At Malki Museum’s 2021 Fall Harvest event, we all were invited to tea — Native tea.
Sienna Thomas, a ranger for the Wildlands Conservancy at Whitewater Preserve, and a board member of the Malki Museum, gave us permission to share from her exhibit on teas for medicine and more. Thank you!
We’re also sharing a little more:
Cahuilla plant uses from the Malki’s Temalpakh: Cahuilla Indian knowledge and usage of plants (1972, Bean and Saubel),
Serrano plant uses from a 1997 ethnobotany report written by anthropologist Michael K. Lerch, and,
Traditional Native plant uses from teachings from the late Elder Barbara Drake (Tongva), a Dorothy Ramon Learning Center Dragonfly Award winner.
Please don’t gather these plants in the wild. They often are a fragile and protected resource.
Sienna Thomas also warns: “Some of these plants are toxic or have toxic parts and require knowledge that was handed down through countless generations of Native people. There are many market-ready teas available that serve the same purpose and host the same properties as those shown here today.”
Example of a market-ready tea that requires expert knowledge, stinging nettle leaf.
Here are a few traditional Native teas for health and medicine:
Creosote (often called Greasewood)
Serrano: Yartsh (Hill, 1973)
Cahuilla: Medicine for colds, chest infection, bowel/stomach, decongestant.
Serrano: Medicine. “Katherine Howard [mother of Dorothy Ramon Learning Center president, Elder Ernest Siva] remembered that a medicinal tea made from greasewood had a bad taste. Dorothy Ramon [Katherine Howard’s sister and Ernest Siva’s aunt] noted that tea made from leaves was used for washing hair, and that it was good for dandruff.”
Elder Barbara Drake (Tongva):
”A tea can be made from the stems and leaves for colds, infections, and bowel complaints. The tea is considered a tonic and decongestant. The leaves are used as a poultice for wounds and sores. The sap was used for toothaches.” (In her displays Barbara Drake often shared sprigs, leaves, and other plant parts near index cards filled with her handwritten descriptions of traditional plant uses. These teachings are from those handwritten cards.)
Elder Ernest Siva (Cahuilla-Serrano), president of Dorothy Ramon Learning Center, shares stories about the curative powers of yartsh, or creosote, often also called greasewood.
Serrano: it ∫ it ∫ (Harrington, n.d.), also, itch-ŭr-um, pl. (Merriam 1979), utshútsh (Hill, 2018)
Cahuilla: A valuable source of Vitamin C. Blossoms soaked in water to make a beverage. Buds eaten. (Temalpakh, p. 133)
Serrano: “Katherine Howard and Dorothy Ramon mixed the blossoms of wild roses with romero (Trichostema lanatum) in equal portions to make a tea which was said to be good for colds and to cleanse the system.”
Serrano: Hantut (Lerch n.d.)
Cahuilla: Sore throats, cold and cough, blood purifier, respiratory.
Serrano: Important medicinal plant. “Dorothy Ramon was given tea made from hantut when she was a child. The tea made by her mother was administered one teaspoonful at a time, and was very effective. Although Dorothy stated that the taste was ‘not bad,’ her sister Katherine Howard remembered that it tasted kind of ‘funny, and strong.’”
Barbara Drake (Tongva): “The flower heads are brewed into a tea to fight colds and flu. The hot tea promotes perspiration and reduces temperature. The dried branches can be hollowed out and made into flutes and clapsticks. The leaves make black dye. Fruit is edible.”
Explore our "Elderberry Memories" newsletter for Native uses of elderberry as food, medicine, materials for making music, basket dyes, and more.
Cahuilla and Serrano: tutut
Barbara Drake (Tongva): “The jointed stems are made into a tea for high fever, coughs, colds, and headaches. It can also be used as a blood purifier. The roots and stems can be brewed into a decoction to stop bleeding. The dried and powdered roots were sprinkled on all kinds of sores. … It also helps kidney pain.”
Want to learn more about Native teas? The Wildlands Conservancy is offering a Tea Talk and an opportunity to sample tea at Whitewater Preserve in Whitewater, California, on November 4, 2021, as part of a weeklong celebration of Native American cultures. More information HERE.
Thanks to Sienna Thomas, Michael Lerch, and Ernest Siva.
Dorothy Ramon Learning Center’s 501(c)3 nonprofit mission to save and share Southern California Native American cultures, languages, history, and traditional arts. We love to hear from our community: EMAIL. Subscribe, share! (Subscribers: If you don’t see our newsletter every Wednesday in your email inbox, please check your marketing or promotions folders.) Thank you! Pat Murkland, Editor. October 27, 2021.