Bog Plants and Their Use in Medicine

Bog Plants and Their Use in Medicine

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Bog Plants and Their Use in Medicine

Although most of the modern world does not often resort to bog plants for medicinal uses when there are more widely accessible forms of medicine to treat certain health needs, there exists numerous medicinal uses for bog plants. The various medicinal uses of different bog plants have developed and changed over the course of history. Bog plants were more commonly used by Native Indians as medicine such as the Ledum groenlandicum (Labrador tea) for sore throats and colds. The leaves of Gaultheria procumbens (Wintergreen), also processed into tea, treat aches and pains in native North American medicine. In the olden days, not long after the Native Indian civilizations, Wintergreen leaves were used in perfumery with woody notes. Other bog plants that are used as tea leaves include the Scutellaria lateriflora, which is tea for anxiety, nervous exhaustion and pre-menstrual tension, and the Valeriana officinalis, which promotes soothing sleep.

During the Middle Ages, Potentilla palustris (Marsh Cinquefoil) were regarded as having healing properties for almost any ailment and were widely collected. The genus of the cinquefoil’s Potentilla from Latin meant “powerful” was derived from its reputation as powerful cure-alls. In particular, the Potentilla erecta (Tormentil) was used as an antibiotic and an astringent (causing tissues to contract). Another bog plant, the Cladonia species was classified as an effective medicinal herb in the Middle Ages, but is only used today as fabric dyes. Some bog plants such as the Osmunda regalis (Royal Fern) were used during the colonial times for treating coughs, but this practice is now obsolete. As one of the most widely known plants from bogs, the Vaccinium species or the Bog Cranberry is the most edible and digestible plant from the bog. It produces cranberries which are most effective in treating diseases or infections in the urinary systems for both genders. Since cranberries have a low spoilage factor and a high Vitamin C content, they were extensively by all generations in American heritage as a food source for long journeys in preventing scurvy.

Throughout the course of history, there have been some extraordinary medicinal uses of bog plants by various ages and by various civilizations. The Lycopus europaeus (Gypsywort) was used both as a sedative drug and as a dye plant (black). It was once used by Gypsies to colour their skin, and hence the common name, Gypsywort.

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An old medicinal use for Achillea ptarmica (Sneezewort) is to have its leaves dried and ground to make sneezing powder.

Some bog plants are also used to treat health concerns arised from unnatural occurances. The Alisma plantago aquatica has earned a reputation in the United States to treat rattlesnake bites.

As not all bog plants produce favourable symptoms when digested, the Eupatorium cannabinum (Hemp Agrimony) is used to be an emetic (causing vomiting) or to cause a person to cough and spit mucous matter that is obstructive or detrimental in the body. Thus these bog plants, among the simplest inhabitants our planet, have served mankind in a multitude of medicinal ways. This is all the more reason for us to protect and preserve bogs and the plants they nourish, as many are becoming endangered species and have increasing chances of extinction with the negligence from its destroyers, the human species.


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Hawke, D. J. 1994. Wetlands. Boston Mills Press, Erin, Ontario.

Kozloff, E. N. 1976. Plants and Animals of the Pacific Northwest. J. J. Douglas Ltd., Vancouver.

Lyons, J. and Jordan, S. 1989. Walking the Wetlands: A Hiker’s Guide to Common Plants and Animals of Marshes, Bogs, and Swamps. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York.

Rezendes, P. and Roy, P. 1996. Wetlands: The Web of Life. Sierra Club Books, San Francisco, California.
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