Herbs & Plants

Castilleja coccinea

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Botanical Name : Castilleja coccinea
Family: Orobanchaceae
Genus: Castilleja
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Lamiales

Common Names:Indian paintbrush ,  Prairie-fire, Scarlet Indian paintbrush or Scarlet painted-cup

Habitat :Castilleja coccinea is  native to the west of the Americas from Alaska south to the Andes, northern Asia, and one species as far west as the Kola Peninsula in Siberia.

Castilleja coccinea   is a genus of about 200 species of annual and perennial herbaceous plants..  It  is an upright, hairy, 1-to-7-decimeter (3.9 to 27.6 in) tall hemiparasitic plant. The stem is usually unbranched and rises from a basal rosette.   The basal leaves are oblong and mostly entire, while the alternate stem leaves are deeply and irregularly lobed. Though it can survive on its own, studies indicate a forty-fold growth increase when its roots parasitize those of another plant for nutrients.   The common names for this plant reflect the showy red calyx, inside of which is the actual greenish-yellow corolla (“flower”). It is primarily pollinated by ruby-throated hummingbirds who can transfer the pollen long distances between typically small and scattered populations of this plant. It is usually found in moist meadows, prairies, and barrens from Maine to Minnesota, and south to Florida and Louisiana.They are hemiparasitic on the roots of grasses and forbs.

C. coccinea can be distinguished from other Castilleja of the southeastern US because it has a 2-to-3.5-millimeter long, thin yellowish or orangish lip on the corolla, the inflorescence bracts are deeply lobed, and the basal rosettes of leaves are usually well-developed.

Edible Uses:
The flowers of Indian paintbrush are edible, and were consumed in moderation by various Native American tribes as a condiment with other fresh greens. These plants have a tendency to absorb and concentrate selenium in their tissues from the soils in which they grow, and can be potentially very toxic if the roots or green parts of the plant are consumed. Highly alkaline soils increase the selenium levels in the plants. Indian paintbrush has similar health benefits to consuming garlic if only the flowers are eaten in small amounts and in moderation.

Medicinal Uses:
Chippewa Indians used paintbrush to treat rheumatism and as a bath rinse to make their hair glossy.  (probably because of the selenium content).  Nevada Indians sometimes used dilute solutions of the root tea to treat venereal disease.  Various tribes used the flowering plant as its name and appearance suggest—as a paintbrush.  Two or three moderately strong cups a day are drunk as a remedy for water retention associated with weather and temperature changes.  Take as a simple tea, up to 3 times a day.  Today, it is seldom used as a food or medicine, but some herbalists believe that the selenium content of this plant may make it useful in treating various forms of cancer.

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. Nevada Indian tribes used the plant to treat sexually transmitted diseases and to enhance the immune system.

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


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