Wild Edible and Medicinal Plants #159 – 161 Water Cress/ Fleabane/ Syrian Rue

Keys 2 Liberty

Medical disclaimer: always check with a physician before consuming wild plants, and make positive identification in the field using a good source such as Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West.  Michael Moore also has a glossary of medical terms in his books, and maps in later editions. )   

Common Name: Water Cress
Latin Name: Nasturtium officinale
Family: Brassicaceae
Range: http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=NAOF All states, except Hawaii and N. Dakota; In Canada; British Columbia to Quebec, plus New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

Photos: Here

Appearance and Habitat: Introduced and naturalized. An erect or spreading, perennial, 4″-18″ tall, emergent aquatic, sometimes evergreen, forming large, tangled wintergreen masses; stems spreading; rooting from the lower nodes. The flower is white, 4-parted, 1/5″ wide, petals 2 times longer than the sepals; inflorescence a cluster (raceme) of stalked flowers from the ends of the shoots; blooms May-Oct. The leaf is pinnately-divided into 3-9 rounded leaflets with the end one longest. Found in sun; streams, springs, cold water; in limy, sedimentary, gravelly soil.

(1)  Streams margins, ditches, flushes ect. with moving water, usually in chalk or limestone areas. Europe, including Britain, from Denmark south and east to N. Africa and W. Asia. A perennial growing to 0.5 m (1ft 8in) by 1 m (3ft 3in). It is hardy to zone 6 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from May to October, and the seeds ripen from Jul to October.

(2) Warnings: Whilst the plant is very wholesome and nutritious, some care should be taken if harvesting it from the wild. Any plants growing in water that drains from fields where animals, particularly sheep, graze should not be used raw. This is due to the risk of it being infested with the liver fluke parasite. Cooking the leaves, however, will destroy any parasites and render the plant perfectly safe to eat. May inhabit the metabolism of paracetamol.

(3) Edible Uses: Leaves – raw or cooked. Water cress is mainly used as a garnish or as an addition to salads, the flavour is strong with a characteristic hotnes. It has a reputation as a spring tonic, and this is its main season of use, though it can be harvested for most of the year and can give 10 pickings annually. Some caution is advised if gathering the plant from the wild, see the notes above on toxicity. The leaves are exceptionally rich in vitamins and minerals, especially iron. A nutritional analysis is available. The seed can be sprouted and eaten in salads. A hot mustardy flavour. The seed is ground into a powder and used as a mustard. The pungency of mustard develops when cold water is added to the ground-up seed – an enzyme (myrosin) acts on a glycoside (sinigrin) to produce a sulphur compound. The reaction takes 10 – 15 minutes. Mixing with hot water or vinegar, or adding salt, inhibits the enzyme and produces a mild but bitter mustard.

(4) (Good break down on composition at the website.)

Medicinal Uses : Watercress is very rich in vitamins and minerals, and has long been valued as a food and medicinal plant. Considered a cleansing herb, its high content of vitamin C makes it a remedy that is particularly valuable for chronic illnesses. The leaves are antiscorbutic, depurative, diuretic, expectorant, purgative, hypoglycaemic, odontalgic, stimulant and stomachic. The plant has been used as a specific in the treatment of TB. The freshly pressed juice has been used internally and externally in the treatment of chest and kidney complaints, chronic irritations and inflammations of the skin etc. Applied externally, it has a long-standing reputation as an effective hair tonic, helping to promote the growth of thick hair. A poultice of the leaves is said to be an effective treatment for healing glandular tumours or lymphatic swellings. Some caution is advised, excessive use of the plant can lead to stomach upsets. The leaves can be harvested almost throughout the year and are used fresh.

(5) Foot Notes: (1)http://wisplants.uwsp.edu/scripts/detail.asp?SpCode=NASOFF

Foot Notes: (2, 3, 4, 5 )http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Nasturtium+officinale

Common Name: Daisy Fleabane, Rayless Shaggy Fleabane, Philadelphia Fleabane
Latin Name: Erigeron annuus, E. aphanactis, E. philadelphicus
Family: Asteraceae
Range: http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=eran All of the lower 48 States, except Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Nevada and Arizona; In Canada; British Columbia to Quebec, Newfoundland, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. (Erigeron annuus)
http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=ERAPA2 Oregon, California, Nevada, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico. (Erigeron aphanactis)
http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=erph All of the lower 48 States, except Utah and Arizona; All of Canada except Nunavut and Labrador. (Erigeron philadelphicus)
Photos : (Click on Latin name after common name )

#160 (a)
Common Name: Daisy Fleabane, Eastern Daisy Fleabane, Annual Fleabane (Erigeron annuus) 
Appearance and Habitat: An erect stem covered with spreading hairs bears flower heads with 40 or more tightly packed white to pale pink ray flowers surrounding the central yellow disk flowers.

(1)   An erect native , 2′-4′ tall forb with dense foliage; stems with long spreading hairs. The flower has a head 1/2″ – 3/4″ wide with 80-125 white to pinkish rays up to 1/3″ long, disks yellow and flat; inflorescence of several to many heads; blooms June-Sept. The seeds are dry fluffy pappus. The leaves are described as, basal leaves elliptical and coarsely toothed, stem leaves widely lance-like, usually sharply toothed, and not clasping. It is found in disturbed areas.

(2)   Fields and waste places. Prairies and open ground in various soil types in Texas. North America, naturalized in C. Europe. It is hardy to zone 3.

(3) Warnings: None.

(4) Edible Uses:Young plant – boiled.

(5) Medicinal Uses :None.

(6) Foot Notes: (1)http://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=ERAN

Foot Notes: (2)http://wisplants.uwsp.edu/scripts/detail.asp?SpCode=ERIANN
Foot Notes: ( 3, 4, 5, 6 ) http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Erigeron+annuus

#160 (b)
Common Name: Shaggy Rayless Fleabane (Erigeron aphanactis) 
Native American Name: Ah gwe shuh(Shoshone)
Appearance and Habitat: No information other than photos.
Edible Uses: Tea from plant
Medicinal Uses : A dwarf yellow aster, used at Owyhee as a cure for gonorrhea. The tea from the whole plant ws used.

Indian Uses of Native Plants by Edith Van Murphy, page 47, Publisher: Meyerbooks, Copyright 1990, ISBN 0-96638-15-4
#160 (c)
Common Name: Philadelphia Fleabane, Fleabane Daisy, Marsh Fleabane (Erigeron philadelphicus) 

Appearance and Habitat: The fleabane daisy grows along roadsides and in fields and woodlands. It has more than 150 threadlike, white ray flowers. The center, disk flowers are 5-toothed and yellow, and there are many flower heads to each much-branched stem. The yellow center with the large number of very fine ray flowers is the best identification. They are much finer than those of other daisies or asters. Flower heads are 1/2-3/4 inch across. The geneus name, from Greek eri (early) and geron (old man), presumably refers to the fact that the plant flowers early and has a hoary down suggesting an old mans beard. Robins Plaintain (E. pulchellus) is slightly shorter and has fewer, but larger, lilac or violet flower heads, as well as stem leaves that are sparse and stalkless but do not clasp the stem; it is insect-pollinated and also spreads actively by runners.

(1)  An erect, biennial/perennial, 4″-36″ tall forb usually with long, spreading hairs. The flower head is 1/2′ – 3/4″ wide, 150-400 pink to white rays up to 1/3″ long, disks yellow and flat; inflorescence of usually more than 9 heads per cluster; blooms May-Aug. The fruit from the flowers, dry seed on fluffy pappus. It has basal leaves toothed, narrowly-oblong with a rounded tipped; stem leaves clasping. Found in wet areas, woods, shores, meadows.

(2)   Thickets, fields, and woods in low prairies and streambanks, often on calcareous clays; in N. America – Labrador to British Columbia, south to Florida and California. A biennial/perennial growing to 0.7 m (2ft 4in) by 0.3 m (1ft). It is hardy to zone 2. It is in flower from Jul to August.

(3) Warnings: Contact with plant can cause dermatitis in sensitive people.

(4) Edible Uses: None.

(5) Medicinal Uses : A tea made from the plant is astringent, diaphoretic, diuretic and emmenagogue. It is used in the treatment of chronic diarrhoea, gout, gravel, epilepsy and menstrual problems. A poultice of the plant is used to treat headaches and is also applied to sores. It should not be taken by pregnant women since it can induce a miscarriage. A snuff made from the powdered florets is used to make a person with catarrh sneeze.

(6) Foot Notes: (1) http://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=ERPH

Foot Notes: (2) http://wisplants.uwsp.edu/scripts/detail.asp?SpCode=ERIPHI
Foot Notes: ( 3, 4, 5, 6 ) http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Erigeron+philadelphicus
Common Name: Syrian Rue, African Rue, Soma
Latin Name: Peganum harmala
Family: Zygophyllaceae
Range: http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=PEHA Montana, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
Photos : Here 
Appearance and Habitat: A native of northern India, Afghanistan and southern Russia that began growing in this country in 1930. Originally found near Fallon, Nevada and Deming, New Mexico; it has now spread to other states. It is found mostly on secondary dirt roads and paved roads. In grows in lower canyons, alluvial flats and grazing lands. In the past there have been eradication efforts because the plant is poisonous to sheep. The plant is bright green, composed of many 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 foot tall basal leaves that are theady in appearance. Through the warmer months it has 5 petaled flowers that grow from the leaf axils. The flowers mature into round hollow capsules which contain many small, angular seeds. Brown capsules are resent products, but turn grey in subsequent years. The root is grey-brown, pithy, with yellow heart-wood and is rather hard to dig up.

(1)   Dry steppes, especially where grazing is heavy, and dry waste places. It is often found in saline soils. Europe – Mediterranean and southeastern Europe is its range. A perennial, growing to 0.6 m (2ft) by 0.5 m (1ft 8in). It is hardy to zone 8. The seeds ripen in September. It cannot grow in the shade.

(2) Warnings: Use with caution. Although the seed is used medicinally and as a condiment, it does contain hallucinogenic and narcotic alkaloids. When taken is excess it causes hallucinations and vomiting.

(3) Edible Uses:Seed – used as a spice and purifying agent. Some caution is advised because the seed has narcotic properties, inducing a sense of euphoria and releasing inhibitions. An edible oil is obtained from the seed.

(4) Medicinal Uses :Alterative. The fruit and seed are digestive, diuretic, hallucinogenic, narcotic and uterine stimulant. They are taken internally in the treatment of stomach complaints, urinary and sexual disorders, epilepsy, menstrual problems, mental and nervous illnesses. The seed has also been used as an anthelmintic in order to rid the body of tapeworms. This remedy should be used with caution and preferably under the guidance of a qualified practitioner since excessive doses cause vomiting and hallucinations. The seeds contain the substance ‘harmine’ which is being used in research into mental disease, encephalitis and inflammation of the brain. Small quantities stimulate the brain and are said to be therapeutic, but in excess harmine depresses the central nervous system. A crude preparation of the seed is more effective than an extract because of the presence of related indoles. Consumption of the seed in quantity induces a sense of euphoria and releases inhibitions. It has been used in the past as a truth drug. The oil obtained from the seed is said to be aphrodisiac. The oil is also said to have galactogogue, ophthalmic, soporific and vermifuge properties. The seed is used externally in the treatment of haemorrhoids and baldness. The whole plant is said to be abortifacient, aphrodisiac, emmenagogue and galactogogue. A decoction of the leaves is used in the treatment of rheumatism. The root has been used as a parasiticide in order to kill body lice. It is also used internally in the treatment of rheumatism and nervous conditions.

(5)  The root and seeds remain stable for years and make good medicine, while the foliage is useful for only a year. Recent Russian studies have verified many of the folk remedies. The plant is useful for treating skin conditions such as eczematous, exfoliative dermatitis and psoriasis. They respond well to an external wash of the seed tincture or root tincture or tea. The herb tea is an excellent hair and scalp treatment for dandruff, using it after a shampoo, but tends to make the hair stiff. The seeds in tincture (40 drops), or in a #00 capsule will treat depression and make a good anti-depressant. It won’t help with manic depression however. The seed tincture has cardiovascular effects as well, it increases the force of the pulse and aortal flow, while decreasing the pulse rate. It treats high blood pressure in this fashion. The dry herb can be used as a tea or tincture. For the tea, boil 32 parts water to 1 part dried herb (by weight), remove from the heat source and allow it to sit for up to an hour, strain out the plant and return the water to the original level. For the plant tincture or seed tincture (grind seeds) use part dried plant to 5 parts of 50% vodka, place in a jar and shake daily for a week. For the root tincture, follow the same procedure but use 60% vodka at a rate of 1 part dried root to 5 parts vodka. Ingesting up to a dozen capsules of the seed will cause hallucinations.

(6) Other Uses :A red dye is obtained from the seed. It is widely used in Western Asia, especially as a colouring for carpets. The ripe seed contains 3.8 – 5.8% of the alkaloids harmine, harmaline, harmalol and peganine. Ineffective as a contact poison, they are active in vapour form where they are effective against algae, in higher concentrations to water animals and lethal to moulds, bacteria and intestinal parasites. The seed is used as an incense.

(7) Foot Notes: (1, 6 ) Medicinal Plants of the Desert and Canyon West by Michael Moore, pages 120-121, Publisher: Museum of New Mexico Press, Copyright 1989, ISBN 0-80913-182-1
Foot Notes: (2, 3, 4, 5, 7 ) http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Peganum+harmala


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