The herbs are a collection of plants that have medicinal and culinary value.  Some of the plants in our garden were typical weeds found in your front lawn while others can be found as perennials grown in commercial greenhouses. In full bloom this section of the garden was stunning.  Many visitors were attracted to the display and walked away learning how important herbs are.  Some easily recognizable herbs are Purple coneflower Echinacea pallida, this herb can be found in stores today to help fight colds.  But did you know that it was used as an antidote for snakebite and other venomous bites and stings.  We had a wide variety of coneflowers, yarrow, mint, sorrel, violets, mallow, and daises.  Information about the following herbs includes  the genus and family that each plant belongs to and a small narrative of the significant role the plant has played and which tribes have traditional used them.


Dorothy Decorah talks about Gathering Herbs/Medicines (transcript)

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Note:  We encourage you to grow your own herb garden, but for the most part, centuries of experience has shown herbalists what dosages are safe and effective, and which plants can be hazardous.  Be sure you know the potential dangers of any herbs you are or plan to take for medicinally remedies.  We are not licensed herbalists or doctors.


Herb Processing

Herbs In the early morning, after the dew evaporated, the herbs were picked.  This is usually the best time of the day.  The plants were shaken to expel little critters, next the herbs were separated and the lower leaves were removed.  Each bunch of herbs was tied and hung upside down.



Herbs separated, tied, and hung to dry.

From left to right

  1. Goldenrod Solidago sp.
  2. Black-eyed Susan Rudbeckia hirta L.
  3. Aster Aster sp.
  4. Prairie Coneflower Ratibida pinnata
  5. Marsh Mallow Althaea Officinalis
  6. Purple Coneflower Echinacea pallida
  7. Hyssop Hyssopus officinalis
  8. Queen Anne’s lace Daucus carota
  9. Mint Mentha piperita
  10. Yarrow Achillea millefolium
  11. Yellow Coneflower Rudbeckia laciniata L.


Aster Aster (Aster sp.)

Tribes:  Ojibwa, Pawnee

Traditional Medicinal Usage:  skin irritations

Other:  consume with boiled fish, seasoning agent

Medicinally used by the Pawnee for skin irritations. The stems were reduced to charcoal, then set on the skin over the affected part. The Ojibwa used the leaves for seasoning. The leaves were boiled with fish and then consumed together.


Black-eyed Susan Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta L.)

Tribes:  Ojibwa, Menominee, Potawatomi

Traditional Medicinal Usage:  pediatric aid, increase the flow of urine, colds

Other:  yellow dye

The Ojibwa used the blossoms of this plant as a pediatric aid. The Menominee used it for its diuretic properties.


Blue Violet Blue Violet (Viola sororia)

Among the Omaha children, violets were used in playing a game. In springtime a group of children would gather a quantity of violets; then, dividing into two equal parties, one party took the name of their own nation and the other party took another, as for instance Dakota. The two parties sat down facing each other, and each player snapped violets with his or her opponent till one or the other had none remaining. The party having the greater number of violets remaining was the victor and playfully taunted the other as being poor fighters.


Goldernrod Goldenrod  (Solidago sp.)

Tribes:  Ojibwa, Omaha

Traditional Medicinal Usage:  cramps, fever, stomach cramps

Other:  This plant served as marker for corn ripening.

The Omaha used this plant as a mark or sign in the floral calendar. When they were on the summer buffalo hunt, the sight indicated to them that their corn was beginning to ripen at home. The Ojibwa made a decoction of the root and applied it externally for cramps. A decoction of dried leaves was taken for fever. A hot decoction of the root was applied externally for stomach cramps.


Prairie Ground Cherry (Physalis virginiana)

Tribes:  Ho Chunk, Dakota

Traditional Medicinal Usage:  headaches, stomach trouble, wounds

Other:  consume young greens, children’s games

The Ho Chunk used the root for headaches and stomach trouble. A decoction of the root was applied as a dressing for wounds. The Dakota ate firm, young, green seedpods with boiled meat in the spring. The children played games by striking the inflated blossoms on the forehead or hand.


Hyssop Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis)

Tribes:  not specified

Traditional Medicinal Usage:  coughs, fevers, feeble stomach, cuts, bruises, asthma, muscular rheumatism, other lung and chest diseases

Other:  sweetener in cookery

Syrup was made for coughs, asthma and other lung and chest diseases. Infusions were made for fevers. The leaves of this plant were commonly used to make tea taken with meals. The tea was used to improve the tone of a feeble stomach, being brewed with the green tops of the herb. The green tops are also sometimes boiled in soup to be given for asthma. It was also used as a sweetening flavor in cookery. An infusion of the leaves was used externally for the relief of muscular rheumatism, and also for bruises.


Marsh Mallow Marsh Mallow (Althaea Officinalis)

Tribe:  Dakota

Traditional Medicinal Usage:  bruises, sprains, hemorrhages, muscular aches, diseases of the chest, coughs,bronchitis, whooping cough, inflammation and irritations, rrinary and respiratory organs

The root of the plant was primarily used for making decoctions and thick pastes. A decoction was effective in curing bruises, sprains or any ache in the muscles or sinews. In hemorrhages from the urinary organs and in dysentery, it has been recommended to use the powdered root boiled in milk  Boiled in wine or milk, Marsh Mallow was used to relieve diseases of the chest, such as coughs, bronchitis, whooping cough, etc. It was generally used in combination with other herbal remedies.  It was frequently given in the form of syrup, which was best adapted to infants and children.


Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca L.)

Tribes:  Ho Chunk, Ojibwa, Menominee, Potawatomi

Traditional Medicinal Usage:  chest discomfort, increases milk flow, warts, stomach trouble, an appetite increaser, snakebites and the bites of venomous insects

Other:  making cordage, consume young green seedpods, sprouts, and buds

It has a very milky juice, which is used as a domestic application to warts. The juice has a faint smell and sub-acid taste. The root can be eaten raw as a remedy for stomach trouble. Other remedies are for treating snakebites and the bites of venomous insects. The Menominee ate the buds or made a decoction of the root for chest discomfort. They also used this plant as a fiber in making cordage. The Ojibwa made a decoction of the root for women in order to increase milk flow after childbirth. It also served as an appetizer before feasts to increase the appetite. Young green seedpods, sprouts, and tops were cooked as greens.


Mint Mint (Mentha piperita)

Tribes:  Dakota, Menominee, Omaha, Pawnee

Traditional Medicinal Usage:  pneumonia, local pain, antacid, gas relief

Other:  beverage, like tea

Wild mint was used by all the nations as an aid in digestion. It was steeped in water for the patient to drink. Sometimes this infusion was used as a beverage, like tea, not alone for its medicinal property but for its pleasing aromatic flavor. The Menominee made a compound infusion and a poultice applied to the chest for pneumonia. Crushed fresh leaves were applied to relieve local pain.


Ox Eye Daisy Ox Eye Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare Lam.)

Tribe:  Menominee

Traditional Medicinal Usage:  fever, night sweats, chronic coughs, bronchial inflammation, pulmonary consumption

Other:  drink sweetened with honey

As a tonic, it acts similarly to Chamomile, it calms and soothes. It has been recommended for night sweats. The flowers are balsamic and make a useful infusion for relieving chronic coughs and for bronchial inflammation. The leaves and stalks are boiled and sweetened with honey, they make an excellent drink for the same purpose. The root can be used for pulmonary consumption. The Menominee used this as a fever medicine.


Purple Coneflower Purple Coneflower (Echinacea pupurea)

Tribes:  Dakota, Sioux

Traditional Medicinal Usage:  snakebite, stings, burns, toothache, poisonous conditions

This plant was universally used as an antidote for snakebite, stings and other poisonous conditions. It was employed in the smoke treatment for headaches. It was used also as a remedy for toothache, a piece being kept on the painful tooth until there was relief. Burns were bathed with the juices to give relief from the pain.


Queen Anne's Lace Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota)

Tribes:  not specified

Traditional Medicinal Usage:  colic, liver, kidney, bladder, painful urination, ulcers, abscesses, sores, wounds, increase the menstrual flow, expel worms from the bowels

Queen Anne’s lace blossoms were used as a tea; the root and seeds were often ground and used for colic, liver, kidney and bladder, painful urination, to increase the menstrual flow, and in expelling worms from the bowels. Grated root made into a poultice was recommended for ulcers, abscesses, sores, and bad wounds.


Red Clover Red Clover (Trifolium pratense)

Tribe:  Pawnee

Traditional Medicinal Usage:  prophylactic

Other:  The tough elastic stems were used to make brooms to sweep the lodges.

The leaves were sometimes used to make a drink similar to tea, for a sore and inflamed throat. According to the Pawnee, the tough elastic stems were used to make brooms to sweep the lodges. The plant was also used to prevent disease.


Wild Strawberry Wild Strawberry (Fragaria virginiana Duchesne)

Tribes:  Dakota, Ho Chunk, Ojibwa, Omaha, Pawnee

Traditional Medicinal Usage:  stomach trouble, cholera, urinary functions

Other:  fruit eaten raw, tea made from leaves

Many tribes ate the berries fresh from the plant. A tea could be made from the leaves. The Ojibwa used this plant to treat cholera and stomach trouble.

Merlin Red Cloud Jr. talks about Strawberries and other Berries (transcript)

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Yarrow Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

Tribes:  Ho Chunk, Lakota, Ojibwa, Potawatomi

Traditional Medicinal Usage:  swellings, a stimulant, headache, dermatological aid, earache, severe colds, fevers, opens the pores, purifies the blood, measles, other eruptive diseases, recommended in the early stages of children's colds

Other:  ceremonial purposes

An infusion of this herb was used by the Ho Chunk to bathe swellings. For an earache, a wad of the leaves, and the infusion was put into the ear. Yarrow tea was a good remedy for severe colds, to reduce fevers, and in cases of obstructed perspiration. It opens the pores freely and purifies the blood. It was recommended in the early stages of children’s colds, in measles, and other eruptive diseases. The Ojibwa placed florets on coals and used the smoke to break fevers. Sometimes flowers were burned for ceremonial purposes. A decoction of leaves were steamed and inhaled for headaches. The root was applied to the skin for dermatological aid. As a stimulant, a dried root was chewed and spit onto the limbs.


Yellow Coneflower Yellow Coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata L.)

Tribe:  Ojibwa

Traditional Medicinal Usage:  burns, indigestion

The Ojibwa made a compound poultice of blossoms and applied it to burns. A compound infusion of the root was taken for indigestion.


Sorrel Wood Sorrel (Oxalis acetosella)

Tribes:  Menominee,  Omaha, Pawnee

Traditional Medicinal Usage:  cooling agent, high fever, quench thirst, ulcers in the mouth, heal wounds, stanch bleeding, cure or prevent scurvy, increase the secretion of urine, reduction of swellings and inflammation

Other:  yellow dye

A decoction made from its pleasant acid leaves was given for high fevers, both to quench thirst and to allay the fever. The juice of the leaves was made into a fine, clear syrup, which was considered as effectual as an infusion. The juice was used as a gargle for curing ulcers in the mouth, and to heal wounds and to stanch bleeding. Sponges and linen cloths saturated with the juice and applied to the body were held to be effective in the reduction of swellings and inflammation. Other uses are by the Menominee, they boiled the whole plant as a yellow dye.