Another post, another medicinal plant- as you may have noticed, I enjoy learning and sharing information about plants, especially their edible, medicinal and utilitarian uses. There are so many plants with so many uses! I’d like to offer a few thoughts about plant usage. I may have written this before, but it is important; as Master Pearson also stresses when he teaches about plants, every plant and every person is different; each person will react differently to plants and so any herbal remedy should be taken on slowly and with much attention paid to the results. For this reason, I prefer to introduce one plant at a time for any purpose to best monitor its affects on the body.
You may have also noticed that I cite the same few books in my plant postings. I have decided that it is good to use a few books that I am comfortable with, that have agreed with information I have learned in classes and gained through personal use. I am most comfortable with a plant that I can find in more than one book that I trust. In general I consider the internet if anything as a backup source, and perhaps a way to find out about new developments in plant research. There is so much information online, yet strangely I often can’t find what I am looking for; plus the amount of information that can be contradictory, has made me strongly prefer old- fashioned printed paper sources.
And now, the star of the week; Partridgeberry!
Partridgeberry is a low- growing creeping plant with small thick dark green waxy leaves that grow in pairs. The white flowers shown above grow attached in pairs, and result in a small dry red fruit that can last on the plant over the winter. It is similar in appearance to the also low- growing thick- leaved red- berry- bearing Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens- more on that later). One easy way to differentiate their berries, in addition to the wintergreen/ minty scent of the Wintergreen plant, is that the Partridgeberry fruit has two small spots on it, one left by each of the two paired flowers. Native to North America, I have seen it growing in many forested areas.
Partridgeberry fruits are edible, and are used in a variety of foods including jam and pie. It would take a large quantity of berries to make anything substantial out of them; I generally just munch one or two as I find them. They don’t have a strong flavor, but when hiking and hungry, they are a definite comfort.
Medicinally, this plant has historically been used for menstrual problems (irregularity as well as pain) and to help with childbirth; for this purpose, taken starting a few weeks before delivery. In his book The Green Pharmacy, James A. Duke, Ph. D cites Jeannine Parvati as calling Partridgeberry her favorite pregnancy herb; she has authored the book Hygieia: A Woman’s Herbal. It is also known as a treatment for sore nipples from nursing babies. Herbalist Paul Bergner, editor of Medical Herbalism, shared this recipe; to two ounces of Partridgeberry boiled in a pint of water, add a pint of heavy cream, and boil down until thick, like a salve. Let cool and apply. For a vegan version perhaps coconut milk would work, as coconut has healing powers of its own (maybe another post topic?).
For reference, Mitchella repens has also gone by the name “Squaw vine.” As the term squaw has sexist and racist connotations, the plant is now more commonly referred to as partridgeberry.
My sources today are Eastern/ Central Medicinal Plants and Herbs, the Peterson Field Guide, by Steven Foster and James A. Duke; and The Green Pharmacy, by James A. Duke, Ph. D.