The Medicinal Herb Info site was created to help educate visitors about the often forgotten wisdom of the old ways of treating illnesses. Many of today's drugs and medicines were originally derived from natural ingredients, combinations of plants and other items found in nature.

We are not suggesting that you ignore the help of trained medical professionals, simply that you have additional options available for treating illnesses. Often the most effective treatment involves a responsible blend of both modern and traditional treatments.

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Pitcher Plant

Scientific Names

Pitcher Plant

  • Sarracenia purpurea L.
  • Sarraceniaceae
  • Order: Nepenthales
  • Pitcher-plant family

Common Names

  • Eve’s cup
  • Flytrap (not the Venus flytrap)
  • Huntsman’s cup
  • Smallpox plant
  • Watercup

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Parts Usually Used

Root, leaves
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Description of Plant(s) and Culture

Pitcher plant is a native North American unique perennial plant, 8-24 inches high; a horizontal, round rootstock produces the basal, pitcherlike, purple-veined leaves which are topped by an arching hood and are hairy and sticky on the inside, to trap insects, which the plant consumes. A solitary, large, red or purple flower nods on a naked flower stalk 1-2 feet high during May and June.
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Where Found

Grows in swamps, peat or sphagnum bogs, savannas, wet meadows, and wet areas from Maryland to Minnesota and in Canada. Also in California and Oregon.
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Medicinal Properties

Astringent, diuretic, stimulant, tonic
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Legends, Myths and Stories

Various plants with slippery, pitcherlike leaves that contain a pool of enzymes that digest trapped insects are called pitcher plants. Most of these grow in swamps and bogs.
The “pitchers” have smooth surfaces and downward-pointing hairs, making it difficult for insects to crawl out. Once the insect drowns, the leaves secrete enzymes that digest the insect’s soft body parts, which allows the plant to obtain nutrients that would otherwise be unavailable in its habitat.
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Uses

Used to stimulate appetite and improve digestion. Its most interesting use; Native Americans used an infusion of the rootstock against smallpox, both to prevent immunity and to lessen the severity of the disease. It was rejected by the medical profession in the 19th century as ineffective for this purpose, but the evidence was not conclusive on either side.
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Warning

May be a threatened species; best left undisturbed in the wild.
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Bibliography

Buy It! Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants, by Steven Foster and James A. Duke., Houghton Mifflin Company, 215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10000

Buy It! The Herb Book, by John Lust, Bantam Books, 666 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY. copyright 1974.

Buy It! How Indians Use Wild Plants for Food, Medicine & Crafts, by Frances Densmore, Dover Publications, Inc., 180 Varick Street, New York, NY 10014, first printed by the United States Government Printing Office, Washington, in 1928, this Dover edition 1974

Buy It! Webster’s New World Dictionary, Third College Edition, Victoria Neufeldt, Editor in Chief, New World Dictionaries: A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., 15 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10023

Buy It! The Rodale Herb Book: How to Use, Grow, and Buy Nature’s Miracle Plants (An Organic gardening and farming book), edited by William H. Hylton, Rodale Press, Inc. Emmaus, PA, 18049., 1974

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