The medicine of Oregon Grape teaches us to stand in our own power, and not rely on our environment or others to bring us happiness. This is especially poignant in the month of February when society tells us that, on Valentine’s Day, we must seek happiness and love outside of ourselves.
The root of Oregon Grape, taken as a tincture or tea, can help with digestion, and can balance many issues that cause stomach and GI upset. The flowers and berries are edible, but should be consumed sparingly.
Immense gratitude to all of the plant wisdom found throughout Ktunaxa Ɂamakis wherein Ishtadev Niwas Ashram and Farm is so blessed to find itself.
“Uva-ursi” is Kinnickkinnick’s Latin name, which directly translates into “Bear Grape" or "Grape of the Bear”. Potent medicine for January, as we ourselves sit in Winter's grape/egg-like tamasic state of inertia, or unrealized potential and hibernation, dreaming of Spring and new growth into being.
Kinnickinnick likes sunny, dry slopes, sandy & rocky soils, riverbanks, and is ground-cover in coniferous forests. The thick, evergreen leaves of bearberry can be gathered early spring through late autumn. In the winter, if needed, they can be harvested from under the snow. When harvesting, give thanks and be mindful to take only what you need.
In terms of medicinal uses, Kinnickinnick's are manifold. The leaves can be made into a tincture and are predominantly used as a urinary antiseptic for urinary tract infections. The leaves' anti-microbial actions help to kill bacteria in the urine. The leaves are infused by steeping them in water just above the boiling point to make a tea and then is drunk as a tonic. This infusion could also be used as a mouthwash for canker sores or weak gums.
It has also been made into a decoction by boiling the plant material in water, and then drunk for colds and Tuberculosis. This decoction could also be used as a wash for broken bones. Moreover, decoction of Kinnikinnick has also commonly been used as an eye medicine for sore eyes.
There are many ways that the Kinnickkinnick is/was used by First Nations, from dried leaves smoked as a part of a ceremonial smoking mix in Indigenous pipe ceremonies, to the leaves being chewed on to suppress thirst. In daily living, Kinnikinnick fruit berries were also mashed to create a sealant on baskets.
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