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Product Description

Climbing Bittersweet, Climbing Orange Root, Fever Twig, Fever Twitch, Staff Vine, Waxwork

From the Greek for a type of evergreen plant and scandens from the Latin for climbing.

Found throughout the Tallgrass region, especially on rich, well-drained woodland soils. Very hearty, sturdy perrennial that can produce vines up to 30 feet long and an inch or more around at the base. The twisting, entwining stems of this species often kill saplings by restricting their growth as they wrap around their small trunks. Flowers are greenish-white, small and scentless and are borne on loose clusters at the branch tips up to 4 inches long. Bittersweet is noted for its colorful fruit, small, pea-sized berries that are wrinkled and brilliant orange. The berry has three sections and each section contains one or two seeds.

Native Americans used the shredded bark from Bittersweet to induce vomiting, treat venereal diseases, as a diuretic and to treat the symptoms of tuberculosis. It was mixed with animal fat to make a salve and treat skin cancers, tumors, burns and swelling. Berries were sometimes used to treat stomach ailments. The Menomini tribe used the berries mixed with other plants to relieve the pain of childbirth. An extract from the boiled bark provided an insecticide for early settlers of the Tallgrass Prairie, however it is not known just how effective this was.

Sun Exposure               Prairie, Savanna
Soil Moisture Mesic, Dry Mesic, Dry
Bloom Time

May, June

Bloom Color White
Max Height up to 30 feet
Wetland Code UPL
Germ Code  C(15)or L
Seeds Per Packet  30
Seeds Per Ounce   1,800

Edible Uses: Bark and twigs - they must be cooked. The thickish bark is sweet and palatable after boiling. Another report says that it is the inner bark that is used, and that it is a starvation food, only used when other foods are in short supply. Some caution is advised in the use of this plant since there are suggestions of toxicity.

Medicinal Uses: Climbing bittersweet was employed medicinally by a number of native North American Indian tribes, though it is scarcely used in modern herbalism.

The root is diaphoretic, diuretic and emetic. It is a folk remedy for chronic liver and skin ailments (including skin cancer), rheumatism, leucorrhoea, dysentery and suppressed menses. A strong compound infusion, usually combined with raspberry leaf tea, has been used to reduce the pain of childbirth. A poultice of the boiled root has been used to treat obstinate sores, skin eruptions etc. Externally, the bark is used as an ointment on burns, scrapes and skin eruption. Extracts of the bark are thought to be cardioactive.

Many plants in this genus contain compounds of interest for their antitumour activity.

Herbal Uses: Unknown

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