Foraged Yellow Roots
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Yellowroot is the rhizome of a small shrub with long, narrow stems. The woody stems are topped with light green leaves with long petioles and clusters of five leaflets at the tips. The leaflets look like celery leaves, and are slightly toothed. Yellowroot can reach up to 30 centimeters tall and in the spring, tiny maroon, five-petaled flowers bloom beneath the plant’s foliage. The roots are long and thin, measuring around one centimeter in diameter. Beneath the bark-like exterior is a bright yellow colored inner core. The substance that gives the root its intense yellow color is berberine. The alkaloid compound also gives Yellowroot its astringent and bitter taste.
Yellowroot can be found year-round.
Yellowroot is a bitter herb botanically classified as Xanthorhiza simplicissima. It is the only member of its genus and can only be found in the United States. The genus name, Xanthorhiza, literally means “yellow root”. It is one of the few woody members of the buttercup family, a group comprised of mostly leafy, flowering plants. Yellowroot is often confused for goldenseal, which is another root herb with both similar coloring and common medicinal uses. The plant is also commonly referred to as Shrub Yellowroot.
Yellowroot Yellowroot contains a substance called berberine, which is an alkaloid used as an antibacterial and antibiotic as well as an anti-inflammatory, and has demonstrated an ability to lower blood pressure. Yellowroot has been used to treat cold and flu symptoms as well as outdoor allergies. It is beneficial as a mouthwash and for ulcers of the mouth and stomach. Yellowroot SHOULD NOT be ingested during pregnancy.
Yellowroot can be used either fresh or dried. The herb is most often used to make teas or tinctures. Dried roots are either bundled or crushed and then steeped in boiling water. The root is not generally ingested whole, though it can be chewed. Fresh roots can be dried to preserve. Dried Yellowroot will keep for several months if kept in an airtight container.
Yellowroot has been used by native peoples for thousands of years in the Appalachian region. The herb was used by the Cherokee for indigestion and sore throats. The Catawba used Yellowroot for stomach ulcers, and as a liver tonic. The bright yellow roots and stem were used to dye cloth and soft woods for baskets, and were even used for war paint.
Yellowroot is native to the eastern United States, specifically the more humid states of Pennsylvania, Georgia, North and South Carolina, and Florida. It can be found as far west as Ohio and Texas and as far north as Maine. Yellowroot is a popular herbal supplement, and its use increased dramatically in 1990 following a rumor that the root’s properties could mask the presence of drugs in urine. Yellowroot can be found in shaded, wet areas with sandy soil, near riverbanks and streams or in damp wooded areas. Today, Yellowroot can be foraged or found at farmer’s markets, often in small bundles wrapped with twine.
Recipes that include Foraged Yellow Roots. One is easiest, three is harder.
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