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Medicinal Trees: Privet (Ligustrum) and Sweetgum (Liquidambar)

 
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Privet is another one that would surprise many to learn that it is not native to my region. Privet is so widespread as to be considered and “invasive weed” by many. Four varieties of Privet have been naturized here: Ligustrum lucidum (Glossy Privet), Ligustrum ovalifolium (California Privet), Ligustrum quihoui (Waxy-leaf Privet), Ligustrum sinense (Chinese Privet)

Brother Aloysius wrote of Privet (Ligustrum vulgare):

Leaves and flowers are used medicinally, but only externally, for inflammation, and as a gargle for an ulcerated throat and mouth, ulceration of the gums and scurvy.

Ligustrum lucidum (also called Chinese Privet, but not to be confused with Ligustrum sinese) is the only member of this olive family of shrubby trees to be widely used in Herbal Medicine.

Plants for A Future States:

Medicinal use of Chinese Privet: Chinese privet has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for over 1,000 years. The fruit is antibacterial, antiseptic, antitumour, cardiotonic, diuretic and tonic. It is taken internally in the treatment of complaints associated with weak kidney and liver energy such as menopausal problems (especially premature menopause), blurred vision, cataracts, tinnitus, rheumatic pains, palpitations, backache and insomnia. Modern research has shown that the plant increases the white blood cell count and is of value when used to prevent bone marrow loss in cancer chemotherapy patients, it also has potential in the treatment of AIDS. Extracts of the plant show antitumour activity. Good results have also been achieved when the fruit has been used in treating respiratory tract infections, hypertension, Parkinson's disease and hepatitis. The fruit is harvested when fully ripe and is dried for later use. It is often decocted with other herbs in the treatment of a wide variety of ailments and also as a general tonic. Some caution is advised in their use, since the fruits are toxic when eaten in quantity. The leaves are anodyne, diaphoretic, febrifuge, pectoral and vulnerary. The bark of the stems is diaphoretic.




Liquidambar, Sweet Gum

Three varieties of Sweet Gum have been found useful in herbal medicine: Liquidambar formosana - Formosan Gum, Liquidambar orientalis - Oriental Sweet Gum, Liquidambar styraciflua - Sweet Gum

Only Liquidambar styraciflua, Sweet Gum grows in my region.

For me, this tree brings memories of chickens pecking while my mother, grandmother and great aunt sat and talked, shelling beans with my great grandmother on my great grandparent’s farm. I was a small child, playing with the “gumballs” and the dogs in the sandy soil of an old fashioned swept yard. These trees are in the hamamela family, along with Witch Hazel, but they are very different. It is the gum, the resinous sap that gives them their name.

Resources of the Southern Fields and Forests states:

Sweet Gum (Liquidamhar Styraciflua)—The inner bark contains an astringent, gummy substance. If it is boiled in milk, or a tea made with water, its astringency is so great that it will easily check diarrhea, and associated with the use of other remedies, dysentery also. The leaf of the gum, when green, I have also ascertained to be powerfully astringent, and to contain as large a proportion of tannin as that of any other tree. I believe that the Gum leaf and the leaf of the Myrtle and Blackberry can be used wherever an astringent is required; cold water takes it up. They can, I think, be also used for tanning leather, when green, in place of oak bark.

In former times the resin was used in scabie ; and it is said(Am. Herbal, by J. Stearns) to be useful in resolving hard tumors in the uterus. The Indians esteemed it an excellent febrifuge and employed it in healing wounds. Mer. and de L, Diet, de M. Med. iv, 128, and the Supplem. 1846; Ann. de Montpcllier, 1805, 327; Journal de Pharm. vii, 339, and vii, 568; Bull, de Therap., October, 1833, where I). L'lleritier proposes to treat blennorrhagias and leucorrhoeas with liquid styrax. A kind of oil, called copalm, is extracted from it in Mexico, which, when. solidified, is called copalm resin; this is an excitant of the mucous system, and it is given in chronic catarrhs, and in affections of the lungs, intestines and urinary passages. This is cordial and stomachic; it excites both perspiration and urine; it is also used in perfumery. In South Carolina and Georgia the temperature is not high enough for this tree to furnish much gum. Dr. Griffith experimented with it in the latitude of Baltimore, and obtained a small quantity by boiling the twigs and branches; he found that it exists in greatest abundance in the young trees just before the appearance of the leaves. It is about the consistence of honey, of a yellow color, and of a pleasant, balsamic odor and taste. The acid obtained from the gum is not benzoic, as the English assert, but cynamic. See Am. J. Pharm. The tree is of rapid growth, and is ornamental—frequently assuming the appearance of a sugar-loaf. The wood is soft, but not durable. A decoction of the inner bark of the gum in a quart of milk, or a tea made with boiling water is one of the most valuable and useful mucilaginous astringents that we possess. It can be employed with advantage in eases of diarrhea and dysentery'. Dr. C. W. Wright, of Louisville, Ky., states that the bark of the tree is used with great advantage in the Western States in the diarrhea and dysentery of summer, especially in children. A syrup from the bark is prepared in the same manner as the syrup of wild cherry bark. The dose is a fluid ounce for an adult, repeated after each stool. Am. J. Med. Sc. N. S. xxxii, 126. The editor of the Va. Med. J., August, 1856, says that the use of a decoction of the bark in milk is common in many parts of Virginia as a remedy in the diarrhea of children. U. S. Disp., 12th Ed. In Georgia, also, a common domestic remedy for diarrhoeas is made by boiling in water equal parts of the barks of the rod oak and sweet gum—a small proportion of spirits may often be added with advantage. Dr. Wright claims that the syrup is retained by an irritable stomach when almost every other form of astringent medicine is rejected. See, also, Parrish Pract. Pharm., p. 230.


King's American Dispensatory, 1898 tells us:

Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—Sweet-gum probably has virtues similar to the concrete juice of Styrax officinale, which see. It makes an excellent and agreeable ointment when melted with equal parts of lard or tallow, which I have found decidedly useful in hemorrhoids, psora, ringworm of the scalp, porrigo scutulata, and many other cutaneous affections; also in that indolent species of ulcer, known as "fever sores on the legs." In anal fistula, it maintains an increased discharge, softens the callosity of the walls of the sinus, and produces a normal result, and effects this without pain to the patient. If necessary, in fistula, a little creosote, or other stimulant may be added to it. This employment of sweet-gum is not generally known, and physicians would do well to avail themselves of its use in the above diseases. It is also used in chronic catarrh, coughs, and pulmonary affections. The dose internally is from 10 to 20 grains (J. King).

Plants for A future states:

A resin obtained from the trunk of the tree (see "Uses notes" below) is antiseptic, carminative, diuretic, expectorant, parasiticide, poultice, salve, sedative, stimulant, vulnerary. It is chewed in the treatment of sore throats, coughs, asthma, cystitis, dysentery etc. Externally, it is applied to sores, wounds, piles, ringworm, scabies etc. The resin is an ingredient of "Friar's Balsam", a commercial preparation based on Styrax benzoin that is used to treat colds and skin problems. The mildly astringent inner bark is used in the treatment of diarrhoea and childhood cholera.

The aromatic resin "Storax" is obtained from the trunk of this tree. It forms in cavities of the bark and also exudes naturally. It is harvested in autumn. Production can be stimulated by beating the trunk in the spring. The resin has a wide range of uses including medicinal, incense, perfumery, soap and as an adhesive. It is also chewed and used as a tooth cleaner. Wood - heavy, fairly hard, fine-grained, not strong, light, tough, resilient. It weighs about 37lb per cubic foot. The wood takes a high polish and can be stained then used as a cherry, mahogany or walnut substitute. It is also used for furniture, flooring, fruit dishes, veneer etc.


Peterson Field Guides Eastern and Central Medicinal Plants tells us:

Gum or balsam (resin) was traditionally chewed for sore throats, coughs, colds, diarrhea, dysentery, ringworm; used externally for sores, skin ailments, wounds, piles. Ingredient in “compound tincture of benzoin”, available from pharmacies. Considered expectorant, antiseptic, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory. Children sometimes chew the gum in lieu of commercial chewing gum. The mildly astringent inner bark was used as a folk remedy, boiled in milk for diarrhea and cholera infantum.

Botany In a Day states:

Liquidambar, sweet gum: the sap of the tree may be used as a chewing gum the gum is used medicinally as a drawing poultice also for sore throats. It is astringent and expectorant in effect.



This article is an excerpt from The Medicinal Trees of the American South, An Herbalist's Guide: by Judson Carroll

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The information on this site is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease or condition. Nothing on this site has been evaluated or approved by the FDA. I am not a doctor. The US government does not recognize the practice of herbal medicine and their is no governing body regulating herbalists. Therefore, I'm just a guy who studies herbs. I am not offering any advice. I won't even claim that anything I write is accurate or true! I can tell you what herbs have "traditionally been used for." I can tell you my own experience and if I believe an herb helped me. I cannot, nor would I tell you to do the same. If you use any herb I, or anyone else, mentions you are treating yourself. You take full responsibility for your health. Humans are individuals and no two are identical. What works for me may not work for you. You may have an allergy, sensitivity or underlying condition that no one else shares and you don't even know about. Be careful with your health. By continuing to read my blog you agree to be responsible for yourself, do your own research, make your own choices and not to blame me for anything, ever.
 
                    
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please note that nonnative privet is not just casually referred to as "invasive" by gardeners. it's one of the most devastating nonnative invasives in the usa, registered as an invasive in every registry, and unfortunately still being widely used by the commercial landscape industry. please please do not plant this plant. it's one of the worst plants you can plant. please respect nature.
 
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Wonderful information. Thank you so much for sharing
 
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