Native American Ethnobotany Database

Here is a point where worlds collide – I am a librarian who loves well researched food. And it is with that background that I present to you this database: Native American Ethnobotany.

This database is THE SOURCE for finding out important, historical, accurate information about most foods, including foraged foods, and their benefits.

This can be used to find out about a weed in your backyard, such as lamsquarters, or even just raspberry. You’ll notice that there are citations for each listed benefit, as well as a link the USDA Plants database that I often use for edible plants.

Here is an example citation, for lambsquarters:

Chenopodium album L.
Lambsquarters; Chenopodiaceae
Eskimo, Inupiat Drug (Carminative)
Leaves and stems cooked with beans to reduce the intestinal gas from eating the beans.
Jones, Anore 1983 Nauriat Niginaqtuat = Plants That We Eat. Kotzebue, Alaska. Maniilaq Association Traditional Nutrition Program (p. 64)

I am sure that some of you will find this useful, others not so much. It’s a great database to help when your friend tells you something about how Native Americans used any plant. This is a great resource to help get to the bottom line.

For another example, try Arrowleaf Balsamroot. This is a popular flower in the Boise Foothills, but has over 100 citations for uses! These range from…

  • Root smudge smoke inhaled for body aches.
  • Infusion of leaves, roots and stems taken for stomach pains and headaches.
  • Poultice of chewed roots applied to blisters and sores.
  • Root chewed and saliva allowed to run down throat for sore mouth and throat.
You will also notice that the citations recur and were recorded by many different Native American groups, all over the continent. I am sure that arrowleaf balsamroot will cure my stomach pains and sore throat, now.

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