Squaw vine, sometimes known as partridge berry, is a creeping perennial non-climbing vine in the Rubiaceae family occurring in North America From Ontario to Texas, and has been reported in forests of Guatemala and Japan. It prefers shady areas in sandy soils along stream banks, and forms an attractive ground cover, making it a popular ornamental choice for shady spots in the yard. It’s evergreen leaves are shiny and dark, with pale yellow veination, and cordate to ovate shaped opposite leaves. It tends to grow adventitious roots from its stems, and produces pairs of small white trumpet-shaped flowers that each have four petals, one pistil, and four stamens. The flowers occur in two genetic varieities; short stamens and long pistils (long style flowers), or long stamens with short pistils (short style flowers). The flowers cannot pollinate each other, creating a sort of self-incompatibility. In the formation of the fruiting body, the ovaries of the twin flowers fuse, so that there are two flowers for each berry, leaving two bright red spots on each berry as a reminder of this process. The seldomly abundant bright red fruit ripen between July and October, often persisting throughout the winter. The fruit is a drupe (think flesh surrounding hard encased seeds, like a peach or cherries) containing up to eight seeds. They are an important food of ruffed grouse, sharp-tailed grouse, northern bobwhite, and wild turkey, and are also consumed by foxes, white-footed mice, and skunks. The foliage is occasionally consumed by White-tailed deer.
Squaw Vine is a parturient, emmenagogue, diuretic, astringent, and a tonic herb. It is one of the best herbs that can be taken to prepare the whole body and uterus for childbirth; For this purpose, as a parturient, it should be taken for the few weeks before the child is due to ensure a complication free birth. It’s often used to treat painful menstruation, kidney stones, and colitis. Externally, it makes a good wash for sore eyes and skin problems. It is considered a bitter, cooling herb.
Called Noon kie oo nah yeah in the Mohawk language, it was a popular tonic tea taken in the weeks leading up to childbirth and also for curing insomnia.
1 teaspoon of herb per cup of water, infused for 10-15 minutes, taken three times daily, or a tincture of 1-2 ml three times a day. As a parturient, it combines well with black cohosh and raspberry leaves; for painful menstruation it can be combined with crampbark and pasque flower.
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