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.
~ by Denise Holden, Atmanidhi Herman and Shannon Duncan
Ishtadev Niwas Ashram
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