Western skunk cabbage (Lysichiton americanus)
Other common names: American skunk cabbage, swamp lantern, yellow skunk cabbage
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Vulnerary, anti-catarrhal, alterative, anti-tussive, laxative, anti-inflammatory, antihistamine, decongestant, antispasmodic, antitumorigenic, styptic, vulnerary, narcotic, vermifuge, uterine stimulant.
The young shoots are harvested in spring, the roots are harvested in autumn.
Part used: Leaves, root (both need to be cooked, or dried before use)
Caffeic acid, tannins, alkaloids, calcium oxalate, phenolic compounds, flavonol glycosides and others.
Used to treat swollen, painful joints and muscles, cough (esp. whooping cough), asthma, nervous disorders, drawing out foreign bodies, relaxing the respiratory system, easing congestion, killing parasites, treating respiratory distress, excess phlegm, fevers, cuts and bruises and tumours, infected wounds.
Use great caution when using internally. Do not use any part of the plant without cooking or drying to remove the calcium oxalate, or severe irritation and other symptoms can occur.
Cooked or dried leaves/root can be used internally with caution. See the section on contraindications for safety warnings. Typically the root is dried, powdered and made into a tincture.
Use cooked or dried (and later steeped) leaves or root in a poultice for swelling, skin conditions, burns, pain, drawing out slivers and other foreign bodies and other topical uses. Dried leaves can also be used in a bath, which is particularly valuable for rheumatic pain and inflammation. Topically it has also been used for ringworm and other parasites.
Do not use if pregnant or nursing. Excessive ingestion can result in a potent laxative effect. The leaves contain calcium oxalate crystals and can cause prickling sensations in the mouth and throat, and intestinal distress in large doses, or if not prepared properly. Skunk Cabbage is a narcotic and caution is advised when seeking this plant as a treatment option. Taking internally in high doses can cause nausea, vomiting, headache, vertigo and dimness of vision. Do not administer to children or those with severe liver or kidney disease. Consult with a physician before use if you are taking any pharmaceuticals.
I suggest consulting a pharmacist or physician before starting any herbal supplement if you are taking a prescription medication or have serious underlying health concerns.
Used to create movement, stimulating change and encouraging energy flow when there has been stagnancy. It was popular in First Nations medicine to treat injuries and joint pain, facilitate labour and ease the pain of childbirth. The leaves were commonly used to line gathering baskets and wrapped around salmon that was then baked over a fire.
Disclaimer: The information on this website is intended as general education on herbs and is not intended to take the place of medical care. Please consult a health care professional before embarking on any health regime.