Local Edible and Medicinal Plants

By : Jane Dumas

San Diego American Indian Health Center,   Traditional Health Representative

In this day and age, one must be careful gathering their herbs and plants for food or medicinal purposes. Due to pollution and the possibility that many of these herbs and plants may be growing in land fills that may contain hazardous materials. Caution, and be aware of safe gathering methods.

Aloe Vera:
- Many have used Aloe Vera pulp on sores for healing - sunburns, insect bites, and other skin irritations.
- When you cut a leaf it is best to cut close to the bottom as possible as it has more power.
- One can buy the juice in health food stores.

Angel Hair:
- (Growing on buckwheat) - is good for black widow spider bites and other insect bites. Crush into a pulp and apply

Oak Apple (Oak Ball):
- Chew on a small piece for sore throat (the size of a pea or smaller)
- Boil small amount (the size of a pea) and use for disinfectant

Banana Skin:
- Is good for burn or insect bite. (to relieve itch and sting)

Banana squash (and many other squash varieties):
- These were part of our natural foods.
- We picked the young squash and cooked or steamed them with onions and tomatoes for a vegetable dish.
- I was told the blossoms - steamed or cooked - were also good but I never ate any.
- In winter we baked most of our squash in wood stoves and it always seemed to taste better cooked that way than in a conventional gas or electric oven.
- We also made fruit pies called empanadas.
- We even roasted the seeds to eat if we weren't saving them to replant. Some say the seeds get rid of tapeworms.
- Pumpkin pie is an excellent dessert, also Pumpkin bread.

Beef jerky:
- We ate a lot of jerky that was usually made from deer. It was roasted and eaten, or cooked with onions and other foods.
- Very good boiled and shredded for creamed beef. My mother rarely fried the meat.

Black Walnut:
- We eat the nutmeats.
- The leaves can be made into tea as a blood purifier.
- My mother said it would also help stomach ailments.
- I've been told the nutshells soaked in water make an excellent dye for basket material.

- Make a tea out of flowers to relieve diarrhea in babies

Young Cactus leaves:
- After gathering, scrape off the thorns, boil, drain, and fry with eggs, mix in beans, or to add to salads.
- I was told this food was especially helpful in helping heal gum problems. The texture is similar to Aloe Vera so it could help.
- The fruit is edible, but remove thorns and peel before eating. There are many seeds, but good for you.

Cat Tails:
- Some say making the root into a pasty starch has a soothing effect on poison ivy and burns.
- Boiled and cooled corms bases can be directly applied to boils and bee stings and other infections to draw or drain infections.
- Roots are also edible and the pollen can used with other kinds of flour.
- Leaves can be made into mats, and also covering for their homes.

- A seed that I enjoy eating as I can eat a little bit, and drink some kind of liquid like lemonade or plain water and this makes me feel full.

- Use to make a tea; helps to relax you.

- Good for burn and insect bite (to relieve itch and sting)
- Wild cucumber seeds also have a medicinal purpose

- Young shoots are eaten as a vegetable or used in salads.
- Dandelion greens a can also be considered a blood purifier and some say especially good for diabetes.

- Boil stems and use to heal sores in diabetic patients (Brewed thin shavings of bark and leaves was used to wash open sores to help healing)

Elderberry Blossoms:
- Made into tea is good fever controller.
- The berries can be made into wine.
- Some use the dried wood to make musical instruments.
- Elderberry jelly is delicious.

- local growing variety - a poultice can be made from the fern for a wound that is hard to heal.

- is a nuisance in a yard but can be used in salads or steamed for a vegetable.

- Brew the stems into tea to help in control of high blood pressure.
- Some say it is also good for stomach ailments.

Juniper berries
- chewed are supposed to be a fresher for bad breath.
- Tea made from berries and/or leaves can be good for kidney or liver problems.
- Some used it to help in relief of kidney stone problems.

Loquat leaves:
- Dry and make a tea to purify stomach.

Low growing grass that looks like lace:
- Make a poultice for sores from this

- Boil the leaves and use the boiled liquid after shampooing to treat dandruff.
- My cousin said when she was small the young leaves were cooked for a vegetable but need careful preparation.
- Mallow seeds are edible.

- Boil for a minute and put on wound, to disinfect and remove pus and infection

- Apply fresh fruit to rash or eczema

Pinion nuts:
- Were gathered, roasted, and shelled before eating.
- We also grounded on a mortar and the shells (chaff) blown away by using the same basket that we used for winnowing our acorns.
- During our gathering my mother always collected pine pitch that she used in treating her patients.
- Today we sprinkle nuts over our salad. Many used the nutmeat in cooking other dishes.

Pink flowers:
- For malaria and hard to cure sickness

- We used to warm the leaves and put them over swollen glands to relieve pain
- Some used the leaves as a poultice to heal wounds.
- Seeds were put into salads and sometimes ground and mixed with other kinds of flour

- Cut in small slices and apply circles to forehead with a cloth tied around head to relieve headache (migraine
- Apply to feet to soothe tired feet

Rose Petals:
- Tea from rose petals is good for fever control

- Wild rosemary is used for stomach ailments and my mother said it was especially useful to women but I'm not sure if she meant female problems.
- We also use rosemary as a spice to enhance cooking.

- Apply to wound to dry and stop bleeding

Lace Sage:
- Make a tea with the leaves to relieve congestion

White Sage-
- Boil one small leaf and breath vapors to relieve congestion (I also use a leaf or two brewed as a tea for respiratory problems)
- As children we used to peel the young shoots and eat them raw. Some have mixed the seeds with wheat or wild oats, or roasted, ground fine and eaten as cereal.
- Dried leaves made into a bundle or plain leaves are burnt for smudging.

Tall narrow weed:
- (fuzzy on both sides of leaves and has a yellow flower) Dry out leaves and make into a tea to wash sores on animals.

- (Common, local variety) the very young plants can be steamed for a vegetable or chopped and put into salads. I don't believe the tumbleweed is a native plant.

- Not only beautiful, but the leaves can be made into tea to ease coughing and sore throats.
- The roots can also be used, but be careful of soil contamination.

Water cress:
- This was always a welcome sight on our table, either cold and rolled into a hot tortilla or cooked or steamed and refried with onions and tomatoes.
- Watercress grows in fresh water and is a good blood purifier. This is a seasonal plant.

Watermelon seeds:
- Dry out and chop up. A tea from this is good for urinary infections. (Teaspoon in cup of hot water)

Yerba Santa:
- (The leaves need to be sticky - this means that the plant is potent and has medicinal properties)
- Dry out leaf for two for cold and congestion.
- The Blossoms from Yerba Santa are good to help asthma.

- Boil in water, pour out water, re-boil in water, pour water out (three time to leach out the bitterness) Can be added to a stew.
- Young stalks can be cut, roasted, then eaten. At certain times, the roots can be dug up, baked, then eaten.
- The young blossoms can be cooked in a careful controlled way to eliminate bitterness then fried with onions and tomatoes for a vegetable dish.
- The dry leaves are used in basket making.

for more information contact:
Jane Dumas
3812 Ray Street
San Diego  CA   92104
(619) 298-9090