Ceanothus from an ancient name, the meaning of which has been lost and from americanus meaning "of America".
Found on prairies and prairie remnants and along the borders of woods and rocky sites. Blooms from late May to September. Low upright shrub up to 3 feet in height. Very small five-petaled flowers occur in clusters 3/4 of an inch to 1 1/2 inches in diameter.
Native Americans used New Jersey Tea extensively and they claimed great powers from this plant. They called it Kituki Manito, meaning "spotted snake spirit". The roots of Ceanothus americanus are twisted and knotted and reminded them of bowels. To this end, they ascribed many uses for treatment of bowel ailments (there's that old Doctrine of Signatures again). A syrup made from the leaves and flowers was used to treat sore throats, even to the extent of ulcerated sore throats. It was also used to treat dysentery, gonorrhea, eye trouble in children and high blood pressure. It also served as an expectorant, stimulant, sedative and as an astringent. Among all the Tallgrrass species, it is the best known substitute for tea. New Jersey Tea contains no caffiene, but certain objectionable alkaloids may be extracted if steeped too long. The fresh flowers when crushed and rubbed with water, make up an excellent lather. The Cherokees used this lather as a wash for skin cancer and venereal sores. New Jersey Tea was also used to tanhides because the roots have a very high tannin content.
|Sun Exposure||Prairie, Savanna|
|Soil Moisture||Mesic, Dry Mesic, Dry|
|Max Height||3 feet|
|Germ Code||B or C(70),H|
|Seeds Per Packet||75|
|Seeds Per Ounce||7,600|
Edible Uses: A refreshing and stimulating tea is made from the dried leaves, it is a good substitute for china tea though it does not contain caffeine.The leaves are gathered when the plant is in full bloom and are dried in the shade.
Medicinal Uses: The roots and root bark of New Jersey tea was used extensively by the North American Indians to treat fevers and problems of the mucous membranes such as catarrh and sore throat. Current day usage of the roots concentrates on their astringent, expectorant and antispasmodic actions and they are employed in the treatment of complaints such as asthma, bronchitis and coughs. The roots and root-bark are antispasmodic, antisyphilitic, strongly astringent (they contain 8% tannin), expectorant, haemostatic and sedative. They have a stimulatory effect on the lymphatic system, whilst an alkaloid in the roots is mildly hypotensive. The plant is used internally in the treatment of bronchial complaints including asthma and whooping cough, dysentery, sore throats, tonsillitis, haemorrhoids etc. A decoction of the bark is used as a skin wash for cancer and venereal sores. The powdered bark has been used to dust the sore. The roots are unearthed and partially harvested in the autumn or spring when their red colour is at its deepest. They are dried for later use.
Herbal Uses: Unknown
Other Uses: A green dye is obtained from the flowers. A cinnamon-coloured dye is obtained from the whole plant. A red dye is obtained from the root. The flowers are rich in saponins, when crushed and mixed with water they produce an excellent lather which is an effective and gentle soap. They can be used as a body wash (simply rub the wet blossoms over the body) or to clean clothes. The flowers were much used by the North American Indians as a body wash, especially by the women in preparation for marriage, and they leave the skin smelling fragrantly of the flowers.