Countless generations of humans have relied upon nature to heal, finding useful medicine in their local forests and fields. Many of our
pharmaceuticals were at least derived from a chemical compound found in a plant. In recent years, a renaissance of interest in herbal medicine
has boosted a growing medicinal plant industry.
Plants produce chemical compounds to use for many purposes: some defend a plant part against pests, while others attract pollinators to their flowers or tempt disseminators of their seeds with sweet and nutritious rewards. Some plant compounds can often be used to our advantage and can even have medicinal actions which heal our ailments.
Before Europeans arrived in North America, Native American healers had a long history of using indigenous, native plants for a wide variety of medicinal purposes. Medicinal plants and their applications were as diverse as the tribes who used them. Herbal treatments are used to treat specific ailments, native mosses and cacti are well known to stop bleeding and heal wounds, and teas made from the bark of native trees and certain leaves have traditionally been used for colds and fever.
Today, many people are rediscovering the importance of native plants to medicine. Our Western Pennsylvania medicinal native plants include:
Rose-mallow (Hibiscus Moscheutos) — Leaves and roots for lung and urinary ailments
Bee Balm (Monarda Didyma) — tea from leaf for colds, stomachaches, nose bleeds