Piñon nuts are yummy and high in protein and fiber, but the piñon tree has all kinds of other uses, as readers will find by perusing the new book Land of Enchantment Wildflowers: A Guide to the Plants of New Mexico (Texas Tech University Press). Native people chewed piñon-tree sap to relieve congestion and inhaled the vapor of burning sap to clear the respiratory passages. The sap was also used to treat cuts and sores and was dissolved in hot water and quaffed to eliminate parasites. Piñon pitch was employed as a sealant on baskets and pottery, as a glue to attach feathers to arrow shafts and turquoise to silver, and as waterproofing for moccasins.
This multidimensional nature of a common plant is not exceptional. The book, which features 456 color photos by authors Willa F. Finley and LaShara J. Nieland, is full of similar examples. Here’s another one, about the lowly horsetail or scouring rush. Many have heard about the reason for that second common name: pioneers used the silica-strong stems to scrub pots and pans. But the writers say they have also been used to polish bone and wood pieces, in lotions for aching backs, in extracts said to help with urinary and prostate problems, to help repair damaged lung tissue, to alleviate edema, and to reduce the pain of rheumatism.
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