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Medicinal Trees: Cunninghamia lanceolata, Cyrilla racemiflora (Swamp Titi) and Diospyros virginiana

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Cunninghamia lanceolata

This tree is naturalized in my region, and is commonly known as Chinese Fir.

Plants for A Future states:

Medicinal use of Chinese Fir: Antidote, carminative. A decoction of the wood is used in the treatment of varnish poisoning (from species of Rhus), chronic ulcers, hernia etc. An essential oil from the plant is used to treat bruises, pain, rheumatism and wounds. The ash of the bark is used to treat burns, scalds and wounds. A decoction of the cone is used in the treatment of coughs.

Cyrilla racemiflora, Swamp Titi

In stark contrast to the Hawthorn is the Swamp Titi. This is the one and only species of the genus Cyrilla, and its range is limited to the Americas. Here, it grows in the coastal swamps, extending about as far as the piedmont, or center of the state. It is an attractive plant, with white flowers and shiny, evergreen leaves.

The medicinal use of Cyrilla racemiflora is limited but important. The bark is both absorbent and astringent. It may be used as a styptic to stop bleeding.

Diospyros virginiana, common persimmon

Persimmon is found in various forms and places, but this is out native variety. It is quite different from the Asian Persimmons one may find in a grocery store. Our persimmons are an excellent fruit, mild and sugary sweet….when ripe! Ripe persimmons are delicious eaten fresh, out of hand, or baked into a fruit bread or cake. When baked, they taste a bit like sweet potato, with a bit of berry acidity and a mild bitter background that really makes such desserts special. A beer or cider made from Persimmons was very popular in early America, and the fruits of these scrubby trees kept many from starving, especially in the Revolutionary and Civil War.

The American Persimmon is a small tree, about the size of a dogwood. It likes the edges of woods and can often be found around old fields or roadsides. It grows crooked and nobly and is considered almost a weed in our modern ignorance. An unripe Persimmon fruit may be the most puckeringly bitter substance known in nature. Perhaps the reason why native Persimmon is so lowly regarded, is because so many rural children have been tricked into eating the unripe fruit. An unripe persimmon not only puckers the mouth, it buckles the knees, takes away all sense of taste for up to a half hour and is the flavor equivalent of a punch in the mouth.

Persimmons ripen later than any fruit of which I am aware. Traditional lore is that Persimmons should not be harvested until after the first frost. Granted, many will be lost to deer, raccoons and opossums by, that time, but waiting until that kiss of frost does ensure sweet, ripe fruit. Persimmons turn from a powdery pink/orange to a purplish color when ripe. They are then soft, mushy… a texture and taste reminiscent of ripe figs. They will then pull easily from the stems, often falling off as you collect them. I generally eat almost as many as I bring home, just spitting out the seeds. They are perfect on a chilly October afternoon, when the smell of dry hardwood leaves fills the nose.

The secret to cooking with Persimmons is to not only remove all of the seeds, but to mash them through a fruit cone, colander or even a tea strainer or window screen. Persimmons contain little black flecks that even in very ripe fruit, will turn the pulp unbelievably bitter if not removed before cooking. You merely need to mash them through a screen or something similar, to produce a thick, orange fruit pulp, leaving the skins, seeds and black bits behind. Persimmons processed this way make the finest fruit breads, cakes and cookies. They combine very well with pumpkin, sweet potatoes, raisins, dried cranberries… the fruits of the season.

However, the fruit is not the only reason rural Southerners have traditionally seen the Persimmon tree as a major food source… perhaps the main asset of this tree is game. Cooking the game meat with the Persimmons on which it fed is a grand tradition. A cherished southern recipe that was widely beloved just a few generations ago, was “possum” roasted with persimmons and sweet potatoes. Occasionally, one still finds this beloved dish in Appalachia. Unfortunately, many modern people will not eat possum, considering it a “trash animal”. Yes, this ancient animal, a remnant of a time long before people, is an omnivore that will scavenge anything edible it can find. Especially in our modern times, that can include roadkill or raiding garbage cans. But a possum that lives in a clean wilderness environment should not be viewed negatively. That possum will have fed on persimmons, apples and hickory nuts, and will be a gourmet treat for the adventurous and non-arrogant palate. The same is true of raccoons. I know of many African American communities in the rural South, where folks care nothing for turkey at Thanksgiving dinner. They want a big, fat coon that has been feeding on the fruits of the season… and, I’ve known several country boys who make some good holiday spending money illegally selling that very meat to the folks who desire it. It is a joy for them to hunt, and an obsession for the hounds they raise… a wonderful tradition that crosses racial boundaries and should not be prohibited by laws written by those who don’t understand such things. Deer, turkey and bear also enjoy Persimmon. Along with the Hickories and Oaks, Persimmon is a tree any good hunter will scout for game.

King's American Dispensatory, 1898 tells us:

Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—Tonic and astringent. The bark has been used in intermittents, and both it and the unripe fruit have been beneficial in various forms of disease of the bowels, chronic dysentery, and uterine hemorrhage; used in infusion, syrup, or vinous tincture, in the proportion of 1 ounce of the bruised fruit to 2 fluid ounces of the vehicle, and ½ fluid ounce or more given to adults, and a fluid drachm or more to infants. The infusion may be used as a gargle in ulcerated sore throat. When ripe the fruit is very palatable, and as it matures at a time when fruits are generally departing for the season, the cultivation of the tree would undoubtedly be a valuable accession to our autumnal fruits. A kind of brandy is obtained by distillation of the fermented infusion.

According to Plants for A Future, Persimmon is:

Appetizer, sialagogue. The stem bark is astringent and styptic. The fruit is said to have different properties depending on its stage of ripeness, though it is generally antitussive, astringent, laxative, nutritive and stomachic. The fresh fully ripe fruit is used raw in the treatment of constipation and haemorrhoids and when cooked is used to treat diarrhoea. The dried ripe fruit is used in the treatment of bronchial complaints, whilst when ground into a powder it is used to treat dry coughs. Juice from the unripe fruit is used in the treatment of hypertension. The fruits, picked green and ripened in containers with the leaves, become very sweet and are considered to be antifebrile, antivinous and demulcent. The fruits are also peeled and then exposed to sunlight by day and dew by night. They become encrusted with a white powder and are then considered to be anthelmintic, antihaemorrhagic, antivinous, expectorant, febrifuge and restorative. The peduncle is used to treat coughs and hiccups. The calyx is used to treat hiccups.

Peterson Field Guides Eastern and Central Medicinal Plants tells us:

Inner bark tea highly astringent. In folk use, gargle for sore throats and thrush. Bark tea once used as a folk remedy for stomach aches, heartburn, diarrhea, dysentery, and uterine hemorrhage. The bark tea was used as a wash or poultice for warts and cancers. Fruits edible, but astringent before ripening; Best after frost. Seed oil is suggestive of peanut oil in flavor. Warning: contains tannins; Potentially toxic in large amounts.

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

His New book is:

Medicinal Shrubs and Woody Vines of The American Southeast An Herbalist's Guide
Read About Growing Your Survival Herb Garden for Preppers, Homesteaders and Everyone Else: https://southernappalachianherbs.blogspot.com/2022/06/medicinal-shrubs-and-woody-vines-of.html

Available for purchase on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0B2T4Y5L6

His other works include:

Growing Your Survival Herb Garden for Preppers, Homesteaders and Everyone Else

Read About Growing Your Survival Herb Garden for Preppers, Homesteaders and Everyone Else: http://southernappalachianherbs.blogspot.com/2022/04/growing-your-survival-herb-garden-for.html

Available for purchase on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09X4LYV9R

The Encyclopedia of Bitter Medicinal Herbs:


Available for purchase on Amazon:


Christian Medicine, History and Practice:


Available for purchase on Amazon: www.amazon.com/dp/B09P7RNCTB

Herbal Medicine for Preppers, Homesteaders and Permaculture People


Also available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09HMWXL25

Look Up: The Medicinal Trees of the American South, An Herbalist's Guide


The Herbs and Weeds of Fr. Johannes Künzle:


Author: Judson Carroll. Judson Carroll is an Herbalist from the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.

His weekly articles may be read at judsoncarroll.com

His weekly podcast may be heard at: www.spreaker.com/show/southern-appalachian-herbs

He offers free, weekly herb classes: https://rumble.com/c/c-618325


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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