The development of the Prairie Ethnobotany Database is an essential part of our work and allows us to build on the leads provided by Native Americans in their use of native plants of the region. This database over 1600 unique species in it and allows us to determine the most important groups of plants that were used. It should not be surprising that the greatest numbers of plants used were for medicine and for food (Table 1).
Table 1. Ethnobotanical uses, by group, of all plants in our databases; numbers and percentages.
There were many species with large numbers of uses (Table 3). Those species that had larger numbers of uses not only were more popular but also more likely to be efficacious. It is not surprising that white sage (Artemisia ludoviciana) and yarrow (Achillea millefolium) had the largest numbers of uses, as both of these species are well known as medicinal plants. Specific health problems most frequently encountered in the data included gastrointestinal problems and pain relief (Table 4).This data was assembled from ethnobotanical and historical accounts of 338 tribes, with more data on plants whose ranges extend into Kansas and our region coming from the Navajo and Iroquois than Great Plains tribes (Table 2). This occurred because of the historical conflicts between tribes and the U.S. government.
Table 2. Ten tribes having the largest number of plants for which ethnobotanical use has been recorded.
Navajo (Ramah), 712
Table 3. Ten plant species with the largest number of medicinal uses.
Artemisia ludoviciana (White sage), 242
Achillea millefolium (Yarrow), 257
Acorus calamus (Calamus), 259
Rumex crispus (Curly dock), 150
Artemisia tridentata (Sagebrush), 250
Mentha arvensis (Wild mint), 234
Sambucus nigra (Black elderberry), 303
Cornus sericea (Red osier dogwood), 200
Plantago major (Common plantain), 117
Maianthemum racemosum (False lily of the valley), 88
Table 4. Specific number of species that were used for the following health problems.
Gastrointestinal pain, 268
Relieve pain/anodyne/analgesic, 246
Gynecological aid, 199
Ceremonial medicine, 170
Pediatric aid, 164
Sores/external inflammations, 150
Eye problems, 132
Venereal diseases, 122
Orthopedic aid, 103
Blood medicine, 94
Antirheumatic (external), 89
Kidney problems, 89
Misc. disease remedy, 88
Urinary aid, 85
Pulmonary aid, 82