years to reach seed bearing maturity, and predominately exist in dense,
moist, old growth conifer forests in the Pacific Northwest.

Propagation:
Oplopanax horridum reproduces by forming clonal colonies through a layering process. What can appear to be several different plants may actually have all been one plant originally, with the   clones detaching themselves after becoming established by laying down roots.
Medicinal Uses:
Native American peoples such as the Tlingit and Haida have used the plant as traditional medicine for ailments such as adult-onset diabetes, as well as rheumatoid arthritis. It is used to stabilize blood sugar levels. It is used routinely in the treatment of diabetes as a natural alternative to insulin. Although devil’s club shares some pharmacological and therapeutic similarities with ginseng, it is not the same medicine. It is a strong and safe respiratory stimulant and expectorant increasing the mucus secretions to initiate fruitful coughing and soften up hardened bronchial mucus that can occur later on in a chest cold. The cold infusion, and to a lesser degree the fresh or dry tincture, is helpful for rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune disorders , taken regularly and with sensible modifications to the diet. It is more helpful when taken during remissions and has little effect during active distress. Its main value is in modifying extremes of metabolic stress and adding a little reserve to offset the person”s internal cost of living. . Its use by Native Americans as a treatment for adult-onset diabetes has been substantiated by scientific studies in this century. It seems to decrease the lust for sugars and binge food in those trying to lose weight or deal with generally elevated blood fats and glucose. Seems to work best on stocky, mesomorphic, anabolic-stress-type, middle-aged people with elevated blood lipids, moderately high blood pressure, and early signs of adult onset, insulin-resistant diabetes. Indians also used it to treat cancer. Root strongly warms lymphatic system function; weakly warms central nervous system activity; weakly warms hepatic activity.

Root weakly warms immunologic activity; weakly warms mucosal activity; weakly warms parasympathetic nervous system activity; weakly warms renal activity; weakly warms reproductive system function; weakly warms respiratory system function; weakly warms skin activity; weakly warms sympathetic nervous system activity; weakly warms thyroid stress; weakly warms upper GI activity; weakly cools adrenal stress; weakly cools anabolic stress.

In vitro studies showed that extracts of Devil’s Club inhibit tuberculosis microbes. Additionally, Devil’s club has been shown to extend life expectancy and reduce leukemia burden in mice engrafted with murine C1498 acute myeloid leukemia cells.

The plant is harvested and used in a variety of ways, including poultices applied externally and ointments, however the consumption of an oral tea is most common in traditional settings. Some Tlingit disapprove of the commercialization of the plant as they see it as a violation of its sacred status.

Other Uses: Traditionally, it was and is still used to make paints

The plant has also been used ceremonially by the Tlingit and Haida people of Southeast Alaska. A piece of Devil’s club hung over a doorway is said to ward off evil.

Because Devil’s club is related to American Ginseng, some think that the plant is an adaptogen. The plant has been harvested for this purpose and marketed widely as “Alaskan ginseng”,which may damage populations of Devil’s Club and its habitat. The genus Panax (‘true’ ginseng) is exceptional among Araliaceae both morphologically and chemically. Other, even closely related plants with proven adaptogen effects, such as Eleutherococcus senticosus the “Siberian ginseng“, are chemically dissimilar to Panax ginseng.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with   your own health care provider.

Resources:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Devil%27s_club
http://www.herbnet.com/Herb%20Uses_DE.htm

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Umbellularia californica

Botanical Name :Umbellularia californica
Family :LauraceaeLaurel family
Genus : Umbellularia (Nees) Nutt. – California laurel
Species: Umbellularia californica (Hook. & Arn.) Nutt. – California laurel
Kingdom : Plantae – Plants
Subkingdom : Tracheobionta – Vascular plants
Superdivision: Spermatophyta – Seed plants
Division: Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants
Class : Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons
Subclass: Magnoliidae
Order :Laurales

Common Name :California Laurel

Habitat : Umbellularia californica is a large tree native to coastal forests of California and slightly extended into Oregon.It ranges near the coast from Douglas County, Oregon south through California to San Diego County. It is also found in the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. It occurs at altitudes from sea level up to 1600 m.

Description:
An evergreen shrub to tree. Its final height is 47′  average (in 100+years). It grows only a few inches a year here along the coast it may grow a much as 4′ or so each year. The leaves are aromatic like its cousin from Greece. Native to the mountains of Calif. and into Oregon. It likes sun in the mountains and along the coast where the rainfall is above 30 inches/year. In the interior give part shade and moderate water. Its leaves used as seasoning. It tolerates serpentine soil. A refined plant. No cold damage at 10 deg., burnt to the ground at 0.Easy to hold at 6-8\’. Good in containers. This species releases terpenes that inhibit seedlings (weeds). (Rice)

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It is the sole species in the genus Umbellularia.

Its pungent leaves have a similar flavor to bay leaves (though stronger), and it may be mistaken for Bay Laurel.The fragrant leaves are smooth-edged and lens shaped, 3–10 cm long and 1.5–3 cm broad, similar to the related Bay Laurel though usually narrower, and without the crinkled margin of that species.

The flowers are small, yellow or yellowish-green, produced in a small umbel (hence the scientific name Umbellularia, “little umbel”).

An unripe Bay nutThe fruit, also known as “California Bay nut”, is a round and green berry 2–2.5 cm long and 2 cm broad, lightly spotted with yellow, maturing purple. Under the thin, leathery skin, it consists of an oily, fleshy covering over a single hard, thin-shelled pit, and resembles a miniature avocado. Genus Umbellularia is in fact closely related to the avocado’s genus Persea, within the Lauraceae family. The fruit ripens around October–November in the native range.
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In Oregon, this tree is known as Oregon Myrtle, while in California it is called California Bay Laurel, which may be shortened to California Bay or California Laurel. It has also been called Pepperwood, Spicebush, Cinnamon Bush, Peppernut Tree and Headache Tree. This hardwood species is only found on the Southern Oregon and Northern California Coast. It has a color range from blonde (like maple) to brown (like walnut). Myrtlewood is considered a world-class tonewood and is sought after by luthiers and woodworkers from around the world.

Historical usage:
Umbellularia has long been valued for its many uses by Native Americans throughout the tree’s range, including the Cahuilla, Chumash, Pomo, Miwok, Yuki, Coos and Salinan people.

The leaf has been used as a cure for headache, toothache, and earache—though the volatile oils in the leaves may also cause headaches when used in excess. Poultices of Umbellularia leaves were used to treat rheumatism and neuralgias. Laurel leaf tea was made to treat stomach aches, colds, sore throats, and to clear up mucus in the lungs. The leaves were steeped in hot water to make an infusion that was used to wash sores.  The Pomo and Yuki tribes of Mendocino County treated headaches by placing a single leaf in the nostril or bathing the head with a laurel leaf infusion.

Both the flesh and the inner kernel of the fruit have been used as food by Native Americans. The fatty outer flesh of the fruit, or mesocarp, is palatable raw for only a brief time when ripe; prior to this the volatile aromatic oils are too strong, and afterwards the flesh quickly becomes bruised, like that of an overripe avocado. Native Americans dried the fruits in the sun and ate only the lower third of the dried mesocarp, which is less pungent.

The hard inner seed underneath the fleshy mesocarp, like the pit of an avocado, cleaves readily in two when its thin shell is cracked. The pit itself was traditionally roasted to a dark chocolate-brown color, removing much of the pungency and leaving a spicy flavor. Roasted, shelled “bay nuts” were eaten whole, or ground into powder and prepared as a drink which resembles unsweetened chocolate. The flavor, depending on roast level, has been described variously as “roast coffee,” “dark chocolate” or “burnt popcorn”. The powder might also be pressed into cakes and dried for winter storage, or used in cooking. It has been speculated that the nuts of U. californica contain a stimulant;  however this possible effect has been little documented by biologists.

Modern usage
The leaf can be used in cooking, but is spicier and “headier” than the Mediterranean bay leaf sold in groceries, and should be used in smaller quantity. Umbellularia leaf imparts a somewhat stronger camphor/cinnamon flavor compared to the Mediterranean Bay.  The two Bay trees are related within the Laurel family, along with the Cinnamons.

Some modern-day foragers and wild food enthusiasts have revived Native American practices regarding the edible roasted fruit, the bay nut.

U. californica is also used in woodworking. It is considered a tonewood, used to construct the back and sides of acoustic guitars. The wood is very hard and fine, and is also made into bowls, spoons, and other small items and sold as “myrtlewood”.

U. Californica is also grown as an ornamental tree, both in its native area, and elsewhere further north up the Pacific coast to Vancouver in Canada, and in western Europe. It is occasionally used for firewood.

One popular use for the leaves is to put them between the bed mattresses to get rid of, or prevent flea infestations.

Medicinal Uses:
The plant is still used a  pain reliever for headaches and rheumatism.  A tea from the leaves is one method of administration.  For rheumatism, early settlers used a hot bath in which they had steeped laurel leaves.  Others blended the oil from the leaves with lard and rubbed the mixture on the body.  The crushed leaves are an excellent herbal “smelling salt,” held briefly under the nose of a person who is faint or has fainted.  Prolonged breathing of the crushed leaves can cause a short-term frontal headache which can be cured, oddly enough, by a tea of the leaves.  The crushed leaves make an excellent tea for all headaches and neuralgia, possessing substantial anodyne effects and they further have value as a treatment for the tenesmus or cramps from diarrhea, food poisoning, and gastroenteritis in general—two to four leaves crushed and steeped for tea, repeated as needed.  California laurel was employed medicinally by some native North American Indian tribes who used it particularly as an analgesic to treat a variety of complaints. It has a beneficial effect upon the digestive system. An infusion has been used by women to ease the pains of afterbirth. Externally, an infusion has been used as a bath in the treatment of rheumatism. A decoction of the leaves has been used as a wash on sores and to remove vermin from the head. They are harvested as required and can be used fresh or dried.  A poultice of the ground seeds has been used to treat sores.  The seeds have been eaten as a stimulant.

Disclaimer:
The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
http://www.herbnet.com/Herb%20Uses_C.htm
http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=UMCA
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Umbellularia
http://www.laspilitas.com/nature-of-california/plants/umbellularia-californica

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