Many of the traditional native plants and shrubs were used medicinally to treat people. These native folklore plants and shrubs were questionable treatments, but never the less, had been used as medicines in primitive times. Today, many of our drugs come from plant bases, if from better knowledge and understanding. These are some of the old fashioned folklore medicinal remedies from native shrubs.
Aesculus parviflora Walt. (Bottlebrush buckeye)
This shrub grows from 6-12 feet high and prefers shady locations. It is a member of the Horse-chestnut family of plants. It has four-petal white flowers that give off a honey like fragrance, and fruits that have a nutlike appearance. This was used as a treatment for colic and whooping cough traditionally. Its wood is used for packing crates.
Aralia spinosa L. (Devil’s Walkingstick)
This shrub gets 12-20 feet tall and needs a spacing of 12-15 feet apart. It has near white blooms in mid summer on large flat clusters. It is a member of the Ginseng family of plants. Butterflies will flock to Devil’s Walkingstick, and birds love its purple to near black fruits from August to September. Some of the charm of this plant is its aroma and its spiny curved growth. Its roots and fruit were used by settlers for toothaches. It prefers full sun to partial shade. BEWARE: Handling the bark or roots may cause skin irritation.
Euonymus americana L. (Strawberry Bush, Brook Euonymus, Hearts a Burstin’)
This shrub has some unique color and is a member of the Bittersweet family. With its hot pink seed capsules and its orange red seeds, late summer is an explosion of day-glow delight. It will get up to 2-6 feet tall and needs spacing of 15-24 inches. It prefers partial to full shade. There are yellow or pale green blooms from mid spring to early summer. It is drought tolerant and good for xeriscaping. You can propagate this by semi-hardwood cuttings. Early folklore had the strawberry bush’s bark as a treatment for laxative effects. BEWARE: Seed and other parts are poisonous if ingested.
Kalmia latifolia L. (Mountain laurel)
This evergreen shrub grows from 10-30 feet and is shade intolerant. It is a member of the Heath family of plants. It will flower from March to June, and fruit from September to October. Its fruiting produces small round brown pods that release seeds. Medicinally it was used to treat bursitis, fibromyalgia, and arthritis. Its interesting crooked branches make it an interesting choice for your garden.
Xanthorhiza simplicissima (Yellowroot)
This woody shrub has wonderful purple fall color and will grow up to 3 feet. It is from the Buttercup family of plants. You can propagate yellowroot by its underground runners. Plant this in partial to full shade for optimum growing. Its flowers are star-shaped. Traditionally, Native Americans used the roots to make a yellow dye, and to make teas to treat mouth ulcers, colds, or jaundice.