STUDIES OF MEDICINAL PLANT USE BY RESIDENTS
OF CATRON COUNTY, NEW MEXICO
Denise Marie Ellen Gray Hosier
A.A., Glendale Community College, 1979
B.A., University of Colorado at Denver, 1985
A thesis submitted to the
Faculty of the Graduate School of the
University of Colorado in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Basic Science
This thesis for the Master of Basic Science degree by
Denise Marie Ellen Gray Hosier
has been approved for the
Chemistry and Biology
Michael A. Mikita
Glenn D. Appelt
Bate TWl 30,
Hosier, Denise Marie Ellen Gray (M.B.S., Chemistry-Biology)
Studies of Medicinal Plant Use by Residents of Catron
County, New Mexico
Thesis directed by Assistant Professor Michael A. Mikita
The San Francisco and Tularosa River Valleys of
rural New Mexico were historically removed from
traditional primary care medicine. The people of this
region have, out of necessity, developed an immense
native plant pharmacopia. This region is characterized
by ethnic diversity, and is a geographically isolated
riparean ecosystem with two distinct ecotones due to its
abrupt elevational changes. The goal of this thesis was
to document the plants used medicinally by the people of
this region. Methodology included interviews with the
natives and collection of plant specimens reported.
Plant specimens were mounted by herbarium standards, and
the idenity of each specimen was verified at the
University of New Mexico. The documented plants were
subjected to a literature search for past folkloric use,
and chemical or medical citations.
The form and content of this abstract are approved. I
recommend its publication.
Faculty member in charge of thesis
To all of our ancestors regardless of ethnic
background. Especially to my dear friends Cleo and
Rosie. Due to your gifts of human spirit and
hard-learned knowledge of the many possibilites nature
has to offer, we have hope for a brighter tommorrow.
thank you for the many hours Ive spent in sheer
Of my many dedicated teachers for their encouragement to
forge ahead under adverse conditions, particularly E.L.
Hartman, M.A. Mikita, and M.L. Rottman. Also G.D.
Appelt, A.P. Brockway, S.S. Eaton, J.A. Lanning, and
E.S. Porter. The Mary Orr Russell Herb Club and all the
delightful folks I worked with in New Mexico. The
University of New Mexico Herbarium, W.C. Martin and the
intensive efforts of P.L. Barlow. The Research and
Creative Activities Committee of the Graduate Council
for the Graduate Student Development Award. My
supportive family, especially Jessica and Keegan, whose
personal sacrifice was rarely tainted with complaints.
I. INTRODUCTION.............................. 1
II. CATRON COUNTY............................. 8
2.1 Early Man in Catron County............ 8
2.2 Present Day Catron County.............13
2.3 Herb Use In The San Francisco and
Tularosa River Valleys...............14
2.4 Environmental Factors of Catron
III. PLANT FAMILIES............................... 21
3.1 APOCYNACEAE Apocvnum.............. 21
3.2 ASCLEPIADACEAE Asclenias............22
3.3.1 Achillea.......................... 27
3.3.2 Antennaria. ........................29
3.3.3 Artemisia......................... 29
3.3.9 Hanlonappus....................... 41
3.3.10 Hymenoxvs......................... 42
3.3.11 Ratibida.......................... 44
3.4 BERBERIDACEAE Berberis..............49
3.5 B0RA6INACEAE Lithospermum...........51
3.6 CAMPANULACEAE Lobelia...............53
3.7 CANNABACEAE Humulus.................55
3.8 CAPPARIDACEAE Cleome................56
3.9 CAPRIFOLIACEAE - Sambucus............57
3.10 CHENOPODIACEAE - Chenopodium.........59
3.11 COMMELINACEAE Commelina.............61
3.12 CRUCI FERAE...........................63
3.12.1 Capsella......................... .63
3.13 CUCURBITACEAE Cucurbita.............68
3.14 CUPRESSACEAE - Juniperus.............69
3.15 EQUISETACEAE - Eauisetum.............72
3.16 ERICACEAE Pvrola....................74
3.17 EUPHORBIACEAE Euphorbia.............76
3.18 FA6ACEAE Quercus....................78
3.19 GENT IANACE AE Swertia..............81
3.20 GERANIACEAE Erodium & Geranium......84
3.21 6RAMINEAE Bouteloua & Sorghum.......87
3.22 GUTTIFERAE Hypericum. ..............89
3.23 HYDROPHYLLACEAE Phacelia............91
3.24 IRIDACEAE Iris......................92
3.25 LABI AT AE............................95
3.25.4 Mentha. .........................100
3.26.2 Glvcvrrhiza. .................... 110
3.26.5 Prosopis. . ...................117
3.28 LORANTHACEAE Phoradendron..........126
4.2 Botanic Data..........................185
4.3 Folkloric and Chemical Literature
A. Chemical Structures by Family...............199
B. Additional Medicinal Plants Cited by
Study Participants.................... 220
3.30 ONAGRACEAE Guara....................131
3.31 OXALIDACEAE Oxalis..................133
3.32 PINACEAE Pinus......................134
3.33 PLANTAGINACEAE Plantaeo.............137
3.34 POLYGONACEAE Rumex..................139
3.35 ROSACEAE............................ 142
3.36 SALICACEAE Ponulus & Salix..........147
3.37 SCROPHULARIACEAE Verbascum..........150
3.38.1 Datura. ............................154
3.38.3 Phvsalis. ...................... 162
3.38.4 Solanum....................... ....163
3.39 UMBELLI FERAE Ligusticum............166
3.40 VALERIANACEAE Valeriana.............169
3.41 VERBENACEAE Verbena.................172
3.42 VIOLACEAE Viola.....................174
3.43 ZYGOPHYLLACEAE Larrea...............175
IV. EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN AND RESEARCH METHODS.......179
4.1 Ethnobotanic Data................... 179
I. Map of New Mexico showing the location
of Catron County and Reserve................6
II. Map of Catron County and Surrounding
III. Boundries of Floristic Influences on
New Mexico Vegetation......................20
Vascular plants, of known ethnobotanic
importance have historically contributed to the list of
effective pharmaceuticals. In 1983, the U.S. Office of
Technology Assessment estimated that while there are
500,000 to 750,000 species of higher plants on earth, no
more than 10% have been examined for their chemical
constituents. Their survey of current pharmaceutical
use, however, revealed that of the total prescription
drugs dispensed, 25% are plant-derived (1). The good
fortune of this disparity can be directly traced to the
use of ethnobotany in identifying plants that have a
history of folkloric use (2). By examining plants with
an ethnobotanical history, many secondary plant
metabolites possessing novel structures with potential
benefit in areas of pharmacology, agriculture, and
chemotaxonomy may be uncovered (3).
In November of 1985, while on a plant collecting
trip to Arizona, a practicing physician of Reserve, New
Mexico (pop. 500) reported extensive plant use among his
patients. Intrigued by the apparent curative properties
of the native plants used by the people in this region,
he related many provocative medicinal chronicles of
plants with apparent curative properties. The folk
medicine was clearly pervasive and clinically
important. Stimulated by these anecdotes, a study was
designed to further document and investigate the plants
utilized in this region for their unique medicinal
applications. The potential exists that there are
novel, active principles in this pharmacopia.
Ethnobotanic research on the plants used by the
natives of rural New Mexico has been both numerous and
fruitful (4-9). Tierney has done extensive research on
prehistoric ethnobotany in New Mexico, and workers such
as Curtain and Chavez have compiled significant
information on the ethnobotany of the Spanish culture
along the Rio Grande (4,5,7). These studies, with the
exception of Tierneys work, have not made any
distinction between western New Mexico and those areas
bordering the Rio Grande Valley (4-10). Ethnobotanic
studies of specific native groups of the region, such as
Whittings study of the Hopi, or Stevensons followed by
Camazine and Byes study of the Zuni, provide additional
information about species not utilized in the Hispanic
settlements (8-10). The San Francisco and Tularosa
River Valleys of west central New Mexico represent a
culturally and botanically distinct region that has been
previously overlooked in documenting medicinal use and
preparation of specific remedies among ethnic groups in
New Mexico. The purpose of reviewing previous
ethnobotanic studies is to trace distinct cultural
contributions to the endemic pharmacopeia of the
This research was undertaken to identify plant
species with new and medicinally useful natural products
and to record any previously undocumented botanical
species to the area.
It is clear from this study, that the regions
endemic pharmacopeia is a cultural conglomerate of the
former inhabitants living in and surrounding the area.
Many of the folkloric plant uses and specific
preparatory instructions have been lost or altered due
to poor documentation during times when cultures were
undergoing heavy conflict. As with many ethnic
pharmacopeias, the botanic information was passed
primarily by word of mouth. Some of the knowledgeable
natives of this region are elderly and have not thought
about the specifics of these remedies for some time. In
the studies documented in this thesis, only a portion of
the knowledgeable native population was involved.
Within this community, the information network involved
the complex social patterns of both traditional and more
current ethnic influences. In a comparison of 1970 and
1983 population statistics, a 14% rise in the Anglo
population, and a 13.5% decline in the Hispanic
population occurred (12). These demographics indicate a
trend towards a cultural shift in the population. Since
a rapid decline of the native folk experience is
underway, an infusion of past and modern herbology is
practiced. Of equal importance, present floristic
studies of the region are finding new and unknown
species in the native flora (13).
From November 1985 to 1988, a number of trips
were made in order to collect specimans. During this
same time period either written correspondance or phone
conversations were conducted. I found the people of the
region friendly and quite willing to cooperate with my
efforts. However, since some look upon the use of
herbal medicine skeptically, an element of trust was
necessary for the exchange of such personal
information. Often, supernatural belief systems are
involved. Due to some natives unwillingness to discuss
such matters with a stranger, some plant species and
their reported use could not be corroborated with
multiple members of the community. In this report, I
have included all plant species with an indication of
medicinal use and noted the extent of corraboration.
Plant specimens have been deposited at the University of
New Mexico Herbarium. The ethnobotanic data includes
important information, as the differences in medicinal
preparation and use. A number of plant species that are
utilized in the San Francisco and Tularosa valleys
frequently differed from the species cited in the
In the sections that follow, an overview of the
regions historic, demographic, and geographic
background is given. This is followed by the compiled
list of medicinal plants arranged according to family.
Each section includes literature confirmation of
previous ethnobotanic use. The recorded plants include
references to native informants uses in the San
Francisco and Tularosa River Valleys. Chemical
information is included when literature indicates a
structural investigation has been conducted. An overall
discussion of the experimental design and the actual
research methods conclude the thesis
FIGURE I. Map of New Mexico showing the location of
Catron County and Reserve. Adapted from Martin and
Hutchins, A New Mexico Flora, Volume I, 1980.
FIGURE II. Map of Catron County and surrounding
region. Adapted from Rand McNalley, Road Map of
New Mexico, 1980.
2.1 EARLY MAN IN CATRON COUNTY
The San Francisco and Tularosa River Valleys
exist within a mountainous region surrounded by the San
Francisco and Saliz ranges to the west, the Kelly and
Mogollon ranges to the south, and the Gila and Tularosa
mountains to the north and east. These geographic
barriers, in part, account for the early prehistoric
civilization and late cultural development of the region
because the latter was bypassed when the Spaniards were
exploring the southwest.
Studies by Tierney and Kayser conclude that man
appeared at the end of the Plietocene around
10,000-13,000 years before present (7). At that time,
what is now known as the San Augustine Plains were then
a drying lake. For survival, earliest man in Catron
County hunted, ranging the grasslands and diminishing
lake shores in search of game. In the Archaic or
Cochise cultural period from BC 7000 AD 100, man
developed gathering socities whose diets mainly
consisted of semidomesticated varities of sunflowers,
prickly pear cactus, and grasses. From BC 300 AD
1100, the Mogollon cultural period saw the establishment
of a stable agricultural society. The river valleys
provided the fertile land and the hills lended
protection to the people. Cultivation of maize, beans,
and squash crops marked this period. During its later
phases, multiple varieties of maize were grown. Pottery
making and the construction of storage facilities
including pits were developed (7). Peterson's study of
the ruins along the Middle San Francisco River found
that the highest occupation occurred between AD 940 AD
1115. After AD 1125, the settlements only existed in
the alluvial valleys near Alma to the south, and
Reserve, Cruzville, and Apache Creek to the north (14).
By 1300 AD, the territory had been abandoned and
remained so for three centuries (7).
The Apache were the next people to reside in the
region. Early Apaches were mountain dwellers that
practiced both hunting and gathering. Very little is
known about the plant use of these early Apaches,
however the use of agave, which was anciently used in
Mexico and Central America, was a recorded dietary
staple of these people. The Apache roasted the caudex
and flower stalks making a food known as mescal (7).
This foodstuff is the origin for the name of the
Mescelaro Apaches (15). Mescal was highly valued and
the tribe living at the Gila headwaters traded mescal
with the Hopi and Pueblo Indians of the Rio Grande (7).
The San Francisco and Tularosa River Valleys are
included in what is called Apacheria, or land of the
Apache (16). It was surrounded by Navajo to the north,
and the western Apache tribes on the east, south, and
southwest. To the west and northwest, Zuni and Hopi
tribes resided. The Hopi traveled into the San
Francisco Mountains to gather the higher elevation
plants they needed (8). The Apache did not occupy the
San Francisco or Tularosa River Valleys. The reason for
this is rooted in Apache superstition for much later,
when Cochise was told of the Tulerosa reservation, he
spoke of the bad spirits that resided there (14,15). As
a territoral people, the Apache fought guerrilla warfare
with the Spaniards for over 250 years. Even their name
had its origin in the word apachu which in Zuni, means
enemy (15). The native Americans had a great deal to do
with the slow development of the region, a point of
ethnic significance when comparing it to the upper Rio
From the earliest Spanish expeditions, explorers
moved around this area, tending to travel primarily
along the Rio Grande (17,18). It is known, however,
that in 1777, the Spanish used Saliz Pass to gain access
to Zuni country (19). The upper Rio Grande Spaniards
began cultural mixing in the late 1600s with the Pueblo
Indians. Other influences on the Rio Grande included
tribes such as the Jicarillo Apache, Comanches, and the
Navajo. In the early to mid 1700s, French trading
parties entered the area and added to this cultural mix
The San Francisco and Tularosa River Valleys did
not contain settlements until the late 19th century. In
the region of the Canada Alamosa River to the east,
there were Apache raids almost daily on the Anglo and
Spanish people. In August of 1871, Vincent Coyler, the
Special Indian Agent, selected the valley of the
Tulerosa River as the site for the first Southern Apache
Indian Reservation (20). Intending to bring all
southern Apache tribes to this reservation, the Army
Department of the Interior designated the Mogollon, Warm
Springs, Coyotero, and Gila Apaches as the Southern
Apache Tribe (20,21). The site, chosen because of its
isolation and apparent potential as fertile farmland,
extended for 30 square miles in all directions from the
headwaters of the Tularosa River (21). In May of 1872,
under Indian agent O.F. Piper, T. McCarthy, George Cook,
John Becket, Robert McGuire and John Kelly and a few
other men built make-shift barracks. Ft. Tularosa, with
its Irish influence, was built in present day Aragon,
New, Mexico (17,18,20-22). Four hundred and fifty
Apaches were brought to the Fort at a cost to the
government of $18,647.05 in August (20). Cochise and
the other male warriors remained in the hills near the
Canada Alamosa. The residents of Ft. Tularosa were
mainly women, children, and the elderly (20,21). Blame
for every Apache raid within 300 miles of the Tularosa
during this period left the Apache residents of Ft.
Tularosa in danger of massacre. In addition,
difficulties with farming and livestock threatened the
survival of the Apaches in the valley. In the fall of
1874, fpur hundred Apaches were moved to Ojo Caliente
along the Canada Alamosa and the Fort was abandonded
In the meantime, Spanish families, some having
Indian blood lines and befriended by the Apache, were
guided into the area from Montecello (central New
Mexico) by the Gila or Mescalero Apaches (17,18,23).
The first Hispanic settlements were established in
present day Reserve in 1874 (24). That same year, Pat
Kelly and Pat Higgins, who had been associated with the
Fort, homesteaded ranches along the San Franciso River
just above Alma (21). Sgt. Cooney of Ft. Bayard
discovered gold which led to the settlement of many
mining camps south of the region after 1885. The 1880*s
brought Texas cattlemen into the area who were poorly
received by the Spanish speaking people that were well
established in their methods of ranching (17,23). There
were many incidents of violence at this time, and almost
all were blamed on the Apache known to be led by
Victorio (22). All the Apache were eventually removed
from the region and the majority were placed in Arizona
(15). Different cultures impacted upon the Rio Grande
and these river valleys, but historical events created
an interesting blend. Today, it is not uncommon to meet
a Spanish speaking native with an Irish surname and an
2.2 PRESENT DAY CATRON COUNTY
Catron County is the largest county in New
Mexico covering 6,878 square miles (25). Catron County,
the location of the San Franciso and Tularosa River
valleys, had a population of 3,282 in 1930 and of 2,198
in 1970. 1975 figures reflected a ratio of 0.3 people
per square mile (18). The Catron County Courthouse
reported a population of 2,270 in 1983 (12). The ethnic
distribution in 1970 reported 56.2% Anglo, 42.2%
Hispanic, 0.4% Indian, 0.2% Black, and 0.9% other (18).
In 1983, the ethnic distribution was 70.2% Anglo, 28.7%
Hispanic, 1.1% Indian, and 0% Black (12).
In the labor force, the primary income is from
government employment, followed by agriculture, trade
and services, land development, and mining,
respectively. Of the 957 housing units reflected in the
1970 figuresi less than 30% had been constructed between
1950-1970, indicating that 70% had been constructed
prior to 1950 (18). From the 1975 income data, 20.4% of
families in the county were below the poverty level.
The New Mexico Department of Labor reported that for
1988, Catron County ranks highest in unemployment
statewide at 16.2% (26).
Overall, the demographics of the area have
changed little with time, save for the cessation of
mining. The community reflects low income and little
change. The Anglo and Hispanic figures imply that a
significant shift in the population is occuring. It
appears from historical, observational, and census data
that the Indian, Irish, French, and Spanish influences
are couched in a cultural blend that is not reflected in
the pure demographic data. The relatively late
colonization and complex cultural mix clearly
distinguish this region from other parts of New Mexico.
2.3 HERBAL USE IN THE SAN FRANCISCO AND TULAROSA
Since the valleys are almost 70 miles from a
hospital in Arizona, and the nearest hospital in New
Mexico is 100 miles away in Silver City, the medical
history of the region has offerred a wide variety of
healing arts. Personal communication reports that during
this century, a witch, one curandera, a herbalist, a
naturopath, one public health nurse and two medical
doctors practiced medicine. Little was said about the
witch, who resided in the mountains during the early
1900s. The herbalist and the curandera both passed away
during the early seventies, leaving no apprentices or
replacements. For the county in 1978, there was one
physician for 2500 people; of the 5 nurses residing
there, only one was employed (18). The last four years
has seen significant change in the local medical
community. The one M.D. of the 1978 statistics
celebrated his 50th anniversary of medical practice this
year. The county commissioners obtained funding for a
new clinic, originally staffed with a family
practitioner from Arizona. When some budget questions
arose, the county clinic was staffed with a part time
physician from Rio Rancho, New Mexico. At the present
time, there are two physicians in private practice and
the county clinic is staffed part time (27).
Due to the economic status, distance factor, and
scarcity of medical facilities, the people of the region
have continued to rely upon on herbal remedies. This
behavior is not reflected only within the Hispanic
population, for the Anglos also participate.
Substantial evidence of this fact is reflected by the
Mary Orr Russell Herb Club. Its founder, Mary Barefoot
Orr Russell, came to Reserve in 1911 by covered wagon,
bringing along a combination of Indian ancestry and a
college degree in science (28,29). As a member of the
New Mexico Academy of Sciences, she worked as a county
extension agent and was instrumental in bringing
secondary education to the valley (28,29). In 1971, she
established the Reserve Herb Club whose members research
and report on a different herb each month.
Unlike the Rio Grande region, no curandero or
curandera practices herbal medicine. The folk medicine
practiced in this region apparently has not involved
religious ritual. Instead, it is practiced as a network
in community exchange of information. This includes the
endemic pharmacopeia of the natives as well as the herb
clubs pursuit of current literature. The common
practice in the region is to maintain herb gardens that
reflect some of the herb studies which are presented
each month. The communitys information network
involves the complex social patterns of both traditional
and more current ethnic influences.
2.4 ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS OF CATRON COUNTY
The Upper Rio Grande region is an extension of
the Rocky Mountain floristic influence. The plant
species of the Rocky Mountain influence exhibit a mesic
flora with less drought resistant species. The average
annual rainfall in the Jemez and Sangre de Cristo
Mountain Ranges is 40 inches, with annual snowfall from
2-5 inches in the Rio Grande Valley. The lower Rio
Grande Region belongs to the Chihuahuan Desert floristic
influence. According to Martin and Hutchins, it
exhibits considerable species variation and is
considered by some to be the northern limits of the
Chihuahuan Desert (30).
In contrast, the San Francisco and Tularosa
River Valleys exhibit impressive vegetational diversity
unparalleled in the state of New Mexico. Located on the
Mogollon Volcanic Plateau, the valley experiences a mean
maximum temperature in the mid-eighties in July and a
mean minimum temperature of 12F in January. The
average days without killing frost are 100 to 160 days
per year, with the first killing frost occurring between
Sept. 20th Nov. 10th and the last killing frost
between May 20th June 20th. The average precipitation
is greater than 20 inches per year in the mountains to
16 inches per year in the valleys (18). An unofficial
recording of the precipitation in Pleasentown, located
on the southern edge of the county, reported that the
last ten year average was 18.26 inches per year (31).
The Mogollon Plateau, approximately 100 miles in
diameter, includes the Mogollon, San Francisco, Long
Canyon, Tularosa, Elk, Saliz, Kelly, Jerky, Diablo, and
Pinos Altos Mountains. The main portion of the plateau
is in the Gila National Forest and the northwest corner
of the Apache National Forest which extends into Arizona
The Mogollon Plateau has a distinct floristic
influence as it is covered with volcanic mountains
interspersed with many alluvial basins. This region is
floristically related to southeastern Arizona and
includes all forms of hydrophytes, mesophytes, and
xerophytes. Shreve (30) considers it as the Western
Xeric Evergreen Forest which is isolated from the Rocky
Mountain floristic influence (Figure III).
Elevation in the San Francisco and Tularosa
River Valleys ranges from less than 1738 meters (5700
feet, Lower San Francisco Plaza) to 2984 meters (9786
feet, Eagle Peak Tularosa Mountains). For the entire
county, the elevation ranges from just under 1610 meters
to 3354 meters (5280-11,000 feet) (32,33). The
vegetation range includes pinion-juniper associations
below 2134 meters (7000 feet), mixed-conifer
associations from 2134-2744 (7000-9000 feet), and
spruce-fir associations from 2744-3659 meters
(9000-12,000 feet) (30). These valleys represent a
geographically isolated riparian ecosystem with 2
distinct ecotones due to its abrupt elevational change.
The decidous species include Quercus ssp. (oak) some of
which are evergreen, Fraxinus ssp. (ash), PIantanus
wrightii Wats. (Arizona plane tree), Populus
Wats, (cottonwood), and Juglans major (Torr.)
(Arizona walnut) (30).
III III III IM Ml IM HI
FIGURE III. Approximate boundries of the major floristic
influences on New Mexico vegetation Martin and Hutchins,
A New Mexico Flora, Volume I, 1980.
Commonly called the dogbane family, this family
includes the plants known as hemp. Martin and Hutchins
list 5 species as native to Catron County, Anocvnum
androsaemlfolium L. var. androsaemifolium. A. cannabinum
L. var. cannabinum. A. cannabinum var. glaberrimum A.
DC., A. suksdorfii var. angustifolium (Woot.) Woodson,
and Amsonia brevifolia Gray (30). Related species such
as A. androsaemifolium and A. cannabinum are difficult
to identify because they frequently hybridize in the
Members of this family have a long history of
folkloric use, and many physiologically active
components have been isolated (6,36). It was recognized
in the 19th century as a diaphoretic and expectorant,
and the pioneers learned of its use from the Native
Americans (36). A. androsaemifolium was designated
'wild ipecac because the root acts as an emetic in
large doses (36). The Navajo primarily utilized
Apocynum species as an emetic and ceremonial plant
(11). The Zuni utilized Amsonia brevifolia Torrey &
Fremont as a snake bite remedy (9,10). There was no
reference to any member of this family by the Hopi or
the Spanish (4-10).
One native in Catron County mentioned the use of
Apocvnum cannabinum var. glaberriumum as a heart
stimulant. No preparation information or other native
confirmation was given. The toxicity of this plant to
livestock was generally known by the natives.
Pharmacologically, the active compounds in these
species are cardioactive glycosides that are slightly
milder then digitalis (36,37). One tropical tree of the
genus Rauwolfia is the source of reserpine, and in
Africa the genus Strophanthus is used for poison arrows
(35,38). In both cases, the active compounds are
cardiac stimulants. Cathranthus roseus (L.) 6. Don
contains the remarkably successful chemotheraputic
alkaloids vincristine and vinblastine (1). According' to
Moore (6), the known active compounds of the domestic
dogbanes are apocynin, apocynamrin (strophanthidin), and
in trace amounts cymarin, androsin, and several sterols
Martin and Hutchins reports that nine members of
the milkweed familiy are native to Catron County,
Asclepias auinauedentata Gray, Asclepias subverticullata
(Gray) Vail, A. tuberosa L. subsp. terminalis Woodson,
A. involucrata Engelm., _A. engelmanniana Woodson, A.
sneciosa Torr., A. asperula (Dene) subsp. asoerula. A*
hypoleuca (Gray) Woodson, Funastrum crispum (Benth.)
Schlecht. (30). As a familiar weed, most members of
the family contain a milky latex that gives rise to its
common name (39). A. speciosa. one of the many milky
sap species, has recently been under investigation for
its potential as a cash crop. It has future commercial
value in the production of pigments, rubber, nonpolar
solvents, and as a protein source (1).
The members of this family have a long history
as a folkloric medicine. One of its uses was to induce
lactation, a practice arising from the Doctrine of
Signatures (6). The Doctrine of Signatures had its
origins in the Renaissance and was a long held belief
that a plants morphological characteristics were a
divine sign of the type of malady it would cure (40).
In this family, different species have distinct
medicinal uses. The eastern U.S. species A. syriaca was
used as an emetic, purgative, alterative diuretic and
tonic. Traditional uses were to treat female
complaints, bowel and kidney trouble, dropsy, asthma,
stomach troubles, scrofulous conditions of the blood,
and gall stones (41). A. speciosa (Lechone) is an
analog of A. syriaca found in the west. Its roots are
used in a similar fashion, as a diuretic, to increase
perspiration, soften bronchial mucus, dilate bronchials,
and as an expectorant (36). The Hopi used A. speciosa
as a food source, _A. galiodes to increase milk flow, and
A. involucrata as a chewing gum (8). The Zuni used A.
involucrata root ground into a powder, then moistened
with saliva to treat warts (9,10). In Mexico, the whole
A. curassavica L. plant is boiled and the liquid is used
as a bath to cure pimples of the head. The young leaves
are smeared on coals with castor oil and eaten as a
remedy for hemorrhoids (42). A. asperula, commonly
known as Inmortal (spider milkweed or antelope horns),
has been widely used by both the Spanish and the Indians
(43). Moore mentions that A. decumbens (Nutt.) Gray and
A. capriconu Woodson are related species that are also
called Inmortal (6). The Spanish named the plant
Inmortal because it regenerates itself annually if some
root is left in the ground (4). Kelly et al report its
common use in the San Luis Valley of Colorado by the
Hispanic people there (44). There are many medicinal
uses attributed to inmortal, citations of its use as a
laxative, menstrual stimulant, abortifactant, decrease
uterine contractions, stimulate the conversion of
colostrum to milk, cardiac tonic, and ground root
snuffed to cure headaches or promote copious sneezing to
clear obstruced sinus (4-6). The Navajo used A.
asperula as a treatment for dog or coyote bite and the
active principle asclepian, a proteolytic enzyme, can be
used as a substitute for papain in tenderizing meats
(45). A. tuberosa. a nonmilky, orange flowered species
has several common names: pleurisy root, colic root,
sometimes inmortal, and butterfly milkweed. This
species lacks cardiac effects, but stimulates the vagus
nerve, which increases perspiration (6). The hispanic
culture traditionally breaks down diseases and plants
into hot and cold categories (46). Fevers are then
treated as a hot disease, so that an increase in
perspiration is desirable (46). As a bronchial dilator,
it has been used to treat pleurisy and pulmonary edema,
increase fluid circulation, and to facilitate cilia
function and lymph drainage (6). In large quantities it
has been used as an emetic. The roots were pulverized
by the Menonimees for cuts, wounds, and bruises, and the
Omahas chewed the root and then placed the macerated
material on wounds and sores (36).
The people of the San Francisco and Tularosa
River valleys interviewed did not report frequent use of
Inmortal, which is quite different from the Rio Grande
and San Luis Valley (8,45). However, its reported use
in the San Francisco and Tularosa River Valleys was to
treat inflamation of the stomach, womb, and urinary
tract. There was only one native report of the hot and
cold theory of illness, and it was inconjunction with a
report of the use of a decoction applied to the skin
when hot, similar to an alcohol bath. One source
claimed that years ago it was used to treat liver
ailments. A. subverticulata was pointed out as 'whorled
milkweed, which was supposed to be medicinal, but was
known to be highly toxic to livestock. Actually, A.
subverticulata which is native to Catron County, has the
common name 'poison milkweed due to its toxic resins,
and 'whorled milkweed is A. verticulata which is
restricted to the eastern portion of the state (34).
As with the Apocynaceae family, the
physiologically active compounds are also cardiac
glycosides. Additionally, toxic resins give rise to
contact dermititus (36). Asclepian, a proteolytic
enzyme in members of this family, give validity to its
use as a wart treatment (6). Kelly et al have
extensively reported the cardioglycosides present (44).
Additionally, they cite the presence of the flavinoids
rutin and quercetin, which have hemostatic potential
(validating use as a treatment for bruises and
nosebleeds), and also large quantities of sterols,
triterpenes and fatty acids (Appendix).
This family, known as the sunflower family,
includes many genera. In this paper the reported
medicinal plants are listed alphabetically by genus.
The New Mexico Flora contains three species of
yarrow or Achillea: A. laxifolia Pollard & Cockll., A*
lanulosa subsp. alnicola (Rydb.) Keck, and A. lanulosa,
Nutt, subsp. lanulosa. Only A. lanulosa Nutt, subsp.
lanulosa is found in Catron county (30).
A. millifolium L. has a long history of use as a
medicinal plant, originating with the Greeks to stop
bleeding. In Europe, it was given the common name
'allheal indicating its use as an all-purpose medicinal
(40). Kloss lists A. millifolium as an astringent,
tonic, alterative, diuretic, vulenary, and cure-all.
Native Americans used Achillea species for a variety of
ails including eyewashes, earaches, toothaches, colds,
itching dermititis, and as a tonic to condition hair
(36). In the southwestern U.S., it was used by the
Navajo as a panacea and by the Zuni as a burn dressing
(11,40). The Hopi and the Apache apparently did not use
Achillea species medicinally (8,11). Known as
'plumajillo* by the Spanish Americans, Achillea is used
to stimulate clotting, shrink hemorrhoids or polyps, as
a stomach tonic, laxative, and to decrease menstrual
flow (4-6). In the San Luis Valley of Colorado, A.
lanulosa is used extensively to treat colds, fever,
urinary tract infections, and stomach troubles (43).
A. lanlulosa or plumajillo is widely used among
Catron county natives. It is commonly grown in the herb
gardens of each residence. The primary uses are to stop
bleeding and to break fevers or cold congestion. It was
also frequently mentioned as a plant to treat female
Due to a long history of medicinal use, Achillea
species have been studied extensively for their chemical
constituents (55). The pharmacological activity of some
constituents has been established, however, over 140
individual constituents have been isolated. Achilleine
is an alkaloid that exhibits hemostatic properties;
rutin and quercitin are flavinoids that have antiulcer
properties. The volatile oil of Achillea species
consists of pharmacologically active sesqueterpine
lactones and azulenes. The sesqueterpine lactones are
precursors to the azulenes and exhibit antimicrobial and
cytotoxic/anticancer activity. One sesqueterpine
lactone, thujone, demonstrates abortifactant
properties. The azulenes, chamazulenes, and other
salicylate-like compounds also found in the volatile
oils demonstrate anti-inflammatory, antipyretic, and
diaphoretic activities. Glycoproteins in the aqueous
extracts of A. millefolium decreases edema and also
appears to possess anti-inflammatory activity (44). The
pharmacological activity of the known chemical
constituents of the Achillea species validate its
traditional uses (Appendix).
Martin and Hutchins list 6 New Mexican species
of the genus Antennaria or pussytoes. The Catron County
species are A. marginata Greene and A. parvifolia Nutt.
In the eastern U.S., A. plantaginifolia was
recommended as a snakebite remedy for rattlesnake bites
(36). Some North American Indians used A. neglecta
Greene as a chewing gum (40). The Navajo used
Antenneria as a blood medicine, pediatric aid, and
ceremonial plant (11). Moore cites it's use as a
treatment for liver inflammation, astringent for
intestional irritation, and as douche for vaginitis
While not widely used in the study area, many
natives that rely on Moore's recommendations, pointed it
out in the field. Apparently this plant has not been
studied for its chemical constituents.
Commonly known as sagebrush, New Mexican species
of Artemisia number 22; 8 of these are found in Catron
County. These include A. drancunculus L. (false
terragon), A. camnestris L. subsp. caudata (Michx.) H &
C, A. frigida Willd. (estafiata), A. franseriodes Greene
(ragweed sagebrush or altamisa de la sierra), A.
carruthii Wood, A. ludoviciana subsp. redolens (Gray)
Keck, A. ludoviciana subsp. albula (Woot.) Keck, and A.
ludoviciana var. mexicana (Willd.) Keck (30). An
additional species, A. fillifolia Torr., cited as native
to surrounding counties, was also collected in Catron
Medicinal use of Artemesia species occurs
throughout the world. A. cina (Russia) and A. martitima
(Eurasia) are used to expel round worms. In southern
Europe, A. abrotanum leaves are used to make a
stimulating tea similar to coffee. In southern Africa,
the fresh plant tip of A. afra is inserted into carious
teeth to relieve toothaches (36). Several of the
species used medicinaly in the United States have their
origin in Europe. Old World species include A. vulgaris
L. (mugwort), A. dracunculus L. (tarragon), and A.
absinthum L. (wormwood). A. vulgaris was used by
Hippocrates and Dioscorides to ease childbirth. John
the Baptist and medieval pilgrims wore mugwort in their
belts to ward off fatigue. Some modern hebals today
recommend its use in a footbath to stimulate tired
feet. In England the aromatic herb was used as a tea
substitute and an ingredient in beer (48). Eloss lists
A. vulgare as an emmenagogue, anti-epileptic, diuretic,
and useful in the treatment of wounds, rheumatism, gout,
and stomach pain (41). A. dracunculus L. was used as a
pot herb favored by Charlemagne in 760s. It was
introduced to England in the 1500s and in 1650 it was
imported to Dutch settlements in the New World (40). A.
absinthum was also introduced from Europe as a panacea
medicinal plant. In the 19th century it was an
ingredient for the liqueur, absinthe, which was traced
to nervous system and mental disorders. In the 1900s
absinthe was banned in the U.S. and other countries.
Kloss recommends A. absinthium as an aromatic tonic,
antiseptic, febrifuge, and also useful in treating liver
disorders, chronic diarrhea and leucorrhea, and to expel
worms (41). Today the F.D.A. lists wormwood as an
"unsafe" plant (40).
According to Kearney and Peebles, many species
of Artemisia are used medicinally in the Southwest
(48). Many species endemic to the western U.S. are
given the old common names and often Indian use involved
many species for similar illness, rendering confusion
about the species utilized. A., tridentata (basin
sagebrush) was first noticed by John Fremont in 1848 and
he called it 'absinthum' after its European relative.
From prehistoric times _A. tridentata has been used by
the Hopi, Navajo, and Zuni to relieve stomach pain,
colds and coughs, sore eyes, snakebite remedy, vet aid,
and insect repellant (8-11,40). The Hopi used A.
frigida as a flavoring and for prayer sticks; .A.
dracunculus as a green; and A. fillifolia to relieve
indigestion and treat boils (8,11). The Navajo used A.
fillifolia as a cough and toothache remedy; A.
carruthii as a cough remedy, febrifuge, diaphoretic,
miscellaneous disease remedy, and vet aid; A. glauca, A.
ludoviciana. and other Artemesia species as a
dermatological aid and analgesic. The Zuni used A.
fillifolia as a cold medicine and A. carruthii as an
analgesic (11). Two distinct medicinals, 'estafiate and
'altamisa*, are cited as Spanish American medicinals,
however, their identity varies somewhat. Estafiate is
used in poltices and to treat stomach problems and is
reported as Artemesia species or Salvia reflexa Hornem.
(Labiatae) (4,5). Altamisa is used as a spice, tonic,
or analgesic and has been recorded as Artemisia or other
Asteraceae members (4,5). Moore treats estafiate and
altamisa as one group that includes Artemisia species
(6). These species are used as a bitter aromatic that
has diaphoretic properties and will aid in stomach
acidity or indigestion, expel round or pin worms,
stimulate uterine contractions, and aid menstruation
In the study region, A. carruthii or friaida
are generally defined as estafiate, although there is no
discrimination between similar species. Salvia reflexa
Hornem. was not identified as estafiate by any native.
Estafiate is used to treat stomach cramps, diarrhea, or
as an expectorant. It is also combined with Swertia
radiata (Kell.) Kuntz to treat ulcers. An infusion of
the whole plant of altamisa (A. franseroides or
Tanasetum vulgare L.) is recommended in the treatment of
Artemisia species are known to be aeroallergens,
the spore and pollen often causing allergic rhinitis.
Also the lactones, most sesquiterpenes, can cause
contact dermititis. Artemisia species contain uncommon
cumarin glycosides (36) and lactone glycosides (6) that
are anthelmintic.. Two major identified compounds are
santonin and artemisin (Appendix). Thujone,
phellandrene, cineol, and their derivatives are found in
the aromatic oils of Artemisia species (6,36). These
compounds validate the diaphoretic, expectorant, and
emmenagogue properties of these plants (37).
Experiments with A. vulgaris found that it demonstrates
hypoglycemic activity. The compound(s) involved in this
activity are not known (36). Many Indians of the
western U.S. have used Artemisia species as an
insecticide and several compounds have demonstrated
effective activity as feeding deterrents. In A.
tridentata, deacetoxymatricarin is an active feeding
deterrent against Leptinotarsa decemlineata (potato
beetle). Other insecticidal compounds include
esculetin, scopoletin, 7-hydroxycoumarin, and
6,7-dimethoxycoumarin. Many species of Artemisia also
contain absinthin, which most insects will avoid (1).
The genus Cirsium. commonly known as thistle,
has 21 species in New Mexico. Nine of these are found
in Catron County: C. parryi (Gray) Petrak, J3.
neomexicanum Gray, C. grahamii Gray, C. megacephalum
(Gray) Cockll., C. ochrocentrum Gray, C. bipinnatum
(Eastw. ) Rydb. C.. arizonicum (Gray) Petrak, C.,
pulchellum (Greene) Woot. & Standi., and C.. wheeleri
(Gray) Petrak (30).
In Europe, a relative, Silybum marianum (L.)
Gaertin. was used by wet nurses to increase lactation.
This use was based on the Signature of Doctrines because
the plant has white veins. The first-century belief by
the Romans that the plant repaired the liver has been
validated (36). Medicinal use of Cirsium species are
generally limited to the Indians of North America. The
roots of Cirsium arvense (L.) Scop. (Canada thistle)
have been widely used as an emetic and alterative, an
agent that will restore normal body functions (36). C.
pulchellum root was used by the Hopi as a laxative,
vermifuge, dermatological aid, and to treat colds and
sore throats (8,11). C. ochrocentrum was used by the
Zuni as a diaphoretic, diuretic, emetic, and to treat
venerial disease and diabetes (9-11). In the treatment
of venereal disease, Steiner notes that the patient was
required to run after ingesting the tea. Since
Treponema pallidum is sensitive to temperature, it is
therorized that the running probably contributes more to
the 'cure* then the Cirsium (2). Several species of
Cirsium were used by the Navajo as a febrifuge, eye
medicine, vet aid, and a general panacea plant (11).
The Spanish Americans call C. undulatum 1cardo santo.
This plant is used to treat earaches, toothaches,
diarrhea, venereal disease, heal bones and muscles, and
accelerate labor (4).
In the study area, C. ochrocentrum was called
'espina del burro by one native and the flower top tea
was reported to be used as a treatment for diabetes. C.
wheeleri roots were reported to be cardo santo and its
specific uses were not described in detail. One native
recommended boiling the whole plant and adding the stock
to bath water to treat rheumatism. Based on this study,
Cirsium species are not used regularly.
Pharmacological investigation of Cirsium roots
reveal the presence of a phenolic compound known as
silymaran. This compound does increase liver cell
growth and is used as an antidote to Amanita phaloides
(death cap mushroom) poisoning (40). Other compounds
present in Cirsium include flavones cirsimaritin,
cirsilineol, and cirsiliol (56). Chlorogenic acid,
caffic acid, and dicaffeylquinic acid (56) are phenolic
compounds present in Cirsium species (Appendix).
Known as fleabane or wild daisy, this genus has
thirty-nine species in New Mexico, of which twelve are
known to grow in Catron County (30). The species
collected during this study include E. formosissimus
(Greene), E. divergens Torr. & Gray, and E.
At one time E. canadensis L. was strictly a
North American weed which the early settlers learned of
through the Indians in the middle 1600s (40). The oil
of E.. canadensis was used as a treatment for diarrhea
and dysentery (48). This species was also rubbed on the
temples to relieve headaches by the Hopi and Navajo
Indians, while the Zuni used it as a respiratory aid
(8,11). Decoctions of the leaves of Erigeron species
were also used as a disinfectant, diuretic, tonic,
snakebite medicine, astringent to stop bleeding, and to
treat urogenital diseases (41). An.ancient Native
American belief held that the odor of some species
repelled insects (49). Physicians of the century used
the volatile oil extracted from leaves and flowers of E.
philadelnhicus L. to accelerate uterine contractions
The natives in the study area made no
distinction of species. Erigeron species are placed in
pet beds to exterminate fleas and lice. The origin of
the common name fleabane* may or may not be due to this
use of the plant (40). The other common recommendation
was to rub this plant on the skin to repel insects when
Erigeron species may cause contact dermititis
and contain oleoresins that are associated with pollen
dermititis. Experimentally, E. canadensis demonstrates
hypoglycemic activity, though mention of folkloric use
to treat diabetes was not noted (36). Oil of fleabane
(37) contains limonene, gallic acid, tannins, flavinols,
and aldehydes (Appendix). The gallic acid and tannins
account for the use of Erigeron as an astringent and
hemostat (37). Experimental studies with E. canadensis
demonstrate that the terpentine-like oil does repel
fleas which validates its use as an insecticide (40).
Gaillardia is commonly known as the blanket
flower or fireweed. There are two species found in New
Mexico as well as Catron County, G. pinnatifida Torr.
and G. pulchella Foug. (30).
References to the use of Gaillarida species are
few. In Montana, G. aristata Pursh roots were chewed to
relieve toothache pain (36). G. pinnatifida has been
used by the Hopi as a diuretic and analgesic to relieve
painful urination (8). The Navajo used it as an
antiemetic, respiratory aid, and a witchcraft plant
(11). G. pulchella called 'coronilla* or *Yerba del
sol' by the Spanish Americans was used in a tea to treat
constipation or dermatological problems (4).
A decoction of G. pulchella was reported as a
treatment for fevers. One method of use described was to
wash hair and apply to skin like an alcohol bath in
cases of high fevers. This plant was not mentioned by
the Orr herb club members.
Gaillardia species are known to cause contact
dermititis due to the many sesqueterpines that are
present. Gaillardinin, a potential chemotheraputic
compound in the treatment of cancer has been isolated
from G_. pulchella (36). Chemical information that would
validate the medicinal uses of these species as a
febrifuge and analgesic was not found.
Thirteen species of gumweed or Grindelia are
found in New Mexico. Only G. scabra var. neomexicana
(Woot. & Standi.) Steyerm. and G. arizonica Gray var.
arizonica are listed as native to Catron County. Study
specimans include G. aphanactis Rydb. which was
collected in Catron County.
According to Kearney and Peebles, Grindelia
species have been used medicinally as an antispasmodic,
stomachic, treatment for asthma, and applied externally
as an antidote for poison ivy (48). G. robusta was used
by California tribes to treat dermititis and rashes
(36). fi. souarosa (Pursh) Dunal was used by the Pawnee
to heal saddle sores (45). G. aphanactis roots were
used by the Zuni to treat snakebites (10). The species
was also used by the Navajo as an emetic, insecticide,
to treat rashes, pediatric illnesses, and as a vet aid
(11). The Spanish Americans commonly refer to G.
aphanactis as yerba del buey and use it to treat
rheumatic pains and kidney disorders (48). Moore
credits Grindelia species as being useful for
bronchitis, coughs, urinary tract infections, as a mild
sedative, cardiac relaxant, stomach tonic, and topically
for poison oak or ivy (6).
In the study area yerba del buey was recommended
and used as a poison ivy antidote by numerous natives
Two of the older natives mentioned its use to treat
According to Stockert, Grindelia contains
compounds that are used in modern medicines to treat
poison ivy (45). The oil of the dried leaves and
flowers are composed of 20% grindelol, saponin, tannin
and robustic acid (37) which exhibits expectorant
This genus is commonly known as snakeweed. Of
the four species native to New Mexico only G.
microcephala (DC.) Gray occurs in Catron County (30).
G. microcephala is seldom grazed and in large quantities
may be toxic due to the uptake of selenium (48).
Gutierrezia is a native American medicinal plant
that is not considered to be one of great significance
(40). The Navajo used G. lucida as a vet aid and G.
sarothrae as an analgesic, snakebite remedy,
dermatological aid, sedative, gynecological aid, and
antidiarrheal (11). The Navajo are credited also with
chewing the plant and applying it to insect bites (47).
The Zuni used a leaf infusion of G. sarothrae to relieve
muscle aches and as a diaphoretic and diuretic (10,11).
The Hopi used Gutierrezia species to treat gastric
disturbances (8). The Spanish Americans refer to these
species as 'escoba de la vibora* or 'yerba de la vibora*
(4-6). Moore claims it is a good supplement to
salicylate to decrease inflammation and pain,
stomachache, and will aid in excessive menstruation
In the study area, reported medicinal uses were
to treat diarrhea and snake bites. One native reported
the tea fumes were used similar to a vaporizer to treat
people with colds. Additionally there was a mention of
using the leaves as a green.
Little chemical information was available for
Gutierrezia species. The leaves are reputed to contain
a saponin that is toxic to livestock in large
quantities. In cancer chemotheraputic research there
appears to be some active protein components that have
not been specifically identified (36).
Haplopappus species are commonly known as
goldenweed of which there are twenty-one species native
to New Mexico (30). The Catron County species include
H. gracile (Nutt.) Gray, H.. croceus Gray, and II. parrvi
H. gracilis, H. nuttalli, and H. spinulosus are
all species used by the Navajo as a dermatological aid,
analgesic, and respiratory aid (11). Happlopappus
species are not a widespread medicinal group, presumably
because of their potential toxicity.
According to an old herbal, Haplopappus causes
sickness in livestock. The Herb Clubs Spanish plant
list cites Anil del muerto* as goldweed, however no
mention of present day use was made.
Due to the loss of livestock and incidence of
milk sickness in humans, H. heterphyllus (Gray) Blake
has been examined for chemical constituents. Tremetol
(36) is the toxic compound that is passed to humans in
milk products (Appendix). The symptoms of tremetol
ingestion include nausea, vomiting, constipation,
tremors, followed by delirium and eventually death
(36). In H. gracile, the cell pH is a factor in
determining the concentration of eriodictyol and caffeic
acid (38). The precursor for these compounds is
p-hydroxycinnamic acid which is converted to caffic acid
at a neutral pH or to eridictyol at a pH greater then
eight (38). Eridictyol demonstrates activity as an
expectorant, while caffic acid may cause a sensitization
Nineteen species of this genus, commonly known
as bitter weed, are native to New Mexico. Four of these
are found in Catron County: H. argentea (Gray) Parker,
H. rusbi (Gray) Cockll., H. odorata DC., and H.
richardsonii var. floribunda (Gray) Parker (30). H.
richardsonii is also known as pingue or pingwing and its
latex sap is toxic to livestock, especially sheep (48).
Hvmenoxvs species have been used medicinally by
the Navajo, Hopi and Zuni. g. acaullis (Pursh) Parker
was used by the Hopi as an analgesic, gynecological aid,
orthopedic aid, and as a stimulating drink (11,48). H.
argentea was used by the Navajo as a dermatological aid,
disinfectant, gastrointestinal aid, psychological aid,
and as a ceremonial (11). H. richardsonii was used by
the Navajo as an emetic, or as a dermatological and
ceremonial plant (11). The Zuni made a tea from the
root to treat stomach aches (10). The Spanish called
this species pingue* and in New Mexico, a chewing gum
was commonly made from bark of this plant (45). The
latex from this species was also collected for rubber
production during both world wars (45). H. scaposa was
used by the Navajo as a dermatological aid, and by the
Zuni as an eye medicine (11).
This plant was recognized by some natives as a
medicinal plant of the past. The primary reason it was
pointed out was because of its extreme toxicity to sheep
in the study area. Even though the latex of this plant
was mentioned as having commercial use, no specfic
chemical structures were located.
Commonly known as the prairie coneflower,
Ratibida columnifera f. pulcherrima (DC.) and R.
columnifera (Nutt.) Woot. & Standi, f. columnifera are
both found in Catron County (30). One other species, R.
tagetes (James) Barnh. occurs in New Mexico and may be
found in Catron County (30).
An infusion of the leaves and flowers of R.
columnifera was used by the Navajos to treat fevers
(45). The Zuni used it as an emetic, however, it was
apparently not used by the Hopi (11). The Spanish
Americans use pague, or the fetid marigold (Pectis) to
treat stomach problems, however, in the study area the
latter was confused with Ratibida (4,5).
R. columifera f. pulcherrima was boiled and used
as a treatment for diarrhea. In severe cases of
diarrhea, suppositories with leaves and cow lard were
used in addition to the tea. The reported use of this
plant was confined to two native families.
R. columnifera is suspected of being poisonous
to cattle and is rarely grazed (48). Often these
species are confused with the genus Rudebeckia which is
known to contain poisonous sesqueterpene lactones (36).
Other chemical analysis specific for Ratibida species
was not located.
There are four species of this genus, commonly
known as dandelion, and only T. officinale Weber is
listed for Catron County (30). However, T. laevigatum
(Willd.) DC. is the speciman collected in this study.
Introduced from Europe, T. officinale was
rapidly integrated into the Native American pharmacopia
(39). In the southwest, the greens were used as a
spinach substitute. The roots were used medicinally and
as a magenta dye; the flowers, as a yellow dye (40,48).
The Navajo used T. officinale as a dermatological aid
and a gynecological aid (11). The Hopi used it to treat
broken bones (8). It was listed by Kloss as a hepatic
remedy, aperient, diuretic, depurative, tonic,
stomachic, and stimulatng coffee substitute (41).
Another folkloric use was the application of the plants
white latex to remove warts (36). The Spanish Americans
call the plant chicoria or consuelda, and according to
Moore it is a safe diuretic and remedy for kidney
In the study area, Taraxacum species were
recommended in the treatment of diabetes and to
stimulate liver function. The use of the leaves for
salad "greens" was also mentioned.
Chemical investigation of Taraxacum species
reveal the presence of taraxasterol, taraxerol,
fructose, inulin, and choline. In the early spring
mannite is also present (6). Laboratory tests reveal
that Taraxacum species demonstrate hypoglycemic activity
which is attributed to the presence of inulin and
fructose (36,51). The presence of the compound
*hepatichol* which stimulates bile flow (81,82) validate
its use as a cholagogue and diuretic (Appendix).
Commonly known as greenthread, Thelesperma
species number six in New Mexico and T. megapotamicum
(Spreng.) Kuntze is the only species listed in Catron
County (30). T. subnudum Gray is commonly called Navajo
tea and T. longpjpes Gray is commonly called cota (30).
The Navajo used T. megapotamicum (synonymous
with T. gracile (Torr.) Gray) as a stimulant and
toothache remedy (11). The Hopi used T. megapotamicum
and T. subnudum as a beverage tea and as dye plants.
The Spanish Americans used cota as a traditional
beverage, as a treatment for arthritis, kidney troubles,
blood complaints, and, used with malva (Malvaceae), to
treat diaper rash and thrush (6). Cota has mild
diuretic properties useful in the treatment of water
retention and urethra irritations. Moore reports it is
mildly antiseptic to the urinary tract (6).
In the study area, T. megapotamicum was well
known as 'cota* among the natives. Its use was
wide-spread. It was frequently used as a beverage
flavored with a dash of anise, or sugar and vinegar.
Its common medicinal use was as a mild diuretic. The
Herb club also mentioned the use of cota as a mild
antiseptic, laxative, vermifuge, to decrease high blood
pressure, settle stomach, and decrease fever.
Other than the presence of tannin, no other
specific chemical information was located.
Tragopogon is commonly known as goatsbeard and
there are three species which occur in New Mexico. T.
pratensis L. is the only species occuring in Catron
County, however, T. dubius Scop, was collected during
T. dubius, commonly called yellow salsify, was
originaly introduced from Europe (30). It was used in
the Old World as a diuretic, to treat kidney stones and
heartburn. The American Indians adopted the use of
yellow salsify to treat heartburn (40). T. porrifolus L.
is purple flowered and commonly called oyster plant due
to its edible and nutri ious taproot (40). The Navajo
used Tragopogon species as an emetic, dermatological
aid, throat aid, veterinary aid, and ceremonial medicine
Tragopogon species were pointed out as an old
medicinal plant with edible roots. It apparently is not
a present day medicinal plant in the region. No
chemical information was located on Tragopogon species.
There are four species of Xanthium or cocklebur
in New Mexico, yet none are listed for Catron County.
Xanthium strumarium var. canadense (Mill.) Torr. was the
Xanthium is known to be poisonous to livestock,
especially swine and poultry (48). The roots of
Xanthium species have styptic properties and it is
considered a significant alterative tonic (36,48). X.
strumarium L. var. canadense (Mill.) Torr. (synonmous
'with X* italicum Moretti) was used as an Apache blood
medicine and as a Zuni dermatological aid (11). The
Spanish Americans call the plant 'Cadillo*, and use it
to treat diarrhea, cuts, and rattlesnake bites (4-6).
Moore recommends the leaf tea as an effective diuretic
useful in treating chronic cystitis and warns that in
large quantities it may be toxic. He also recommends a
tincture of crushed seeds are effective in treating skin
abrasions and aids in clotting (6).
This species is a questionable medicinal plant
in the study area. One native described the seeds as
being full of oil that was used at one time, however,
the children were encouraged to smash the seeds to
prevent germination. k
Xanthium species are known to be aeroallergens
that cause allergic rhinitis. The plants contain many
sesqueterpene lactones and oleoresins that may cause
contact dermititis and toxicity to livestock (36). The
compounds isolated from Xanthium species (Appendix)
include the lactone xanthinin, the germicide xanthatin,
and the glycoside xanthostrumarin (6,36,57).
Of the six New Mexican members of the barberry
family, Martin and Hutchins cite only one species as
native to Catron County (30). Another common name,
hollygrape, arises because the plant has leaves like a
holly, and berries like a grape. The berries of
Berberis repens Lindl., the species native to Catron
County, are edible and have historically served as a
food source for birds, animals, and people in the
Use of the members of Berberidaceae as a
folkloric plant also has its roots in the Doctrine of
Signatures. Its yellow bark was a signal to early
physicians for its use as a treatment for jaundice
(40). In India, B. aristata was used as a treatment for
obesity (36). American Indians used the root as a tonic
and dye, and it was known to be sometimes poisonous to
livestock (48,49). The Hopi used B. repens to heal gums
and the wood for utility, the Navajo made a treatment
for rheumatism from the leaves and stems (8,47).
Additionally, the Navajo believed the plant to be a
panacea, while the Apache used it as a ceremonial plant
(11). Chavez and Moore report the Spanish names for
this plant, to be palo amarillo (4-6). The root has
proported use as an antipyuretic, laxative, intestinal
strengthener, antibacterial skin wash, liver stimulant,
and blood purifier. The flowers have been used as a
skin dressing to prevent infection, and the berries in a
tea to treat fevers, as a laxative and for gum
Only brief mention occurred in the Reserve area
for use of this plant as a medicinal, however its
berries were a well known source for jelly. The root
was reported to be used as an astringent or mixed with
Linaria vulgaris Mill. (Scrophulariaceae) as a liver
stimulant or treatment for hepatitis. It was noted
however, that L. vulagris is not commonly found in
Catron County. There was some confusion over
nomenclature on B. repens. When asked about Palo
Amarillo one aged native of Hispanic descent indentified
it as a "yellow barked" cottonwood for the treatment of
fevers. This individuals primary language was Spanish,
and a field trip to clairify this point could not be
arranged. An additional native cited the use of the
bark tea to treat heart problems.
The members of Berberidaceae contain several
pharmacologically active principles. Berberine, an
alkaloid of the isoquinoline form, has bactericidal,
trypanosmoacidal, and antimalarial properties (36). It
may also possess anti-sickle cell properties and is used
in pharmaceutical eye products (40). The root and stem
bark contain high concentrations of tannin, which has
astringent, hemostatic, and styptic properties (37,40).
Other active compounds include beramine, berbeerine,
oxyacanthine, and phytosterols (Appendix) that
contribute to the plants activity as a febrifuge,
carminative, relieve diarrhea, and an antibacterial
wound dressing (38,40).
Martin and Hutchins cite fourteen genera of the
borage family in New Mexico: six members of the genus
Lithospermum, three species of which are native to
Catron County. Commonly known as gromwell or puccoon,
the Catron county natives are L. incisum Lehm. JL.
multiflorum Torr., and L. cobrense Greene (30).
Medicinal use of L. officinale L. (Gromwell)
dates to first century A.D. as a Roman remedy for kidney
stones and urine retention. Its medicinal use was
introduced to American Indians by the European settlers
(40). Due to the Southwestern Native-American use of
roots and leaves as a red or purple dye, the common name
'Indian Paint was adopted (45,48). Species of
Lithospermum have been used by the Zuni to treat stomach
aches, kidney problems, wounds, and throat ailments
(9,10). Utilizing the species as the Zuni, the Navajo
additionally used L. incisum as a contraceptive and eye
wash (9,45). Kearney and Peebles report that L. incisum
was used medicinally by the Hopi, however, it's use by
the Hopi was not additionally confirmed (48). Spanish
Americans apparently did not use Lithosperma
In the study area, one individual cited L.
incisum as a medicinal. However this individual could
not furnish the specific applications. Pucoon was
reported as a well-known dye plant and is used for that
purpose in the study area.
Chemically, these species are known to possess
high tannin concentrations which would impart hemostatic
and antibacterial properties (10). Chemical studies of
Boraginaceae members performed in Japan reveal the
presence of prostaglandin inhibitors such as
shikonofuran (50). Prostaglandins are a class of
compounds that stimulate smooth muscle contraction and
decrease blood pressure (37). Ingestion of Lithospermum
species would be expected to decrease smooth muscle
contraction and increase blood pressure (Appendix).
Martin and Hutchins list three species of the
genus Lobelia as native to New Mexico. Two of these are
native to Catron County: L. cardinales subsp. graminea
(Lam.) Me Vaugh, commonly known as the western cardinal
flower, and L. anatina Wimmer, the blue bell lobelia.
Moore cites Lobelia cardinalis as red lobelia,
cardinal flower, Indian tobacco, and eye bright (6).
The name 'Indian tobacco' is more commonly associated
with Verbascum thapsus L., and 'eye bright with
Euphrasia officinales L., both of the Scrophulaceae
family (6,51). The New England healer, Samual Thomas,
cited the use of Lobelia as an emetic and breathing aid
for the treatment of asthma and other respiratory
ailments in the 1820s (40). Kloss includes Lobelia as a
treatment for respiratory disorders as well. The blue-
flowered L. siphilitica L. was used by the Cherokee and
Iriquois to treat syphilis (40). The Zuni used L.
cardinalis externally as an antirheumatic or
dermatological aid (9,11). According to Moore, the
whole plant is utlilzed internally as a stimulant to the
vagus nerve or externally as a liniment (6). L. tupa
was reportedly smoked by the Mapuches of Chile as a
hallucinogen. There is no pharmacological evidence that
this species contains hallucinogenic principles (36).
In the study region, both red and blue lobelia
were recognized medicinal plants with toxic properties.
They were recommended for external use only to treat
L. inflata L. and, to a lesser extent, L.
cardinales and L. siphilitica contain physiologically
active pyridine alkaloids and a pungent volatile oil
(36). Fourteen pyridine alkaloids have been isolated
from L. inflata. The major one is lobeline (Appendix).
An overdose can cause vomiting, paralysis, decreased
body temperature, coma, and even death. When used as an
emetic, L. inflata can cause death if vomiting does not
occur (36). Lobeline has been used as an expectorant
and is an ingredient of some over-the-counter
preparations to quit the smoking habit (36,40). Similar
to nicotine, the active principles of Lobelia stimulate
peripheral vasoconstriction, increase blood pressure,
and stimulate respiration. Previously used in cases of
narcotic overdoses, it is still used in veterinary
medicine as a respiratory stimulant (36,37).
Cannabaceae is known as the hemp family in which
Martin and Hutchins place the American or common hops,
the genus Humulus. H. americanus Nutt, is the only
species of this genus that is native both to New Mexico
and Catron County. Under its former nomenclature it was
listed as H. lupulus var. neomexicanus Nels. & Cockll.
H. lupulus has a long history of ethnobotanic use (30).
The first notation of the use of H. lupulus in
the 1300s by the Dutch was to flavor fermented
beverages. The English believed that the plants
sedative activity was linked to melancholy, so its use
was prohibited during the 15th and 16th century. The
American Indians made a sedative from the blossoms and
dried flowers which they also used to relieve toothaches
(40). By the late 19th century it was listed in most
pharmacopeias as a medicinal plant used as a sedative,
tonic, and diurectic (40,41). An old practice was to
stuff pillows with this plant as a sleeping aid. King
George III and Lincoln are both reported to have done
this (51). In the Southwest, both the Apache and Hopi
Indians used hops in bread-making (8,48). The Navajos
used it to treat coughs and other miscellaneous
diseases, while revering it as a hunting and witchcraft
plant (11). Also known as zarsa or lupulo, it was used
by the Spanish Americans as a sedative, bitter tonic,
anodyne, and antibiotic (4-6). Modern day herbalists
recommend hops tea as a nervine and calmative to treat
nervous diarrhea, insomnia and restlessness (51). Moore
specifies its use to treat a nervous stomach and to
relieve toothaches and other minor body pains (6).
While not commonly reported for medicinal use in
the study region, hop tea was mentioned as a nervine.
It is not a plant regularly collected and stored for
medicinal use at home. Members of the community tend to
use vervain, chamomile, or saffron instead.
While glandular hairs containing lupulin on
Humulus species may cause contact dermititus, there are
several pharmacologically-active compounds that validate
its medicinal use (36). The bioflavinoid quercitrin, a
vasopresser agent, has been isolated (Appendix).
Additionally, the active principles lupulon and humulon
demonstrate antibiotic activity against gram-positive
and acid-fast bacteria (36,37). These compounds are
thought to retard bacterial growth and impart bitter
flavor to beer, while physiologically contributing
sedative responses (Appendix).
This family is commonly known as the caper
family. The genus Cleome, bee plant, has 3 species
native to New Mexico. Two species are found in Catron
County, C^. serrulata Pursh, and Â£. sonorae Gray (30).
C. serrulata was the species identified as medicinal.
The bee plant or turkey bean has ethnobotanic
history only with the Indians of the Southwest. Martin
and Hutchins report that among the natives it is a
favorite food known as 'wild spinach and is often used
as a mordant for dyes (34). Due to its strong odor when
crushed it is also called 'skunk weed which the Navajo
took advantage of by using the plant as a deodorant
(45,48). Other Navajo uses of this plant were as a
throat aid and to treat dermatological problems (11).
The Navajo, Hopi, and Apache tribes all used this plant
for food and as a ceremonial plant (8,11,45).
Only one mention of this plant was obtained in
the study area. It was proported to have a high vitamin
C content, however, no chemical information was located
in researching Cleome species.
This is the honeysuckle family to which the
elderberry belongs. The state of New Mexico has six
native Sambucus species, four of which are found in
Catron County: S. microbotrys Rydb. S^. mexicana Presl. ,
S. neomexicana Woot. var. neomexicana S^. neomexicana
var. vestita (Woot & Standi.) K. & P. (30).
The use of S_. nigra L. in a syrup or fermented
beverage to treat colds and coughs dates back to
prehistoric times. Europeans used it as a laxative,
diuretic, diaphoretic, and mild astringent. American
Indians used Sambucus species similarly as a medicinal
but also used it as a dye plant. Black dye was obtained
from the bark and roots, green dye from the leaves, and
purple dye from the berries (40). Indians of the
Southwest used the flowers as a diuretic and the berries
as a food (48). The Navajo used S.. neomexicana as a
disinfectant and veterinary aid (11). A bark decoction
was used by the North Pacific Indians as a purgative.
In Africa it was used in difficult cases of childbirth
(36). The Spanish Americans call this plant Flor sauco
or sarza, and the blue berries are preferred to the red
varieties. This plant is used to increase sweating
during fevers, as a mild laxative, diuretic, and to
relieve arthritis and rheumatism pains. Elder flower
water is used externally as a face conditioner and is
available in a commercial product (4-6). In Oaxaca,
Mexico, S.. mexicana is used to reduce fevers and to
treat menstrual hemmorage (52,53).
In the study area there was some confusion over
Spanish nomenclature for the various berry fruits. Flor
sauco was identified as S. microbotrys (red berries), a
plant used to treat fevers. Sarza, S^. neomexicana or S.
mexicana (blue berries), was identified as a jam or wine
ingredient. These definitions were not totally agreed
upon as some natives made no distinction between the
Sambucus species contain two classes of
pharmacologically active compounds, cyanogenic
glycosides and alkaloids. Children using Sambucus stems
as pea shooters gave rise to the discovery that these
toxic compounds are concentrated in the stems (36).
Sambucine, sambuninigrin, tyrosine, tannin, and
hydrocyanic acid (6,52) are also located in the roots
and seeds (Appendix).
Chenopodiaceae, the goosefoot family, has 28
members of the genus Chenopodium native to New Mexico.
C. gravolens Willd. var. neomexicanum (Aellen) Aellen,
c. capitatum (L.) Asch., C. glaucum L. subsp. glaucum.
c. watsoni A. Nels., C. album L., C. paganum Reichb.,
and C. berlandieri var. Zschackel (Murr.) Murr. are the
seven species native to Catron county (30). C. album,
commonly known as lamb quarters, is the ethnobotanic
species of interest.
C. bonus-henricus L., the European relative to
spinach or chard, was also known as allgood. Early
European herbalists recommended its use as a leaf
poltice, cleanser for sores, ointment for sore joints,
treatment for indigestion, laxative, diuretic, and
wholesome food. The leaves and roots are known to
contain high levels of iron and vitamin C (40). C.
ambroides L. was a species used as a vermifuge, the
source of wormseed or chenopodium oil, by American
Indians (40). Chenopodium species were used by the
Navajos as a dermatological aid, burn dressing, eye
medicine, and dietary aid. The Zuni used Chenopodium
species as an analgesic and herbal steam, while the Hopi
used C. alba as a flavoring or green only (8,11). In
southern Mexico several native groups used C.
ambrosoides L. as a cold remedy, vermifuge, emmenogogue,
and abortifacient (42,52,53). In Tropical America, C.
ambrosioides var. anthelminticum is used as a vermifuge,
however, the theraputic dose is close to minimum toxic
levels. Side effects such as hyperemia of the central
nervous system, convulsions, and cardiac or respiratory
abnormalities can even cause death. The plant is
reported to have hallucinogenic properties due to the
presence of safrole (36). C. gravolens is also used as
a vermifuge through-out Mexico (42).
Lambs quarters, C. alba, is also known as
purslane, verdolaga, or quelite by the natives in the
study region. It is a common green cooked with bacon
grease, onion, garlic, and pinto beans. One medicinal
citation of the tea as an effective vermifuge was given,
however, many recognized that it had a medicinal history
of unknown use. The potential toxicity of the plant was
Chenopodium species are generally known to be
aeroallergins, causing allergic rhinitis, bronchial
asthma, and pneumonitis (36,48). Due to the
photosentizing compounds related to furocumarins, the
plant provokes photodermititis, in which a sunburn-like
rash develops. One of the compounds associated
Chenopodium. an oxide known as ascaridole which
comprises 60-70% of chenopodium oil, validates its uses
as an anthelmentic (36,37). Safrole, a minor component
of chenopodium oil, has been validated as a topical
antiseptic, pediculicide (destroys lice), and a
carminative (relieves gas) (37). Other physiologically
active compounds include 1-limonene and p-cymene (52)
which accounts for the irritant properties of
Commelinaceae, the spiderwort family, has three
species of the genus Commelina in the state of New
Mexico. Commelina species are commonly called 'day
flower*. One species, C. dianthifolia var. longispatha
(Torr.) Brashier, is found in Catron county (30).
The medicinal use of Commelina is not
wide-spread. Kearney and Peebles report that some
species stop blood flow (48). Of the Southwestern
tribes, only the Navajo recorded the use of C.
danthifolia as a medicinal veterinary aid (11,40).
Species of the genus Transdescantia. another member of
the family, were used by the Hopi and other Southwestern
tribes as a pot herb and green (8,47). The oyster
plant, Rhoeo spathacea, also a member of this family,
contains dopamine and is effective in treating
parkinsonism (36). C. pallida has been listed as a
hemostat in the Mexican pharmacopeia for many years. It
can be traced to the Aztec Indians (54). The Totonac
community in Puebla, Mexico, use C. erecta L. sap as an
eye drop to clean the eyes (42). C. dianthifolia was
given to me by one source with no information other than
it was an old medicinal plant. It is a questionalble
ethnobotanic plant in the study area.
Pharmacologically, the species of Pommeli na
offer potentially interesting chemistry. It is well
known that Commelina species contain tannins which
account for its hemostatic properties (2). However, in
a number of isolated lab tests, the vasoconstriction
activities combined with the acceleration of clotting
time suggest that alkaloids of the lysergic acid type
are present in C. pallida (54).
As with the Asteraceae, there are several genera
reported as medicinal plants. Therefore each genus is
mentioned in alphabetical order.
This genus is commonly known as shepherds
purse. Only one species, Capsella bursa-pastoris (L.)
Medic., occurs in Catron County.
As a native of the Old World, the seeds were
used by Dioscorides and Roman naturalist Pliny as a
laxative. Later it was used to stop excessive bleeding,
and was even used during World War I for that purpose
(40) . The Native Americans primarily used it as an
analgesic, however its use by the Southwestern tribes is
not documented (11). Rloss lists it as a useful
astringent, detergent, vulnerary, and diuretic, useful
for the treatment of internal hemmorage and diarrhea
Mowery cites saponins, choline, acetylcholine
and tyramine (Appendix) as the active compounds in
Capsella (51). These compounds stimulate the autonomic
nervous system, increase blood coagulation, and may
eliminate mild forms of hemmorage (51,83).
The tansy mustard, Descurainia. has thirteen
native species in New Mexico. D. pinnata subsp.
halictorum (Cockll.) Detling, D. obtusa (Greene) O.E.
Schulz subsp. adenophora (Woot. & Standi.) Detling, D.
obtusa subsp. brevisiliqua Detling, D.. californica
(Gray) O.E. Schulz, and D. richardsonii subsp. incisa
(Engelm.) Detling are all found in Catron County (30).
Some Descuriania species are used as greens and
the seeds as pinole. The Mexicans are reported to have
used the seeds in poultices for wounds (48). The Navajo
used ,J). pinnata and D. sophia (L. ) Webb to treat
toothaches. They also used D. richardsonii as a
dermatological or throat aid (11). The Hopi preferred
to use D. pinnata as a green or for pottery paint (8).
D. pinnata is poisonous to cattle, however, external
poultices act as a counterirritant, taking the focus of
pain away (36).
Several of the natives in the study area
referred to D. pinnata as 'mostasa1 which is used
externally in an ointment to relieve rheumatism. It was
well-known that this plant is toxic to livestock.
Members of the Cruciferae family contain
sinigrin (Appendix) which is a glucoside that is
inactive when dried, however, it is an irritant if added
to water (36). The dried, ripe seeds of Brassica
species contain myrosin, sinapin, sulfocyanate, and
erucic, behenic, and sinapolic acids. The seeds of the
genus Brassica exhibit emetic and counterirritant
properties (37). Verification that Brassica compounds
are present in Descurainia species was not confirmed.
Sixteen species of Lenidium or peppergrass are
found in New Mexico and five of these are native to
Catron County. These include: L. thurberi Woot., L..
montanum var. alyssoides (Gray) M.E. Jones, L. medium
Greene var. medium. L. medium var. nubescens (Greene)
Robins., and L. densiflorum var. ramosum (A. Nels.)
Lenidium species are used by the Arizona Indians
as a flavoring and a food (48). The Navajo used L.
densiflorum Schrad. as a pediatric aid and sedative; L.
lasiocarpum Nutt, as a disinfectant, and L^. montanum
Nutt, as a gastrointestional and heart aid (11).
In the study area, L. densiflorum var. ramosum
was identified as 'mostacilla by two individuals. Its
medicinal use was not given and no chemical information
on Lenidium species was located.
The genus Lesquerella or bladderpod, has sixteen
species native to New Mexico. The three native to
Catron County are L.. gooddingii Rollins & Shaw, L.
rectipes Woot. & Standi., and I*, intermedia (Wats.)
Heller (30). L. gooddingii is listed as one of New
Mexicos rare and endangered species, however, it is
commonly found in Catron County (58).
The Hopi used L. intermedia root to treat snake
bites and the whole plant infusion as an emetic or
externally to stimulate uterus contractions after
childbirth (8). The Navajo used L. intermedia or L.
rectipes as an eye medication (11). L. rectipes was
also used by the Navajo to treat toothaches and
respiratory ailments. L. fendleri (Gray) Wats, was used
by the Navajo as a dermatological aid (11).
L. goodingi was pointed out in the field as a
medicinal plant. Its use in the study area is
questionable, as additional confirmation and specific
use was not obtained. No chemical information on the
genus Lesouerella was located.
Ten species of Rorippa (yellow cress) are native
to New Mexico and the species R. nasturtium-aouaticum
(L.) Schinz & Thell is found throughout New Mexico. This
species is commonly known as watercress and is a common
stream species in Catron County (30).
R. nasturtium-aquaticum was used by the Greeks
and Romans to improve the brain. In medieval Europe it
was a salve ingredient for sword wounds. R.
nasturtium-aauaticum was introduced to the U.S. by the
early European settlers who used it to prevent scurvy,
stimualte appetite, and as a tonic. American Indians
used watercress as a food and to treat liver or kidney
troubles (40). The Southwestern tribes apparently did
not adopt watercress as a medicinal plant (11). Known
as *Berro* by the Spanish, the whole plant is used by
New Mexicans to treat kidney, heart, and tuberculosis
Watercress is a well-known green, flavoring, and
medicinal plant in the study area. Its use extends
throughout the population as a preventative medicine to
maintain good health. The fact that extensive use of
watercress may cause kidney problems is generally
R. nasturtium-officinale is known to be rich in
vitamins C, A, Bg, D, E, and mineral salts (Appendix),
validating its nutritional uses (40). Due to the
presence of iodine, prolonged use can cause vomiting and
diarrhea (37). Watercress obtained from polluted water
also poses an additional health threat. Modern
herbalists recommend it in treating nervousness and
rheumatism, however, valid scientific evidence for these
uses is lacking (40).
Commonly known as the melon family, the
Cucurbitaceae includes the genus Cucurbita to which the
gourd species belong. There are two species native to
New Mexico, C. digitata Gray and C. foetidissima H.B.K.
The latter, commonly called buffalo gourd, is native to
Catron County (30).
As a New World genus, Cucurbita. includes five
domestic species and twenty-two wild species. C. peno
L. (pumpkin) one of the oldest domesticated species of
the genus, dates back 9000 years in the Valley of
Oaxaca, Mexico (59). The first American settlers noted
that Â£. pepo was cultivated with maize by the Native
Americans. A tea made from C. pepo seeds was used by
many Native American tribe as a remedy for worms, kidney
problems, and to treat wounds (40). The Navajo used C.
pepo to treat gastrointestinal troubles and the Zuni
used it externally as an antirheumatic or dermatological
aid (11). The Zuni used C. foetidissima seeds and
flowers externally to treat swelling (10). The Hopi
cultivated C. maxima Duchesne and C. moschata Duchesne
as a food source, but apparently did not use C.
foetidissima (8). Several Cucurbita species are used as
food sources and cleansing agents in Oaxaca, Mexico
(53). Some Arizona Indians used the fruit and seeds of
C. foetidissima as a food source (48). The Spanish
Americans call C. foetidissimia *calabasilla and use
the roots to treat swollen joints and make a tea to
treat colic. It is also used as as insecticide (5).
Additionally, the roots were used by California pioneers
as a cleansing agent (60).
In the study area, some of the older natives
recommended placing the leaves of C. foetidissima in
shoes to treat athletes foot and minimize foot odor. The
squashed gourd was said to be used like clorox and was
especially useful for washing diapers. A paste made
from the gourd and applied externally was recommended in
the treatment of back pain.
The Cucurbita species contain a set of
triterpenes known as cucurbitacins (Appendix), some of
which exhibit cytotoxic and antitumor activity (2). It
is theorized that the cucurbitacins may serve as
templates for future chemotheraputic pharmaceuticals,
because their in vitro activity is greater than in vivo
activity (2, 36). Pharmacological experiments with C.
pepo validate the use of the seeds as an anthelmintic
Cuppressaceae, the cypress family, includes the
genus Juniperus which has seven native species in New
Mexico (30). Catron County natives are: J. communis L.
var. saxatilis Pall., J. deppeana Steud., scopulorum
Sarg., J. osteosperma (Torr.) Little, and J. monosperma
Juninerus species are commonly known as juniper
or red cedar and their medicinal use dates back to the
Old Testament (40). In the middle ages it was thought
that the smoke of J. communia L. prevented contagous
diseases such as plague and leprosy. Later, the berries
were used to flavor gin and as a marinade for meat
(40). The Navajo used J. communis as a ceremonial,
emetic febrifuge, and to relieve coughs. Navajo used J_.
monosperma as J. communis. and also as an analgesic
diaphoretic, gastrointestinal aid, gynecological aid,
pediatric aid, stimulant, and veternary aid. J.
osteosperma was used as an analgesic and J. scopulorum
was additionally used as a remedy for kidney problems
(11). The Apache used J. monosperma. J. occidentalis.
and californica as an anticonvulsive, cold remedy,
cough medicine, and gynecological aid (11). The Hopi
used Juniperus species in a decoction as a
dermatological aid, disinfectant, gastrointestinal aid,
gynecological aid, laxative, and orthopedic aid (8,11).
They also used the berries to season food (8). The Zuni
used a ^T. monosperma infusion as a postpartum remedy to
prevent cramps, stop vaginal bleeding, prevent
conception, and treat muscle aches (10). In the San
Luis Valley of Colorado, the people call J. communis
1sabina macho and use it to treat urinary tract
infections (43). Chavez noted one remedy to cure kidney
or urinary tract problems is to one sit on a bucket of
smoldering rama de sabina or juniper branches (5).
Moore combines Juniperus species into one group known as
cedar, cedron or sabina. He recommends the berries to
treat urinary tract problems, stimulate appetite, and to
flavor food. He further warns that the volatile oils
may have a vasodilating effect on the uterine lining and
should not be used during pregnancy (6).
The Reserve Herb Club recognizes sabino macho as
juniper and most natives in the community did not
differentiate between the species. One recommendation
was to add cedar branch tips to bath water for relief of
rheumatism pain. Juniper berry tea was recommended to
treat kidney problems, diabetes, colds, and as a female
A great deal of chemical information on the
components of Juniperus species is available
(Appendix). The volatile oil and one of its components,
terpenol, increases glomerulus filtration rate,
validating its use as a diuretic. Several over-the-
counter diuretics and laxatives contain juniper extracts
(51). Other components of the volatile oil, terpineol
and pinene exhibit antiseptic and insecticidal
properties. Pinene also exhibits expectorant activity.
Another component of the volatile oil, cadinene, when
applied to the skin will relieve flaking and itching
(37). Podophyllotoxin, a compound present in Juniperus
species, has demostrated antitumor activity (36). The
podophyllotoxins cause metaphase arrest and the
modification of their ring structure may offer future
potential for antitumor agents (2).
The rush-like perennials of this family and its
only genus, Eouisetum. are given the common name
'horsetail*. The three New Mexican natives are all
found in Catron County. They are E. arvense L., E.
laevigatum A. Br., and E. hiemale L. var. affine
(Engelm.) A.A. Eaton (30).
This family is approximately 400 million years
old, existing before the flowering plants. The use of
Eouisetum as a medicinal plant to treat wounds, urine
retention, and reduce urinary tract bleeding began long
ago. In the Ukraine, plant decoctions of E. heleocharis
are used to stop hemmorage (36). E. arvense has been
used as an abrasive, diuretic, external and internal
hemostat, and as a mouthwash for oral infections (40).
This species may be toxic to cattle and horses due to
the enzyme thiaminase which destroys thiamine. This
enzyme may also be passed to humans through milk (36).
Hough reported that the Hopi used E. laevigatum as an
ingredient in sacred bread, however Whitting could not
verify this use (8). E. hiemale was reported to be used
by the Hopi as a ceremonial plant (11). The Navajo used
E. laevigatum as an analgesic and orthpedic aid. They
also used E. hiemale as a disinfectant (11). Some
Spanish Americans used Eouisetum species to treat
gonorrhea, calling it 'pingacion* (46). Moore lists the
common names for Eouisetum species as scouring rush,
shavegrass, and canutillo del llano (6). He reports
Eouisetum is useful in treating urinary tract disorders
and increases coagulation, however, in large doses it
may irritate the urinary tract and intestinal mucosa
(6). Modern herbalists recommend the use of arvense
because of its hemolytic and antibiotic activities.
Additionally the presence of calcium and other minerals
makes it useful for healing bones and rebuilding injured
The Reserve herb club lists Eouisetum species as
'cola de caballo*. These species are apparently not
often used medicinally. Several natives reported a tea
is used to 'clean the bladder*.
These species will uptake selenium if it is
present in the soil rendering it potentially toxic. The
presence of silica makes it a fine scouring pad and
European cabinetmakers used it as a fine grade steel
wool. Eouisetum species have high concentrations of
aconitic acid which increases the urine acidity (6).
There is also an alkaloid present, equisetin, which acts
as a mild hypnotic but can be toxic in large doses.
Equisetin (Appendix) is found in various concentrations
depending on species (6). The presence of tannins, and
possibly other compounds contribute to the hemostatic
properties of Eauisetum (36).
Known as the heath family, the members of this
family are chemically similar and have been used
extensively as medicinal plants by the American Indians.
The genus Pyrola has five New Mexico natives, and of
these, P. picta J.E. Smith, P. chlorantha Sw., and P.
elliptica Nutt, are Catron County natives (30).
Members of this family are found in cooler
regions and include the rhododenrons, azaleas, and
heathers. The economic plants of this family belong to
the genus Vaccinium and include blueberries and
cranberries. Several popular medicinal plants belong to
the genus Arcostaphylos. commonly known as manzanita.
This genus includes the well-known medicinal plant
kinnikinnik or A. uva-ursi L. (48). The genus
Chimaphila. commonly known as pipsissewa, is closely
related and pharmacologically identical to Pyrola
species (6). Pyrola is the nonaromatic wintergreen and
Gaultheria is the genus from which oil of wintergreen is
derived (48). P. chlorantha was used by the Navajos as
an antidiarrheal, gynecological aid, hemostat, and
pediatric aid (11). Pyrola leaves make a strong
diuretic without irritating intestinal linings, and is
recommended for kidney weakness and chronic mild
nephritis. It is also recommended as a counterirritant
for skin eruptions (6).
Â£. elptica was pointed out in the field as
pipsissewa, and its reported use was in the treatment of
kidney problems. After interviewing a number of
natives, Pyrola and Chimaphila species are not often
used for this purpose.
Members of the Ericaceae family contain ursolic
acid, methyl salicylate, and several phenolic
glycosides. Pyrola and Chimaphila species contain
ursolic acid, arbutin, ericolin, and chimophilin
(Appendix), in varying concentrations (6). The phenolic
glycosides are broken down to hydroquinones in the urine
which lends antiseptic, anesthetic, and disinfecting
qualities to the urinary tract (6,51). Ursolic acid is
a triterpenoid that is widely distributed and is often
present in the waxy coatings of leaves and fruits. Its
role in nature seems to be a repellant to insect and
microbial attack (37). Arbutin has strong astringent
properties and in species where its concentrations are
high, it may irritate the gastrointestinal and/or urinary
Also known as spurge, family members are used
commercially in rubber production, castor oil, tung oil,
and cassava (39). There are 48 native species of the
genus Euphorbia in New Mexico, ten of these are native
to Catron County (30). These are: E. stictospora
Engelm., E. maculata L., E. vermiculata Raf., JÂ£.
albomarginata Torr. &. Gray, E. bilobata Engelm., E.
dentata Michx. var. dentata. E. alta Norton, El* lurida
Engelm., E. chamaesula Boiss, and E. brachycera Engelm.
The milky latex of most Euphorbia species is
toxic to livestock and may cause contact dermatitis.
Around the world, Euphorbia species have been used in
folk medicine as an abortifacient, analgesic, diabetes
cure, diaphoretic, emetic, expectorant, oral aid,
respiratory aid, wart remover, chewing gum, and soap
(36). E.. albinomarginata was used by the Navajo as an
analgesic, gastrointestinal aid, and hemostat (11). The
Zuni ingested the leaves and roots to increase lactation
(10). The root was used by the Pima Indians as an
emetic and snakebite remedy (48). The Navajo used E.
fendleri Torr. & Gray as an analgesic, antidiarrheal,
dermatological aid, gastrointestinal aid, gynecological
aid, hemostat, toothache remedy, vet aid, and ceremonial
medicine. The Navajo also used other Euphorbia species
in a similar manner to E. albinomarginata and E.
fendleri (11). The Hopi used E. fendleri as a dietary
aid, oral aid, and pediatric aid (11). They used Â£..
parrvi Engelm. to treat sore lips and fed babies young
roots when mothers lactation decreased (8). Other
Euphorbia species were used by the Zuni to treat
gynecological problems and snake bites (10,11). In
southern Mexico, several Euphorbiaceae members are used
medicinally as a febrifuge, hemostatic wound wash,
expectorant, and to treat stomach aches (42,53). E.
pulcherrima was used in Oaxaca, Mexico, as a
contraceptive and other Euphorbia species were used as
an emmenagogic and abortifacient (52). The Spanish
Americans list yerba de la golindrina as spurge or
swallow weed, and use it to treat warts or snake bites
(5). Yerba de la golindrina is cited as either E.
albinomarginata or E. serpvllifolia Pers., depending on
the source (4,5,48).
In the study area, E. brachvcera was pointed out
as *yerba de la golindrina. The primary use of this
herb was to remove warts. Others reported the tea
effective in treating menstrual cramps, dysmenorrhea,
and poor blood. One native reported use of the milky
sap like 'Noczema* to treat sores.
The Euphorbia species contain flavinoids, amino
acids, alkanes, triterpenoids, and alkaloids (2). The
milky sap of most Euphorbia species causes contact
dermatitis and contains complex phorbol esters that may
be carcinogenic (36). The following diterpenes have
been isolated: 12-deoxyphorbol, 12-deoxy-16-ingenol,
5-deoxyingenol, 20-deoxyingenol, resinferotoxin, and
tinyatoxin (2). E. pelpus L. and other Euphorbia
species have been used medicinally in the treatment of
asthma and bronchitis (37). Pharmacological tests
reveal that ingenol 20-octanoate and 20-deoxyingenol
3-angelate, isolated from E. pelpus, are proinflammatory
toxins when applied to mouse skin (61). Euphorbia
species contain several resins, an unstable glucoside,
and aesculetin which stimulates the uterus both in vitro
and in vivo (37,52). Other compounds present are
quercetin and salicylic acid (52) which imparts
hemostatic and antimicrobial activity (Appendix).
There are 14 Quercus or oak species in New
Mexico, seven of these are found in Catron County.
Catron County species include: Q.. hypoleucoides A.
Camus, Â£Â£. emoryi Torr. &. gambelii Nutt., Q. rugosa
Nee, (Â£. arizonica Sarg., Q. turbinella Greene, and Q_.
grisea Liebm. (30).
Acorns of Quercus species in Japan, Central
America, and South America were used to blacken teeth
which rendered teeth resistant to demineralization. The
North American Indians used Quercus species as an oral
dentifrice, however, they did not practice tooth
blackening (36). In eastern North America the hard wood
of the American native (J. alba was used for ship
construction, furniture, flooring, and storage barrels
(40). Several Indian tribes used the acorn fruit as a
food staple. The white bark tea was used medicinally to
treat diarrhea and hemorrhoids (40). Kloss recommended
the use of leaves and bark as an astringent, antiseptic,
and tonic for the treatment of vaginal infections,
hemorrhoids, hemorrhages, and to expel pin worms (41).
In the Southwest, (J. gambelii acorns were roasted by
Indians for food. The Navajo used Q. gambelii as an
analgesic, cathartic, emetic, and gynecological aid. Q.
undulata Torr. was also used as a sedative by the
Kayenta Navajos (11). In Oaxaca, Mexico natives use Q.
chinantlensis Liebm. for construction and to process
deerskin hides (53). Also in the Oaxaca, Mexico region,
CJ. elliptica is used to aid postpartum recovery (52).
In Spanish( oak species are called 'encino* and the bark
tea along with powdered bark and acorns are used to
treat rashes and skin cancer (4). Moore groups all
Quercus species together with the common names Live oak,
Fendlers oak, Gambels oak, encino, and encinillo. He
calls oak the basic astringent and recommends the tea
for treating gum inflammations, sore throat gargle, as
an intestinal tonic, and for diarrhea (6). Oak apples
or galls, the growths found on the twigs, contain higher
concentrations of tannins and are highly recommended in
the treatment of burns, skin inflammations, and insect
Natives in the study area recommended the use of
gambelii bark tea as an astringent. The tea was also
recommended to treat asthma and diarrhea by some of the
older informants. The acorns reportedly relieve high
blood pressure and are a useful vermfiuge for
livestock. An older native also described the use of
*yesca* to start campfires. Yesca was reported to be a
sponge-like moss found on oak trees. A specieman of
this moss was not pointed out or collected in the
The Quercus species may cause gastrointestinal
distress due to the presence of a saponin glycoside.
Oaks are listed as aeroallergens and are also associated
with allergic rhinitis (36). The compounds of Quercus
species (Appendix) includes tannic acid, pectin,
levulin, quercetol, quercitin, and rutin (36,37). The
high concentration of tannins demonstrate significant
astringent properties, validating its medicinal use.
Quercitin and rutin decrease capillary fragility and act
as a vasopresser agent (36). Use of Quercus species to
relieve diarrhea is credible due to the presence of
Martin and Hutchins cite six genera of the
gentian family in New Mexico (30). The genus of
ethnobotanic interest in Catron County is Swertia. In
New Mexico, the genus Swertia has five native species.
Only Swertia radiata (Kell.) Kuntz var. radiata is
native to Catron County (30).
In the gentian family, the genus Gentiana has a
long history of medicinal use. The first mention of
Gentiana was found on Egyptian papyrus. The Greek
physician Dioscorides recommended the use of Gentiana
for snake bites (40). Gentiana species were recommended
in the treatment of gout, rheumatism, digestive
disorders, and malaria (40,41). G.. lutea L. is still
recommended for treating digestive disorders by modern
herbalists today (51). Swertia species have less
widespread use as medicinal plants. In Eastern North
America, columbo or S. carolinensis roots were used as a
tonic and stimulant (36). The Navajos used S.
albomarginata (Wats.) Kuntze as a dermatological aid and
S. radiata as a sedative. The Navajos also used Swertia
species to aid psychological problems, as a general
strengthener, and veterinary aid (11). In English, S.
radiata is commonly called deers ears. In Spanish, S.
radiata is known as yerba del Indio, raiz del Indio, and
cebadilla (4-6). Moore cites the use of the yellow root
as a digestive tract stimulant, especially useful to the
elderly (6). S. radiata is reported to be
pharmacologically stronger then Gentiana species and is
also recommended as a fungicide. In New Mexico, one
custom is to melt S. radiata in lard and apply it
externally to eliminate lice and scabies (6).
Yerba del Indio is one of the most popular
medicinal plants recorded in this study. Widely
recommended as a cure for ulcers, the root is harvested
and either chewed, boiled into a tea, or ground and
placed in gelatin capsules. Although recognized as a
cause of diarrhea if too much was ingested, there were
many reports of a 'cure* within two weeks. Several
natives recommended the use of a tea or tincture to
promote healing of cuts and bruises. One native
recommended a poultice made with S. radiata. pinon
pitch, and sulfur to remove foreign objects embedded in
the skin. As an alternative for sutures, one native
demonstrated a procedure using deerskin and the root
tea. An astonishingly small scar left by a chain saw
accident was impressive evidence that the procedure
would close large wounds. S. radiata was also
recommended in combination with other herbs for the
treatment of diabetes, hemorrhoids, and cancer. One of
the older health professionals in the area reported that
in the past, yerba del Indio was used to treat
gonorrhea. S. radiata was also used as a rinse by some
to retard graying and balding hair.
A great deal is known about the chemistry of
Gentiana species, which is noted here due to chemical
similarites with the known compounds of Swertia species.
The roots of G. lutea are known to contain gentiamarin,
gentisin, gentisic acid, gentiopicrin, gentianose, and
pectin (37). Gentiopicrin is a bitter glucoside that is
used as an antimalarial agent. Gentisic acid
demonstrates analgesic and antirheumatic properties.
Both compounds are used as pharmaceuticals today (6).
Studies of Swertia species reveals the presence of
swertamarin (Appendix) which is structurally similar to
gentiopicrin (37). Swertiamarin yields erthrocentaurin,
upon hydrolysis, which has been used medicinally as a
bitter tonic (37). Active principles that may account
for the use of S. radiata as an antimicrobial were not
Eriodium and Geranium are the two genera of the
geranium family that are used medicinally in Catron
County. Since there are more similarities then
differences, both genera appear in one section. There
are two New Mexico natives of the genus Eriodium.
however, only E. cicutarium (L.) LHer. is native to
Catron County (30). There are nine New Mexico natives
of the genus Geranium, and four of these are native to
Catron County. These are: G. richardsonii Fisch. &
Traut., G. lentum Woot. & Standi., G. caesnitosum James
var. caesnitosum. and G. caesnitosum var. eremonhilum
(Woot. & Standi.) comb. nov. (30).
E. cicutarium. commonly known as herons bill,
filaree, or alfilerillo, was introduced to the Southwest
by the Spanish (6). The Navajo used it as a
disinfectant and dermatological aid (11). The Zuni used
the root tea to relieve stomach aches (10). Filaree
root is considered a useful diuretic and treatment for
rheumatism or gonorrhea by Hispanic Culture (46).
Reported to be gentle on the kidneys, E. circutarium is
considered a valuable herb for the treatment for female
genitourinary tract infections (6). In treating joint
inf lamination, external poultices are used in conjunction
with the root tea ( 6).
The genus Geranium is derived from the Greek
word geranos, which means crane, since the fruit
resembles a cranes bill (40). G.. robertianum L. was
first used medicinally during medieval times to treat
the skin disease erysipelas. Also called felonwort, it
was considered a valuable remedy for felons, skin
irratations, and bruises because of its hemostatic and
astringent properties (40). The North American species,
G. maculatum L., was first used medicinally by the
Indians to treat mouth sores, wounds, sore eyes, and
swollen feet. The use of G. maculatum was adopted by
the settlers and given the common name alumroot. It was
listed in the U.S. Pharmacopeia from 1820 to 1916. The
powdered rhizome and extract are commercially available
today (40). Eloss cited the astringent, antiseptic, and
styptic properties of Q. maculatum as useful in the
treatment of cholera, diarrhea, and dysentery (41).
Modern herbalists recommend the use of G. maculatum to
decrease mucous membrane inflammations, treat neuralgia,
and diarrhea (51). The Navajos used G. caespitosum, G.
lentum. and G. richardsonii as ceremonial and
unspecified medicinal plants (11). Moore lists g.
caespitosum and G. richardsonii as alum root or
cranesbill (6). The roots of cranesbill are used in a
tea as a gargle for oral diseases, catarrhal gastritis,
and to reduce vomiting caused by ulcers (6). Because of
the astringent properties of cranesbill, it is reported
as a treatment for hemorrhoids, vaginitis, excess
menstruation or post partum bleeding, and external
infections (6). G. maculatum is reported to be active
against Mycobacterium tuberculosis. the pathogen that
causes tuberculosis (84).
E.. cicutarium or heron bill was recommended for
use as a diuretic only by the natives in the study
region. Natives distinguished the medicinal Gerianaceae
members on the fruit differences between E. cicutarium
and the Geranium species. An astringent was made from
the root tea of the Geranium species found in Catron
County. A styptic powder made from the ground roots was
also recommended for cuts.
The garden variety geraniums are of the genus
Pelarogonium. They are native to Africa and the source
of geranium oil used in commercial purfumery (36). The
essential oil extracted from the leaves of Pelarogonium
species is known to contain geraniol (Appendix) which
may be used to synthesize terpin hydrate, an expectorant
(36). Other constituents of the oil of geranium are
geraniol esters, citronellol, and linalool (37).
Whether Geranium or Erodium species contain any of the
constituents found in geranium oil was not established.
G. maculatum is known to contain tannin, gallic acid,
and pectin (37). In studies of G. pvrenaicum. labled
glucose is the precursor of gallic acid which is then
converted to tannins (38). The roots of G. caespitosum.
G. richardsonii and other Geranium species also contain
high concentrations of tannin and gallic acid (6). The
presence of these compounds validate their use as an
astringent, styptic, and antidiarrheal (37).
Commonly known as the grass family, New Mexico
has 93 native genera as New Mexico (30). Only blue
grama, Bouteloua gracilis (H.B.K.) Lag., and common
sorghum, Sorghum vulgare Pers., were cited as medicinal
plants in this study. Neither of these plants have a
great deal of medicinal history, so they appear in one
B. gracilis is an important forage grass that is
dominant in short-grass areas (48). It was used by the
Navajo as a dermatological aid, gynecological aid,
unspecified antidote, and veterinary aid (11). The Hopi
recognized its value as a forage grass and used it in
their coiled baskets (8). The cultivation of .Â§ vulgare
as a source of syrup was introduced to the Hopi by the
Mormons (8). In Puebla, Mexico, natives use grama
species in baskets and for construction purposes (42).
Also in the Oaxaca, Mexico region many other Gramineae
genera are cultivated as food sources (53). The Spanish
Americans cite several grass species as 'sacaton.
Sacaton is used in a bath water for body and feet as a
cure for athletes foot, sores, swelling, and dropsy
Only one native family recommended the use of B.
gracilis and S. vulgare. A root tea made from B.
gracilis roots was recommended in the bath water and as
a hot beverage to cure backaches. As a veterinary aid,
the fruit of S. vulgare was considered a high-protein
feed to improve the health of the livestock.
Many members of the Gramineae family including
Bouteloua and Sorghum species are listed as
aeroallergins, causing allergic rhinitis, bronchial
asthma, and hypersensitivity pneumonitis (36).
Chlorophyll has been used medicinally as a topical
deodorant and tissue-stimulant that promotes healing in
various local skin infections (37). This may account
for the healing properties of a treated bath if the
whole B. gracilis plant is used. Gramine, a compound
that is found in Hordeum (barley) species may be present
in other Gramineae species (37). The biological or
pharmacological activity of this compound was not
listed. Gramine is derived from tryptophan and closely
related species would be expected to have similar
biochemical pathways (38). Barley also contains
hordenine which has been used medicinally as a
sympathomemetic (37). Sorghum seedlings and immature
fruits contain the cyanogenic glycoside dhurrin which,
upon hydrolysis, yields toxic hydrogen cyanide (36,37).
It is thought that the cyanogenic glycosides function in
nature to protect seedlings from being eaten by
herbivores (57). Nitrates present in Sorghum species
are converted to nitrites that are toxic to ruminants.
Phenolic compounds present cause photosensitvity, while
tannins and nitrosamines present may act as
cocarcinogens (36). Other members of Gramineae contain
citral, its natural isomers geraniol and neral are used
in the synthesis of vitamin A, ionone, flavorings, and
perfumes (37). The mature fruit is only toxic to
livestock under certain soil conditions (48). The
chemical compounds of the Gramineae are found in the
This is the family known as St. Johns-wort.
The western variety found in New Mexico is Hypericum
formosum H.B.K. (30). H. perforatum L. was introduced
from Europe and rapidly spread throughout the western
United States. In 1930, it was the cause of major
financial loss due to the deaths of California livestock
(35). The plant causes photosensitivity; and death in