Clicking PhytochemDB appearing at the top of each of my phytochemicals tables will take you onto the U.S. National Agricultural Laboratory's database of native plant chemicals, for their explanation of their database. There you can do your own tabulations using their table maker options. Explore first with the guidance of my table-pages.
Numbers are reported in ppm or parts-per-million. High and low reflect different analyses done on different plants in different growing conditions. Where no numbers are reported, but a phyto (meaning plant) chemical is listed, either no numbers were available, or the NAL data people didn't trust them as comparable to the ones they do include. The substance may have been present in traces, but most likely the reports they found simply reported it as present.
Another interpretive caution: these tables report contents for fruit, seeds, often for leaves, occasionally for flowers. The other parts category is just "plant". No way to tell if the whole plant actually was mooshed up and analyzed or if what parts were analyzed for this particular chemical just weren't specified. Either way, roots, bark, and suchlike noty only asre diffrent but generally require special preparation for any human consumption -- medical or nutrient. It is strongly recommended you not fool around with roots or bark unless someone who definitely knows what they are doing shows you how! I again emphasize that this knowledge is not an automatic acquisition of age. In other words, most old persons don't know anything about it, and most of them will tell you so, but there are some poisonous fakes around here and there. Who know nothing but will tell you their notions of what to do.
Too, many years ago I met a Menominee witch. She had quite a specialty in poisons, and she wasn't any nice old lady, misunderstood by all (as I had rather dopily thought) either. I had sense enough not to eat or drink any of the things she was cheerfully offering me, because it was rapidly obvious to me that she was Bad.
In my table, the chemicals are "active". Click on any and you will fly off to the NAL Informatics group server. You will first see a list of diseases or conditions for which that particular chemical has been thought to be helpful -- this ranges from what Native people reported to ethnobotanists in the 19th century to what antiquated herbalists thought in the quaint terminology of plant pharmacopaeia books to modern experimental testing by qualified doctors and scientists, so there's no real way to evaluate that listing. it's a mish-mash If there is no such listing, the data guys didn't find any bodily uses of that chemical.
Generally, the info in these tables is a guide to further research. It cannot be trusted as reporting solid facts, real and confirmed quantities obtained by reliable techniques, nor are the bodily uses, especially disease cures, mentioned in the listouts for each chemical to be considered reliable. This is a beginning, not a set of answers. To me, one of its best uses is a helpful explanation of many traditional plant uses -- yes, there is validity, but this is not the final explanation of it.
My cautions on other pages are repeated here: presumably the people who performed the ID's of the plants were certain of the species -- but botanists have revised species namings of varioius plants from time to time. Too, lab techniques have changed a lot over the years. Finally, the lab analysts, whoever and whenevber they were, did not necessarily analyse plants as Native practitioners treated or used them -- they were usually dried, sometimes smoked, steamed, boiled, baked, or fermented in water by themselves or with other plant parts. Both for medicines and for general health tonics (vitamins and minerals, nutritional health), mixtures were often used. And not all were eaten or drunk -- not even when infusions or teas were made. Some were sprinkled on hot rocks of sweat lodges. Some were smoked in medicine pipes. Some were washes or poultices for skin or wound treatment. If you indiscriminately chug down old recipes, you might be drinking the equivalent of a skin antiseptic or hairtonic or something.
Long ago, certain people -- not everyone -- knew a lot of practical knowledge about plants. This wasn't necessarily communicated to ethnobotanists, even if the practitioner wanted to do so. Language problems would prevent much sublety from getting across (interpreters were often ignorant half-breed drunks). Many of the ethnobotanists had no real respect for native knowledge, and considered that they were recording primitive supersitions, rather than practical biology, and complexities of organic chemistry (which in any case they often knew nothing about themselves). Most of the older knowledge has been lost. Not every "elder" knows everything -- indeed most know nothing -- about plants and their uses. All of this must be kept in mind by students of any age. Another caution is the fact that many wild plants now grow in polluted environments, and have large uptakes of non-traditional chemicals as part of their makeups. That's true in the woods, not only in fields and roadsides.
After the table listout of possible nutritive/curative powers of that chemical will come a list -- in alphabetic order -- of the taxon or botannical names -- of all plants in the ethno-phytochemical database that contain that particular chemical in their analysis. You can click on any of those, then click on "Chemical Table" to get an analysis of it, or scroll the list to see what else is there. The list would be more useful if it were ordered by amounts contained, listing those plants with the most of the particular chemical first, but it doesn't. As yet there is no way to get such sorted or ordered lists from the PhytoChemDB, all orderings are alphabetical.
When you're on their database server, the screen will be grey, not dark green. To return to my plants or other web pages here, you'll need to use the GO-history button on Netscape.
Webmistress --Paula Giese.Text and graphics copyright 1995.
CREDITS: I did the graphics, and got away from the witch, too!
Last Updated: Sunday, January 07, 1996 - 7:48:03 AM