I have been using medicinal plants my entire life. My grandmother was a medicine woman who taught me about all of the plants that we would see on our many walks together. She was a scientist, although no academic institution had even recognized her as such. I am a firm believer in the incredibly vast, diverse, and timely scientific knowledge of Indigenous peoples, and I try to implement and support the implementation of this knowledge into the everyday lives of my family and my people.
In that spirit, I am thankful to have been invited as a regular columnist for lastrealindians. Each month, I will attempt to provide insight into a useful plant(s). Before I begin, let me be clear: None of this knowledge is my own. It comes from the hundreds of discussions I have had with my elders and other knowledgeable Native people. I will provide information on the traditional uses of these plants, as well as information garnered from more contemporary research that has become popular among many Native Scientists. Two hallmarks of good Native Science are adaptation and holism. If we are to be holistic, we must consider both the data collected by our ancestors daily participation with the natural world, as well as the data we continue to collect through formal and informal research.
Scientific Name: ECHINACEA ANGUSTIFOLIA
Lakota/Dakota Name: ichahpe hu
English Name: Purple Coneflower, Blackroot
Echinacea angustifolia is the perfect plant for my first column in lastrealindians. This is arguably one of the most important medicinal plants of the Lakota, and in recent decades, it has become a staple in the medicine cabinet of people who use herbal remedies all over the world. As such, it has been overharvested throughout its native habitat. Please exercise caution when harvesting ichahpe hu, and follow all traditional protocols when harvesting any medicinal plant.
A poultice of Echinacea root may be applied to wounds, swellings, and sores. The roots and seed heads are chewed to relieve toothache, sore throat, tonsillitis, stomach-ache, over-perspiration, and to quench thirst. The chewed root and its juices are applied to bites and stings (including snakes, spiders, and bees), and are also applied to burns. The smoke from the burning root is inhaled to treat headaches in people and distemper in horses. The dried, prickly head is used to brush hair. A tincture, or decoction made from the root is used to boost the immune system and relieve flu and cold symptoms. Echinacea is also being investigated as a treatment for cancer.
One of the best and most effective ways to use Echinacea is to boil 4 tablespoons of the root in 3-4 cups of purified water for 10 minutes. Drink throughout the day to relieve cold and flu symptoms. It is most effective if used within the first 48 hours after the onset of symptoms.
By Linda Black Elk
Linda Black Elk Linda (Catawba Nation) is an ethnobotanist specializing in teaching about culturally important plants and their uses as food and medicine. Linda works to protect food sovereignty, traditional plant knowledge, and environmental quality as an extension of the fight against hydraulic fracturing and the fossil fuels industry. She has written for numerous publications, and is the author of “Watoto Unyutapi”, a field guide to edible wild plants of the Dakota people.
Disclaimer: The uses of plants contained herein are not intended as medical advice. Linda Black Elk, lastrealindians, and any associates do not accept any responsibility for any adverse effects from the uses of any plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.