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Make Moimey Grr©wiim§> Weeds
By Edward B. Clark
Hundreds of thousands of dollars are sent abroad every year to pay for the dried leaves, seeds and roots of various medicinal plants which grow in abundance in this country, but which are classed by American farmers as weeds and ruthlessly destroyed. This article points out the opportunity for the establishment of a profitable weed
HROUGH the centuries man has been consider
Ting the lilies of the field to the neglect of the weeds thereof. The lily bases its claim to consideration on its beauty and on the scriptural injunction, and both are potent. The weed has a beauty for those who see things aright, but the spoken word has not been for its consideration, but for its condemnation. The weed, however, is worthy, though man would banish it, if he could, to the waste places.
Even the nature-lovers of the kind scientifically bent, refuse to speak of the weed as a plant; a weed it is and nothing
else and with the word must go, seemingly for all time, the general impression of worthlessness. If it were not for some of the weeds, spring would be put back a month. The early green in many cases is the green of the weed and often the first flower of the year is the weed's offspring. The weeds spread tables for the birds in winter. The goldfinch and the crossbill feast on the seeds which the tall stems hold above the drifted snow, and while man may feel as he may, no bird will despise that which gives it dinner.
Recently the Bureau of Plant Industry of the United States Department of Agriculture has been giving its attention to the weed. Today it is telling the farmer that that which he has been looking upon as a pest has its uses and that it may profit him to consider the weeds. It is not a matter of common knowledge that some of the weeds "infesting" the land will produce the crude drugs which
Golden Seal. The Indians early discovered its medicinal properties.
today, in large part, are obtained by importation from abroad. Alice Henkel, an assistant of the government's plant industry bureau, says -that the roots, leaves and flower of several of the weed species regarded as plagues in the United States are gathered, prepared and cured in Europe, and not only form useful commodities there, but supply to a considerable extent the demands of foreign lands.
There are weeds in this country against \yhich extermination laws have been passed which hold in their leaves, stems or roots medicinal properties which have a value in the work of preserving the health of the nation. It is possible in ridding land of weeds in order that crops may be grown, to make of the uprooted "pests" a source of income. Moreover it is possible to maintain upon land given over as worthless for crop growing purposes, a weed plantation, which after the harvest, will prove itself to be not less profitable than some of the tilled fields.
Lobelia (Lobelia inflata) is a poisonous weed which grows abundantly in nearly every section of the country. It has all sorts of local names, being known in different parts of the land as Indian tobacco, wild tobacco, bladder pod, asthma weed, gagroot, vomitwort, low belia and eyebright. The lobelia sprang into fame—perhaps notoriety were the better word—years upon years ago.
Samuel Thompson, a New Hampshire physician, experimented with the lobelia weed and, it was charged, used it so extensively in his practice that he succeeded in killing several of his patients, the poison of the weed doing the deadly work. It was said that Thompson by the use of lobelia "sweated two children to death." He was accused also of killing a Captain Trickey and a young man named Lovell with over-doses of the weed. The doctor was arrested and tried for murder, but finally was acquitted. His life was one constant warfare with the regular practitioners, and his use of lobelia was the cause of it. The regulars said that Thompson's theory and practice of medicine was, "I purge 'em, I sweat 'em, and whether they want to die or not, I let em." The leafy stem of the lobelia grows occasionally to a height of three feet from a fibrous root. The whole plant contains an acrid milky juice. It flowers from July until the frost comes, the blossoms being pale blue and minute. The leaves and the flowering tops are used in medicine, for notwithstanding their drastic properties, they are of salutary service in skilled hands. The seeds also are in good demand. The price paid for the leaves and tops ranges from three to eight cents a pound while the seed brings from fifteen to twenty cents a pound. It should be borne in mind that the lobelia is poisonous and it is the intention of the government's experts who are directing attention to the value of certain weeds to impress upon the minds of the gatherers that the medicinal properties of the harvest should not be tested at home, but left rather as subjects for the physician's prescription.
Everyone who is drawn beyond the shadow of city walls knows the burdock— Arctium lappa. If one does not know it by either of the names first given, he probably can pick a familiar name from these: cockle button, beggars' buttons, hurr-bur, stick button, hardock and bardane.
The burdock is unsightly but useful. It has a neighbor, in many places, the skunk cabbage, which most people hold in detestation, but the skunk cabbage is worthy nevertheless. It is the first of the meadow growths to feel the impelling influence of spring, and in the summer when all other creatures avoid it, the Maryland yellow-throat, a birdbeauty above all other bird-beauties, builds its nest in its heart.
Fully 50.000 pounds of burdock root are brought into this country annually from Belgium for medicinal use. There is no reason why the native burdock should not be marketed. The seeds are of service in medicine also, both roots and seeds being used in blood and skin diseases. The leaves have a value fresh state as cooling poultices which are applied to certain forms of swelling and ulcers. The root of the burdock is worth from three to eight cents per pound and the seed is worth from five to ten cents.
Golden seal, Hydrastis Canadensis, called a weed generally, has been lifted by the scientist into the kingdom of plants. Lewis and Clark while on their expedition collected specimens of the golden seal and Lewis wrote of it as be
ing considered a sovereign remedy for sore eyes in many parts of the western country. Further he says "It makes an excellent mouth wash."
The Indians knew the value of the weed which at the first was rejected of the white man. They used the root as a medicine and the juices of stems and leaves as a dye for their clothing and a stain for their faces.
A valuable remedy for allaying inflammation.
Like every other thing that grows and is known to the country folk, the golden seal has a legion of common names, yellow-root, yellow puccoon, orange root, yellow paint, Indian paint, Indian dye, golden root, curcuma, wild turmeric, yellow eye, jaundice root, ground raspberry, and others, most of which are suggested by the color of the root, the appearance of the fruit or the uses which the plant serves.
The first general demand for golden seal was created by the members of the eclectic school of practitioners sixty years ago. The root of the plant has occupied a place in the pharmacopoeia of the United States for forty-seven years. Golden seal is disappearing in its wild state before the advance of civilization. It grows in open woods, and deforestation is exterminating it. It is a valuable drug plant and the Department of Agriculture is now experimenting in its cultivation with the belief that before long it can be shown that a profitable industry can be maintained in growing it upon lands properly conditioned for its thriving.
Pokeweed carries in its name the word of contumely. It cannot escape classification with the supposedly evil things of the field as long as its seconi syllable holds its place It is common from the New England states to Minnesota and from the lakes and the St. Lawrence to the gulf. While Americans spurn the weed, visiting Europeans some years ago took a fancy to it, carried it across the water and gave it a place as an ornamental garden plant.
Pokeweed attains a height at times of nine feet. Tn summer it produces long clusters of whitish flowers which are followed in the fall by green berries which later ripen and turn to a rich purple color. Both the berries and the roots are employed in a medicine. The berries are poisonous and the making of remedies therefrom should be left to the scientist. Root and berrv are used
for various diseases of the blood and the skin and in certain cases for allaying pain and reducing inflammation. The useful products of the weed are worth five cents a pound in the market.
There is a big American woodpecker, Colaptes auratus, which has thirty-seven names. In one section of the country he bears one name and in other sections other names. In the botanical field, the foxglove, Digitalis purpurea, is a close second in the matter of common names to our friend the woodpecker. It is probable that persons who don't know the foxglove by the specific appellation- given, may know it under some of the following designations: thimbles, fairy cap, fairy fingers, fairy thimbles, fairy bells, clog's finger, finger flower, lady's glove, lady-fingers, lady's thimble, popdock, flapdock, flopdock, lion's mouth, rabbit's flower, cottagers, throatwort, and Scotch mercury.
The foxglove is a handsome flowering weed which was originally introduced into this country from Europe as a garden plant, but it has escaped from the bounds of civilization and in many parts of the country is assuming the character of a weed. The foxglove occasionally grows to a height of more than four feet. It flowers in June and its blossoms have a beauty beyond that of most of the flowers of the field and garden. The plant, or weed as you will, supplies to the medical world the drug known as digitalis. It is of great value in heart troubles and at least 60,000 pounds of the drug are imported into America from Europe every year. None of the home product ever has been used, but an "assay" has shown that the leaves of the wild American plant are fully as valuable as are those of the foxglove of Europe.
Both the leaves and the seed of the jimson weed, Datura stramonium* are medicinal Jimson grows throughout the entire warmer sections of the United States and in most places it bears a name by which, if it has any feelings in the matter, it probably is in no wise proud to be distinguished —stinkweed. Stramonium, the product of jimson, is used principally to relieve asthma. More than 100,000 pounds of the leaves of the weed are imported into America every year and there seems to be no food reason why the home product should not be used to supply the demand. The leaves of the jimson are poisonous and the country doctor has had many a hurry up call to attend children who have put the flowers and the seeds of the weed into their mouths. A little of the juice goes a long way in the matter of poisoning.
Roneset, Eupatorium perfoliatum, brings up memories of drastic childhood doses. People call the weed feverwort, sweating plant, teasel and ague weed. Boneset belongs to the aster family, but while the asters, or some of them at least, are reared carefully in garden spots, the boneset is relegated to the wilds of the field. Boneset leaves are worth from two to eight cents a pound, and as the weed grows abundantly, there is no reason why American
citizens of the country districts should not make money by plucking them.
The drug known as pinkroot is derived from the underground portion of die plant—no weed this—Spigelia marilandica, which grows abundantly throughout the southern states. For years pinkroot as a vermifuge held an important place in materia medica. By and by the plant began to lose caste among physicians and within the las"t fifty years its use has greatly decreased.
Dr.' R. H. True of the Government's Bureau of Plant Industry became interested in the fact that pinkroot was being driven from the market and he undertook an investigation to find out the reason for the decline in the drug's reputation for efficiency. He discovered that an unsuspected substitute had crept into the market and had to a considerable degree replaced the true article. As a result of this Washington expert's work, pinkroot as a remedy may come into its own again.
There are more wihl medicinal plants in the United States than are dreamed of by any, save the doctor, the druggist and the botanist. There may be money in weeds for an enterprising person, who will take the trouble to write to the Bureau of Plant Industry in Washington. It will return an answer that it is well within the range of possibilities may prove the inspiration of a profitable and unique business.
And the answer of the Bureau will not be based on theory, for it has successfully raised several crops of most of the weeds mentioned above and has