Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)
Spicebush is an indigenous shrub growing from 5 to 12 feet in height.
Leaves: Alternate, simple, pinnately veined, elliptical in shape, 3 to 5 inches long, and without teeth.. There is a strong, spicy odor when crushed.
Flowers: Tiny, yellow-green
flowers in axillary clusters appear before the leaves.
Fruit: A red drupe when ripe (green before ripening), 3/8 inch long with a large seed and a peppery taste and scent. Matures in September or October.
Twig: Olive-green to brown in color with distinctive globose buds covered with 2 to 3 yellow-green scales. When cut, it produces a spicy, peppery smell.
Family: Lauraceae (Laurel family)
Other Names: Benjamin Bush, Wild Allspice, Fever Bush, Spicewood,
Flowers: March – April
Parts Used: Leaves, bark, twigs, berries.
Habitat: Moist, rich soils; damp shady woods along stream banks. Maine to Florida; Texas to Michigan. Native to North America.
History: The genus Lindera in the Lauraceae family is named in honor of the Swedish botonist, Johann Linder (1678 – 1723). American Indians used berry tea for coughs, cramps, delayed menses, croup, and measles. They used a bark tea for sweating, a blood purifier, colds, rheumatism, and anemia. The settlers used the berries as an Allspice substitute. Medicinally, the berries were used as a carminative for flatulence and colic. The oil from the fruits was applied to bruises and muscles or joints for chronic rheumatism. Twig tea was popular for colds, fevers, worms, gas and colic. The bark tea was once used to expel worms, for typhoid fevers, and as a diaphoretic for other forms of fevers.
Properties: Anthelmintic, Antiarthritic, Aromatic, Carminative, Diaphoretic, Emetic, Stimulant and Tonic.
Main Uses: An infusion or decoction has been successfully used in the treatment of ague and typhoid forms of fever; also as an anthelmintic. The berries produce a stimulant oil used as an application to bruises, chronic rheumatism, itch, etc. and has some reputation as a carminative in flatulence, flatulent colic, etc. The bark, used in a decoction, is said to be refrigerant and exhilarating, and exceedingly useful in all kinds of fever, for allaying excessive heat and uneasiness. A warm decoction has been used to produce diaphoresis. The decoction may be drank freely.
Spicebush is also a wild food.