Roseanne Van Ee
Okanagan Nature Nut
Valentine’s Day is just around the corner.
Historically, the Okanagan Indian/First Nations people concocted an interesting variety of “love medicines” from local native plants. These medicines fell into three categories:
1. medicines to gain love
2. medicines for loving
3. medicines for regaining love
* warning: do not try preparing or ingesting any of the following:
1) Arnica (A. cordifolia & A. latifolia) M
Men would mix the roots of arnica with a robin’s (or swallow’s) heart and tongue and ochre paint (a rock mineral). This mixture was dried and powdered. A “charming” man would walk into water (a creek or lake) facing East and recite certain words including the name of his desired woman while marking his face with the powdered mixture.
Mountain Valerian (possibly - Valeriana sitchensis) M or F
The Valerian stalk was pounded up with a hummingbird’s heart to make a strong love potion for men and women.
2) A milkweed-like plant (unknown) M or F
This kept newlyweds together. Two leaves were placed together, parched and powdered. Typically the wife (or occasionally the husband) kept the powder in a small pouch. Elders interviewed for this research said, “Usually, it was the women who had to look out for these things.”
Rosy pussytoes (Antennaria rosea) M
Leaves of the lowland variety were chewed and swallowed to increase male virility.
Spreading dogbane (Apocynum androsaemifolium) M & F
This was a strong aphrodisiac. The leaves were chewed and the juice and pulp swallowed. It acts within half an hour and is highly effective! Or, the leaves were dried to a crisp, crushed then smoked directly, making it even more potent.
Bedstraw (Galvin aparine) M & F
People wouldn’t play around with bedstraw. If so, brothers and sisters would keep on dying and they would have to marry their spouses (as was the custom).
3) Pineapple weed (Matricaria matricarioides) M & F
This kept loved ones (including relatives) from going away. Flower heads were mixed with a combination of one’s own hair and the loved one(s) and buried on the “charmer’s” property.
Three-flowered avens (Geum triflorum) F
These roots were steeped in hot water and drunk by women as a love potion to win back the affections of a man who no longer cared for her.
A wild morning glory-like plant (unknown) F
This was gathered by women, whose husband had just taken another wife, to break up the second union (if unwanted) and retain his love and affection for herself. She would take one of the new wife’s possessions (ie. Something she chewed, wore or had contact with), sprinkle with powder prepared from a single plant which has been parched, powdered and mixed with vermillion (ochre?) and placed in a buckskin bag. The possession was burned with the powder, bags and even the grinding rocks, or it was all set adrift in a stream. If followed correctly, the husband would soon break up with his second wife.
The same plant dug along its entire root complex and prepared differently would hold a family together and prevent dissension.
Information for this article was gathered from the Ethnobotany of the Okanagan-Colville Indians of British Columbia and Washington by Nancy Turner, Randy Bouchard and Dorothy Kennedy.