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Herbal Moment with Dr. Riverwind - Small Pox vs The Pitcher Plant

Updated: Dec 17, 2023

Disclaimer: The following information is available for educational, informational, and entertainment purposes only and should not be misconstrued as health advice. Everyone's body is unique. Personalized advice from medical doctors and integrative health professionals are a vital part of responsible healthcare. Additionally, many plants have dangerous look-alikes. Never use a plant that you are not 100% positive of its identification.

Smallpox: Why would we need to know about it? Hasn’t it been eradicated from the earth and removed from concern? It has not been cropping its head up in people; however, it is still around in the CDC! (Some theorize that it has been used to create a bioweapon.)

Native Americans had enormous losses when colonizers came over to begin life in the Americas. When you look at smallpox and its deadliness among the people, it is something we never want to see again.

In 1861 a highly effective herbal cure for smallpox was found among the Mi'kmaq people. The medicine woman who discovered this treatment has been alleged to be a Kanien’kehaka (Mohawk) woman living amongst the Mi’kmaq at Shubenacadie. Before your mind begins to conjure up a crazy-looking, native hermit with twigs embedded in unruly hair, while shaking rattles and bones in your face then stop. Erase that image from your mind because in First Nations culture a medicine man or medicine woman was the village herbalist or natural doctor. Experts in their fields of natural medicine and holistic remedies these men and women were an integral part of village life.

Many tribes had societies of medicine people who came together and shared their plant knowledge and sometimes ancestral herbal secrets with one another. It is because of the tenacity of many elders to retain the knowledge of the plant world that we have this priceless knowledge available today. While we will never know if this Kanien'kehaka woman was part of a medicine society we do know that we have the name of this life-saving plant. The indigenous name for this plant is Mqo’oqewi’k. It was Kanien'kehaka who brought the smallpox remedy to the world: a substance made from Sarracenia Purpurea aka Pitcher Plant.

Kanien'kehaka soon sold the remedy for smallpox to British and Haligonian colonizers in 1861. While smallpox still posed a serious threat, the Mikmaq of Nova Scotia were treating the disease using a botanical infusion derived from the insectivorous plant Sarracenia purpurea, a species of pitcher plant. [1]

Location: A pitcher plant is a carnivorous plant that grows in Canada down the east coast into Georgia, and as far west as Minnesota.

Appearance: It has spider web-type, purple veins that run through it, and hairs that point inward from the sides of the vessel.

Uses: The surface/aerial parts were ground up and made into a tea, and the mixture was used as a poultice topically. The roots are used in homeopathy; trace amounts are diluted to give your body a hint of something it wants to activate in your system. [2] The National Institute of Health has published a very informative article on this plant that is worth reading as well. [3]

’There is much scepticism on herbal medicine but what our results illustrate conclusively is that this herb is able to kill the virus and we can actually demonstrate how it kills the virus,’ says Professor Langland. ’It takes this herb out of the realm of folklore, and into the area of true scientific evidence.’ Dr. Jeffery Langland-Arizona State University

(Disclaimer: the terminology "kill" for a virus is disputed among scientists. Some use the term "render inert" regardless, the virus is neutralized.)

Additional uses:

  • Helps keep flies away at your picnic

  • Can be used to purge parasites

  • Infusion - curbs hunger and helps with skin irritations

  • It contains Proteolytic enzymes that help break down proteins into peptides, and then into amino acids

  • Relieves headaches related to congestion/illness

While most Sarracenia species favor the warm temperatures found in USDA Hardiness Zones 7 to 10, some - like S. purpurea, the purple pitcher plant - can tolerate winter lows ranging down to about -10°F, and can therefore be found further north. If your in Florida, they love it there! (8)


Dr. Laralyn RiverWind-Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine & Master Herbalist
Dr. Laralyn RiverWind-Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine & Master Herbalist

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