Beet root. Echinacea. Elderberry. These sound like ingredients for an old-time remedy. They are found, however, on the shelves at local supermarkets – in the same section where vitamins or fish oil tablets or garlic pills can be found.
“Cherokee Plants – their uses – a 400 Year History” lists beets as a remedy for boils. The roots are not suggested, however, but the wilted leaves are made into a poultice and placed upon the boil.
Authors Paul B. Hamel and Mary U. Chiltoskey have listed many other remedies, but DO NOT TRY THESE AT HOME.
They say that the leaves of the beebalm, a flower common in many local gardens, can be made into a hot tea that will “bring out” the measles when one drinks the tea.
Blackberry tea can be used for rheumatism.
The fruit of the wild strawberry can be held in the mouth to remove tartar on the teeth.
Dandelion roots can be chewed to ease a toothache.
Queen Anne’s Lace is the pretty white flower blooming along the roadside in Robertson County right now. A tea could be made from its roots. Bathing with the tea would eliminate swelling.
The list of plants used by the Cherokees goes on and on.
One of the businesses in Springfield many years ago was the ginseng “factory.” It was on the north side of Sulphur Fork, close to the bridge on what is now North Main.
The business was successful in its time, and the Cherokees also knew of its many uses. They sold “sang” in the late 19th century to traders for 50 cents per pound.
Some of the uses included cures for convulsions, vertigo, gout, and tuberculosis.
A comment in “Cherokee Plants” reads that the leaves and stems of white potatoes are of use if a tea is made for a person who is lonesome after the death of a loved one.
This is especially interesting when one knows that the potato is in the Nightshade family. So are tomatoes and eggplants.
It is, however, the Deadly Nightshade family that is poisonous – atropa bella donna. Its leaves are oval-shaped. Its flowers are bell-shaped and purple. Its berries are shiny and black, and its roots are deadly if consumed.
Mothers used to warn against the poison of the pokeweed, which grows wild in this area.
“Poke sallet,” however, was a treat for early spring. After the spring, the plant was avoided. The berries are not poison to catbirds, mockingbirds, and cardinals.
The trumpet vine has also been named as a plant to avoid. It is a skin irritant, causing some people and livestock to itch. Nevertheless, many buy the vine for home gardens because of the beauty of its “trumpet flowers.”
Happily, one has other choices than to go into the yard or the woods for adequate medication today.
In the Eagle’s Eye is sponsored by the Robertson County Historical Society. Call 615-382-7173 for more information.