Friday, April 3, 2009

Trilliums in Tryon Creek State Park: A Sunday Hike In The Rain

This is one of the main trails in Tryon Creek State Park. You can’t tell from the photo, but at the moment it was taken, freezing rain was falling. Moments after setting foot on the trail, I spot the first trillium.

Trillium is an easy plant to identify. It has a single succulent stalk and three leaves. In spring it bears a large white three petaled flower which turns slightly pink as it matures. Finding the flower is not so important to an herbalist, who will appreciate the blooms is spring, but seeks to harvest leaves, stems and roots in the fall. Trillium can be found in moist old-growth of the Pacific Northwest from the Redwoods of California, the coast of B.C., either side of the Cascade Range in Oregon and Washington, the northern part of Idaho and the mountains of Alberta, Montana and Wyoming. According to Michael Moore in Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West, “Find a creek starting in the forest, follow it down through the trees to where it begins to broaden out, and you will usually find some trillium.

Trillium, often referred to as birth root, is a member of the Liliaceae family. It is a mild remedy with minimal chronic toxicity. It has historically been used to astringe uterine bleeding, and has been used in treating fibroids. It has many uses according to Peter Holmes. It resolves mucus, damp and congestion and stops discharges and bleeding. It can harmonize menstruation and menopause (it increases progesterone), it can stimulate the uterus to promote labor and delivery. As a ‘cough root’ it is used as an expectorant to resolve thick phlegm in a difficult and dry cough. The fresh root (rhizome, actually) is best to use in a decoction or tincture. Washes and compresses can be used for sores and inflammation. Roots well worth learning about if you live in the Northwest.

What else did I see?

In the same area, I also found coltsfoot, cleavers, salal, Oregon grape, and usnea. No doubt there is much more I did not notice. After all, I was only looking for trillium flowers.

About the Author
Scott Stuart, L.A.c., teaches herbal medicine for the Australasian College of Health Sciences, and practices Oriental Medicine at Outside/In, a Portland, Oregon, social service agency.

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