Skunk Cabbage

Skunk Cabbage, Vancouver Island, BC
Skunk Cabbage, Vancouver Island, BC, Photo By Bud Logan

A skunk scented perennial plant up to 50 cm tall, it is a member of the arum family. It has large, cabbage-like leaves, surrounding a bright yellow flower along with a disagreeable smell. (I kinda like it though) The large tuberous rootstock produces fleshy roots and heart-shaped, cabbage-like leaves on thick leafstalks. Numerous small, purple flowers grow on a small, oval, fleshy spike covered by a purple and yellowish-green, hood.

Flowering time is from February to April before the leaves appear. The whole plant emits a skunk or garlic odor.

The roots of skunk cabbage plant have been used to treat respiratory ailments, including hay fever, asthma, whooping cough, bronchial problems, and mucous congestion. It is helpful for nervous disorders, spasmodic problems, rheumatism, and dropsy. Some first people boiled the root hairs to make a wash for stopping external bleeding. Some inhaled the odor of the crushed leaves to cure headache or toothache. A poultice made from the root was used for wounds, underarm deodorant; and a poultice made from the leaves was used to reduce swelling, they ate the root to stop epileptic seizures.

Very reliable in the treatment of tuberculosis, fevers, whooping cough, epilepsy, convulsions, and pleurisy. Excellent remedy in dysentery, convulsions, dropsy, hysteria, epilepsy, and for use during pregnancy.

When made into an ointment, it greatly relieves the pain of all external tumors and bed sores.

The unusual reddish-green blooms of skunk cabbage are among the first wildflowers to appear in spring. February to May. The temperature within the flower is often 20 degrees c. higher than the ambient air, if the flower is covered in snow, the heat will melt it. Marginally edible at best, skunk cabbage contains calcium oxalate crystals, which cause the most unpleasant burning sensation of the mouth and tongue. Boiling doesn’t dispel this quality. The plant has far more uses medicinally.

It is edible though and has been eaten throughout the centuries during times of famine.

Would you buy us a coffee?

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