Medicine Tree Trail

(Trees medicinal, edible parts, and other uses).

Please Note: This guide is meant to be strictly informational about the traditional uses of these plants.

Collecting and ingesting wild plants is a potentially dangerous activity. It should only be carried-out by those with the knowledge and experience to identify species correctly.

Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the individual to ensure the safety of anything they choose to ingest.​

Download the Medicine Tree Trail Guide Here.

Bitternut Hickory (Carya Cordiformis)

Medicinal use of Bitternut: The oil from the seeds has been used in the treatment of rheumatism. The bark is diuretic and laxative.

Edible parts of Bitternut: Seed - raw or cooked. Thin shelled but bitter and astringent. Even squirrels tend to pass it over. The seed is about 3cm long. The seed ripens in late autumn and, when stored in its shell in a cool place, will keep for at least 6 months.

Other uses of the herb: An oil expressed from the seeds has been used as an illuminant in oil lamps. Often used as a potted stock for grafting varieties of pecans (C. illinoensis). Wood - heavy, very hard, strong, elastic, tough, close grained. Although the wood tends to be brittle, it has an amazing quality of shock-resistance and is used for hoops, tool handles etc, though it is considered to be inferior to other hickories. A very good fuel, burning well and giving off a lot of heat.

Source: BITTERNUT - Carya cordiformis

Tulip Poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera)

Medicinal use of Tulip Tree: The intensely acrid bitter inner bark, especially of the roots, is used domestically as a diuretic, tonic and stimulant. The raw green bark is also chewed as an aphrodisiac. The bark contains "tulipiferine", which is said to exert powerful effects on the heart and nervous system. A tea is used in the treatment of indigestion, dysentery, rheumatism, coughs, fevers etc. Externally, the tea is used as a wash and a poultice on wounds and boils. The root bark and the seeds have both been used to expel worms from the body.

Edible parts of Tulip Tree: The root is used as a lemon-like flavouring in spruce beer, where it also serves to correct the bitterness of the beer. The bark of the root and branches have a pleasant rather pungent scent.

Other uses of the herb: A gold-coloured dye is obtained from the bark. Wood - fine grained, soft, light, easily worked, durable, brittle, not strong but does not split. A valuable timber, and is much used for interior finishes, furniture, construction and plywood.

Source: TULIP TREE - Liriodendron tulipifera

American Beech (Fagus grandifolia)

Medicinal use of American Beech: A decoction of the boiled leaves has been used as a wash and poultice to treat frostbite, burns, poison ivy rash etc. The nuts have been eaten as a vermifuge. A tea made from the bark has been used in the treatment of lung ailments. It has also been used to procure an abortion when the mother was suffering.

Edible parts of American Beech: Young leaves - raw or cooked as a potherb. A very nice mild flavour but the leaves quickly become tough so only the youngest should be used. New growth is usually produced for 2 periods of 3 weeks each year, one in spring and one in mid-summer. Seed - raw or cooked. Small but very sweet and nutritious, it is sold in local markets in Canada and some parts of America. Rich in oil, the seed also contains up to 22% protein. The raw seed should not be eaten in large quantities since it is believed to cause enteritis. It can be dried and ground into a powder, then used with cereal flours in making bread, cakes etc.

The germinating seeds can be eaten raw, they are tender, crisp, sweet and nutty. The roasted seed is a coffee substitute. An edible semi-drying oil is obtained from the seed. Inner bark. Dried, ground into a powder and then used as a thickening in soups etc or mixed with cereals when making bread.

Other uses of the herb: The oil obtained from the seed has been used as a fuel in oil lamps. Wood - strong, hard, heavy, very close grained, not durable, difficult to cure. It weighs 43lb per cubic foot. Harvested commercially, it is used for furniture, flooring, tool handles, crates etc. It makes excellent charcoal and is used in artwork.

Source: AMERICAN BEECH - Fagus grandifolia

Black Gum (Nyssa sylvatica)

Medicinal use of Black Tupelo: The bark is emetic, ophthalmic and vermifuge. An infusion has been used as a bath and also given to children with worms. A strong decoction is used to cause vomiting when unable to retain food. A strong ooze from the roots is used as eye drops.

Edible parts of Black Tupelo: Fruit - raw or cooked. A thin sharply acid pulp that is pleasant to roll in the mouth as a masticatory, it is also used in preserves. Pleasantly acidulous. The fruit is up to 15mm in diameter and is borne in small clusters of 2 - 3.

Other uses of the herb: Wood - tough, not durable, soft, heavy, hard to work and warps easily. It has an intricately contorted and twisted grain. It weighs 40lb per cubic foot and is used for making boxes, soles of shoes, wooden pipes, wheel hubs, veneer etc.

Source: BLACK TUPELO - Nyssa sylvatica

American Hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana)

Medicinal use of American Hornbeam: American hornbeam was employed medicinally by some native North American Indian tribes, though it is not used in modern herbalism. The inner bark is astringent. An infusion has been used in the treatment of diarrhoea and difficult urination with discharge.

Edible parts of American Hornbeam: Seed - cooked. An emergency food, used when all else fails.

Other uses of the herb: Wood - heavy, close grained, very hard, strong, but not very durable in the soil. It weighs 45lb per cubic foot. Too small to be exploited commercially, this high quality wood is often used locally for flooring, cogs, tool handles, golf clubs etc. It is especially suitable for making levers and is also a good fuel.

Source: AMERICAN HORNBEAM - Carpinus caroliniana

Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida)

Medicinal use of Flowering Dogwood: Flowering dogwood was employed medicinally by a number of native North American Indian tribes who valued it especially for its astringent and antiperiodic properties. It is little used in modern herbalism. The dried root-bark is antiperiodic, astringent, diaphoretic, mildly stimulant and tonic. A tea or tincture of the astringent root bark has been used as a quinine substitute to treat malaria and also in the treatment of chronic diarrhoea. The bark has also been used as a poultice on external ulcers, wounds etc. The glycoside "cornin" found in the bark has astringent properties. The inner bark was boiled and the tea drunk to reduce fevers and to restore a lost voice. A compound infusion of the bark and the root has been used in the treatment of various childhood diseases such as measles and worms.The fruits are used as a bitter digestive tonic. A tincture of them has been used to restore tone to the stomach in cases of alcoholism.

Edible parts of Flowering Dogwood: Fruit - cooked. The fruit is not poisonous, but is almost inedible raw. When the seed is removed and the flesh is mashed, it can be mixed with other fruits and made into jams, jellies etc. The fruit, when infused in "Eau de Vie" makes a bitter but acceptable drink. One report says that the fruit is poisonous for humans. The fruit is borne in clusters, each fruit being up to 15mm in diameter with a thin mealy bitter flesh.

Other uses of the herb: A red dye is obtained from the fibrous root. The peeled twigs are used as toothbrushes, they are good for whitening the teeth. The juice from the twigs preserves and hardens the gums. The twigs can also be chewed to make natural paintbrushes. A black ink can be made from the bark mixed with gum arabic and iron sulphate. The bark is very bitter, could it be used to make an insect or bird repellent? Wood - hard, heavy, strong, close grained, durable, takes a good polish and is extremely shock-resistant. It is used for making wheel hubs, tool handles, the heads of golf clubs, bearings, turnery etc.

Source: FLOWERING DOGWOOD - Cornus florida

White Oak (Quercus alba)

Medicinal use of White Oak: White oak was often used medicinally by several native North American Indian tribes, who valued it especially for its antiseptic and astringent properties and used it in the treatment of many complaints. It is little, if at all, used in modern herbalism. The inner bark contains 6 - 11% tannin, it has powerful antiseptic and astringent properties and is also expectorant and tonic. The bark is boiled and the liquid drunk in the treatment of bleeding piles and diarrhoea, intermittent fevers, coughs and colds, consumption, asthma, lost voice etc. The bark has been chewed as a treatment for mouth sores.

Externally, it is used as a wash for skin eruptions, burns, rashes, bruises, ulcers etc and as a vaginal douche. It has also been used as a wash for muscular pains. The bark is best collected in the spring. Any galls produced on the tree are strongly astringent and can be used in the treatment of haemorrhages, chronic diarrhoea, dysentery etc.

Edible parts of White Oak: Seed - raw or cooked. Somewhat sweet. The seed is about 1 - 3cm long and ripens in its first year. It contains about 6% protein and 65% carbohydrates. It is low in tannin and needs little if any leaching. It is said that those seeds with red or pink blotches on the shell are the sweetest. Any bitter tannins can be leached out by thoroughly washing the dried and ground up seed in water, though many minerals will also be lost. It can take several days or even weeks to properly leach whole seeds, one method was to wrap them in a cloth bag and place them in a stream. Leaching the powder is quicker. A simple taste test can tell when the tannin has been leached.

The traditional method of preparing the seed was to bury it in boggy ground overwinter. The germinating seed was dug up in the spring when it would have lost most of its astringency. The seed can be roasted and then eaten, its taste is something like a cross between sunflower seeds and popcorn. The roasted seed is a coffee substitute that is free from caffeine.

Other uses of the herb: A mulch of the leaves repels slugs, grubs etc, though fresh leaves should not be used as these can inhibit plant growth. The bark is a rich source of tannin. Oak galls are excrescences that are sometimes produced in great numbers on the tree and are caused by the activity of the larvae of different insects. The insects live inside these galls, obtaining their nutrient therein. When the insect pupates and leaves, the gall can be used as a rich source of tannin, that can also be used as a dyestuff. A brown dye is obtained from the bark or from the galls, it does not require a mordant. Yellow, chrome and gold can also be obtained if mordants are used.

Wood - strong, very heavy, hard, tough, close grained, durable. It weighs about 46lb per cubic foot. One of the most important timbers in N. America, it is used for cabinet making, construction, agricultural tools etc, and is also a good fuel. Highly valued for making the staves of barrels for storing wine and liquor.

Source: WHITE OAK - Quercus alba

Click here to return to the Activities Page​.

Click here to return to the Patapsoc Main Page.