Column: Looking for the perfect cure-all in Nobles CountyWORTHINGTON — You know about finding something to read in a dentist’s waiting room or about something folded into the weekend newspaper or about some tract that comes with the mail. You know nothing about what you are reading except for what is printed on the page before you. I came on one of these things regarding licorice.
By: Ray Crippen, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — You know about finding something to read in a dentist’s waiting room or about something folded into the weekend newspaper or about some tract that comes with the mail. You know nothing about what you are reading except for what is printed on the page before you.
I came on one of these things regarding licorice.
Now I don’t even know exactly what this is about. I mean — I think they are not talking about a twisted string of black licorice you buy in a bag at Hy-Vee. I think they are talking only about something like ground root of licorice. Anyway (says this tract), licorice nearly is the cure-all.
Licorice is basic in Chinese herbal medicine, licorice is valued in Europe’s pharmacies and licorice has been used by humankind as a medicine since the earliest times. Licorice can help to reduce infections, help to clear skin problems, help to ease respiratory problems, combat stress, relieve irritations. What I read didn’t say what licorice may do for hang nails.
I am not going to go out to buy a box of licorice. (I think, in fact, the offer was two bottles for $19.95, not sold in stores.) I was reminded of the time-honored belief that much of what ails us could be cured by crushed roots or dried leafs or powdered stems of native plants.
I buy into this theory.
Lately I noticed the pasque flowers were emerging at Nobles County’s Sunrise Park. Our purple prairie coneflowers soon will be pressing from the soil.
Most of us remember a time when you barely saw coneflowers, save on small tracts of original prairie. People now have coneflowers blooming in their backyards. Many people are gulping powered coneflower root, dried coneflower juice — echinacea — to ward off colds. The belief (claim) is that echinacea helps to ward off colds and other infections and that echinacea reduces the length and severity of colds. I am not taking echinacea, but I am not hooting. Dried coneflowers from southwest Minnesota and northwest Iowa were in the medicine bags of native Americans.
There is a story with this. There was a German botanist — Andreas Geyer — who believed there might be a ton of good medicine growing across the prairies of North America. In 1838, Geyer started exploring and digging out native plants in Minnesota. He was prowling around these parts 170 years ago thinking maybe he could find a cure for infections, maybe something to restore failing hearts. Geyer actually was the fourth botanist from Europe poking about this region, but he was the most conscientious.
Geyer found the purple coneflower. In August, near present-day Vernon Center, he found Gerardia auriculta (eared gerardia), which excited him. It has since disappeared. In September he found a satin grass in present-day Waseca County which was/is found nowhere else in the world.
Along Buffalo Ridge he found downy paintbrush (Castilleja sessiliflora), stiff flax (Linum rigidum), silvery-leaved scurf pea (Psoralea argophylla), scarlet gaura (Gaura coccinea). ascending milk vetch (Astragulus adsurgens), plains evening-primrose (Calylophus serrulatus) — all this according to the book.
By the end of October 1838, A. Geyer had 450 plants, mostly from Minnesota. With everything on the prairie turned brown by frost and with winter at hand, Geyer headed northeast toward Fort Snelling.
Once at the Fort he identified, labeled and packed all his treasured flora into trunks. Geyer had not been digging out plants that might be found in Germany or Ohio. He searched for what was native to Minnesota — something that might be the cure for something.
When Mississippi River traffic resumed, Geyer went to the wharf and loaded his precious plants on a steamboat. He needed to get them to St. Louis. Somewhere near Warsaw, Ill., nearly all of Geyer’s trunks disappeared. Kaput.
No one ever learned what happened. The trunks were seen by crew members, and then they were gone.
The plants of Minnesota did not disappear, of course. It never has been certain however that Andreas Geyer did not come upon a plant at one location or another which was not found another time around and which has since disappeared with the plowing of the prairie.
Maybe he found prairie licorice? You think so?
Ray Crippen is a former editor of the Daily Globe. His column appears on Saturdays.