Gay Feather health benefits: for sore throat and gonorrhea

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Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

An attractive flower often grown as an ornamental

An attractive flower often grown as an ornamental

Gay feather or gayfeather, Liatris spicata (syn. Lacinaria spicata, Liatris callilepis, Serratula spicata), is also known as blazing star, button root, button snakewort, colic root, dense blazing star, dense button-snakeroot, devil's bit, devil's bite, marsh blazing star, prairie gay feather and prairie-pine. It shares the names blazing star and devil's bit with the unrelated false unicorn root, and the name colic root with the also unrelated true unicorn root. It is not related to devil's bit scabious.

The gay feather is an attractive purple flowered plant (cultivars are also available in colors ranging through pink to white) about 2 feet (60cm) tall, which is often grown as an ornamental. It requires moist or wet soil which is also well drained, and will tolerate any light to medium soil. It will not grow in full shade.

Medicinally, the parts used are the root, harvested in the fall, and the leaves, harvested in summer; both can be used fresh or dried. In either case, you need to make a decoction by placing 30g (1 ounce) of leaves or finely chopped root into a pan containing 250ml (1 US cup, 8 fl oz) of cold water and bringing to a boil, before reducing the heat to a simmer. Continue heating until the liquid is reduced by half then strain off and discard the herbal material. The dosage is up to 1 cup a day, split into 3 or 4 doses.

Gay feather has only three medicinal uses: as a gargle for sore throat, and internally to treat gonorrhea (clap) and kidney disease.

As with all herbs grown for medicinal purposes, gay feather must be grown organically to prevent its essential constituents being masked or entirely eliminated by the presence of foreign chemicals. To find out more about growing organic herbs visit the Gardenzone.

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