Partridgeberry (botanical name Mitchella repens) is an evergreen vine that usually grows up to a maximum length of one foot having a white color trailing stem. Being an excellent hugger, this herb takes the shape of mats while growing. The flowers of partridgeberry are white in color and more often than not appear in pairs. The fruits are undersized, scarlet color berries.
Partridgeberry is such an attractive plant that it adds a little something to the dull forest floor during the fall and winter. The mats of the leaves this evergreen herb and its scarlet color fruits hug the ground giving it an attractive look. Often people transplant this bright creeper in their residential yards to make the landscape more attractive. In effect, partridgeberry is also used in rock gardens and also in the form of decorative ground cover beneath shrubs. This herb has the aptitude to thrive well in acidic soils.
The partridgeberry vine produces a pair of white flowers at the stem terminals and they combine to form a solitary scarlet color berry like fruit - which is often indicated as one-berry. The fruits have very low fat content and this makes them resilient to decay and have the aptitude to remain undamaged on the branches till late into the winter and make an excellently nourishing food for wildlife during the cold months when there is a scarcity of other foods.
The fruits or berries of partridgeberry appear to be very delicious, but are actually tasteless. Nevertheless, they are a favourite with the ruffed grouse and also birds resembling the European partridges - therefore, the fruit derives its name partridgeberry. The herb also has a different common name (Deerberry) which hints that this creeping plant is a good source of food for deer.
Partridgeberry is indigenous to America and the plant's other common name squaw vine is derived from its use by the Native Indians. It may be mentioned that during the final few weeks of pregnancy, women belonging to the Native Indian tribes drank a tea prepared from the leaves of partridgeberry herb with a view to have effortless childbirth. In addition, nursing mothers topically applied a lotion prepared from the partridgeberry leaves onto their breasts to alleviate the tenderness or pain. Early European settlers, especially the English colonists in North America, also used the tea prepared from the herb's leaves to ease childbirth and also as a medication to provide relief from menstrual cramps.
Characteristically, partridgeberry is an herb that is indigenous to America. Early English colonists in North America gave this plant a nickname - squaw vine, as they found that the herb was mostly used by the Native American women for various therapeutic purposes. While partridgeberry is basically used for medicinal purposes, various native tribes of North America also employ this herb for additional purposes, for instance, in the form of a love potion, as a food and also in the form of a ritual smoke. The scarlet color berry-like fruits of partridgeberry are consumed both raw and dried and are also used in cakes, bread and sauces.
Native American women have been using partridgeberry for therapeutic purposes for long. Several tribes in this continent have employed partridgeberry to cure menstrual cramps and pains, to stimulate childbirth, to control menstruation as well as to alleviate profuse bleeding during menstrual periods as well as to make delivery easier and effortless. Even now, several herbalists recommend the use of this herb for these purposes. In the form of an ointment, partridgeberry is also employed to cure the sore as well as cracked nipples of nursing mothers. It is believed that this herb encloses beneficial chemical compounds, such as saponins, tannins and glycosides and partridgeberry is commonly believed to have a tonic or stimulating action on the ovaries as well as the uterus. In addition, this herb may also prove to be valuable in the form of an abortifacient (any medication that results in abortion) and it is primarily for this reason this herb is not recommended for women during pregnancy.
Even in the current times, partridgeberry continues to be used extensively to assist in labor and childbirth. As mentioned above, this herb is believed to have a stimulating action on the ovaries as well as the uterus. Medicinal formulations prepared from partridgeberry are taken internally with a view to regulate menstruation and also to provide relief from menstruation pain and excessive bleeding during menstruation periods. Partridgeberry is a genuinely beneficial herb for women and is also recommended for encouraging production of breast milk. However, it may be noted that other herbs like fennel that possess similar properties are generally preferred to partridgeberry for this purpose. The fruits or scarlet hued berries of this herb are mashed and blended with a tincture prepared from myrrh and this is believed to be beneficial for women, especially nursing mothers, enduring sore nipples. Since partridgeberry possesses astringent attributes, it is also recommended for treating diarrhea as well as colitis.
Besides its use as a medication and food, partridgeberry is also grown for ornamental purposes, as the plant forms a green mat on the ground dotted with its sparkling scarlet color berries. All these add to the beauty of any landscape. Basically, partridgeberry is cultivated in the form of a creeping ground cover in shady places in the garden. For garden use, this plant is hardly ever propagated by its seeds, but by means of cuttings which is much easier. As this plant has been collected extensively for decorations during the Christmas, excessive collection has had a negative impact on some local populations of partridgeberry in a number of places.
As discussed earlier, Native American women prepared a tea from the leaves and the berries of partridgeberry and drank it during childbirth with a view to make labor less painful and ease delivery. Occasionally, partridgeberry plants are also grown in containers. Though the scarlet berries of this herb appear to be delicious, they actually have a somewhat bland taste having a slight essence of wintergreen bearing a resemblance to cranberries. However, partridgeberry and cranberries do not have any close relation, whatsoever.
Habitat and cultivation
Partridgeberry is native to the central and eastern regions of North America and may be found growing in wild in the vast expanse extending from south-western Newfoundland to Minnesota and towards the south to Florida and Texas. This herb is found growing on its own in arid or damp woodlands and forests as well as sandy slopes and the length of stream banks in these regions.
Partridgeberry is an evergreen, low growing and trailing perennial herb that has a preference for shady or partially shady locations. This herb produces white hued, aromatic, tubular blooms that appear in pairs at the stem terminals. The plant is in flower during the period between May and October. All the parts of this vine are delicate and that includes its rounded leaves, pinkish white blooms and scarlet color small berries. Partridgeberry is an excellent ground cover for locations that are undisturbed and shady. Partridgeberry vines are very susceptible to any type of disturbance and require to be maintaining in damp conditions, providing the soil is sufficiently fertile and the location is such that it is able to keep hold of sufficient moisture at all times. In case the plants start withering owing to drought stress, they need to be watered within two days, otherwise they will die. Hence, proper care should be taken while watering the plants.
Therapeutically, partridgeberry is employed in the form of an infusion and a tincture. In addition, ointments and creams are made from this herb for external use.
Infusion: To prepare an infusion with partridgeberry take one teaspoonful of the herb and add it to a cup (250 ml) of boiling water and allow it to permeate for about 10 to 15 minutes. For best results, this infusion should be drunk thrice every day.
Tincture: The standard dosage of the tincture prepared from partridgeberry plant is taking 1 ml to 2 ml of the medication thrice every day.
Side effects and cautions
People using the herb partridgeberry or its therapeutic formulations ought to be aware of the side effects caused by this herb. In case you are feeling any irritation of the mucous membrane while using this herb, be sure to call you physician and tell him/ her about the problem. Always remember, since this herb has a bitter taste, it can cause irritation to the mucous membranes. Using partridgeberry may even result in a burning feeling in the digestive tract as well as damage the liver. In case you are enduring a liver ailment or having problems related to the liver, it is advisable that you should use partridgeberry with enough caution. Prior to using partridgeberry or its therapeutic formulations, women should tell their physician if they are pregnant or are planning to get pregnant. In fact, women should keep away from this herb during pregnancy as it has the potential to cause forced abortions.
People using partridgeberry or its remedial preparations ought to be conscious that their healthcare practitioner may suggest for a periodic test for their liver functioning. In case any of these examinations show any change in the functioning of the liver they will have to discontinue taking partridgeberry instantly. Also call your physician right away in case you experience any pain in the upper right region of your abdomen, have a fever or the complexion of your skin turns yellow. Remember, all these are associated with the malfunctioning of your liver.
Always bear in mind that several healthcare practitioners believe that partridgeberry is potentially unsafe for use therapeutically. In case you are taking Antabuse, you should never take any formulation of partridgeberry that may enclose alcohol.
Collection and harvesting
As partridgeberry is an evergreen plant, it can be found growing throughout the year in forests and woodlands, which are preferred habitations of this herb. This plant is harvested while in blossom.
As a medication that is useful and eases childbirth, partridgeberry may be employed for this purpose in conjugation with raspberry leaves. For treating dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation), partridgeberry may be used in combination with pasque flower and cramp bark.