Poison

(Rhus radicans) It is so poisonous that even smoke wafted from the burning trees can affect a sensitive skin. The plant known as ORANGE BALSAM, or Jewel-weed rubbed on the skin is said to be a cure for its effects (Sanford). In spite of this vicious toxicity, it has been a useful plant in its day, particularly useful to the American Indians. The

Navajo, for instance, used it as one of the ingredients in their arrow poison (Wyman & Harris). It was used as a dyeplant, too, by some groups by boiling the roots to give yellow. They used to dry and store the berries. When they were wanted, an infusion in water gave a drink like lemonade (H H Smith. 1923). They recognised its worth as a medicine, albeit a dangerous one, only to be used by the most skilled of the medicine men. Some groups used a mash of the leaves to treat ringworm (Weiner), and boils were treated by the Kiowa simply by rubbing the leaves over them. The resultant dermatitis lasts about as long as the boil. So the disappearance of the two afflictions together may explain this usage (Vestal & Schultes). GREATER CELANDINE juice was another way of treating a poison ivy rash, which the Pennsylvania Germans chose (Fogel), and some North American Indians used SHEPHERD'S PURSE (H H Smith. 1923).

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