>Nature’s Medicine Chest


Natural Medicine
ildcrafting in Nova Scotia
How to Identify, Harvest and Prepare

How to Identify

The ‘golden thread’ refers to the root, so identification of the plant itself is important.

Goldthread is found on the forest floor and is easily spotted in Spring when small white, 5-7 petalled flowers appear – with 5 yellow stamens and sprays of tiny, white, “stamenettes”. Blooms in Nova Scotia from mid-May through to July.

At other times of year, leaves are waxy green in three sections or leaflets, similar to a strawberry, but smaller and hugging the ground more tightly.

According to Blupete, Goldthread, or “Canker Root” (Coptis trifolia, groenlandica)is of the Buttercup family. The Goldthread is a small plant which lies upon the forest floor. It has a solitary white flower; it has evergreen basal leaves rising from a thread-like, yellow underground stem. The flowers are like small and white with fussy centers.

And while there is only one flower per plant, the plants patch together, so, likely, one will find quite a number of them together,
usually in an area where the Clintonia and wild lily-of-the-valley gather. The leaves are divided into three leaflets with scalloped, toothed margins.”

How to Harvest

When you spot Goldthread, gently lift the moss and debris from the forest floor to find the “goldthread” roots and collect as many as you need to replenish your store. In most homesteads, this would mean 6 months to a year. The ‘goldthreads’ are harvested, dried naturally and stored until needed in air tight jars.

How to Use

Use topically as a wash on wounds, scratches, bites, sores and burns. It seems to be an astringent. Use internally as a tea for mouth sores, stomach problems.

My father gathered Goldthread and chewed the roots directly for cankers, toothache, digestive problems. Oldtimers here would take several strands of Goldthread and position them directly into open wounds before bandaging.

Others report the leaves and stems can be gathered and used as well, however, the roots were used historically for their storage capabilities and were usually part of the medicine chest on long sea journeys. The dried roots were often ground into a powder.

Francis Harnish of Sheet Harbour Passage, recently told me two stories. One was taken from the book, “MicMac Medicine” by Laurey Lacey, South Shore. As Laurey tells it, a man was sent home from the hospital to die, after being diagnosed with “incurable” and terminal stomach cancer.

He was told by [a Medicine Woman] to take a 1 foot strand of Goldthread in a cup of tea several times each day. (Checking source for quantity but more won’t hurt you). Goldthread tea is reportedly a little bitter to taste, but not unpleasant.

After a period of time, the man returned to the doctor who had treated him and was told he was cured. No more stomach cancer.

Shortly thereafter, Francis found a series of pre-cancerous boils (source medical term) on the back of his neck. They were treated by a medical doctor removal and cauterization. One lesion grew back and again was removed, only to grow back again, a raw open sore.

This time, discovering that the doctor was on a 3 week vacation, Francis boiled Golden Thread in water for 15 minutes and let it steep for several hours. Then he applied it to the boil “5 or 6 times a day” until it was healed. By the time the doctor returned, all that was left was a lump where the lesion had been.

The doctor said, “I don’t know what you’re doing, but keep doing it”. Soon thereafter, even the lump disappeared.

Traditional Use: Medicinally it was used by the Indians and the early colonists to treat mouth sores, natures dental floss. Boiled goldthread root was used as a tonic. Checking use by Mi’kmaq for cankers; assume a tea, gargle or rinse. In current practice, the Mi’kmaq elders make a salve for topical application.

The elongated yellow roots of the goldthread, from which use it takes its name, had a use for the aboriginals as a thread for bead work.

Another species of Goldthread (Coptis chinensis) has been used in traditional Eastern medicine for thousands of years and is recommended by naturopaths for testicular cancer, stomach cancer, emaciation, etc.

Herbal-Drug Interactions / Pharmacology – Goldthread contains two active alkaloids, berberine and coptine which are responsible for its traditional use in anti-inflammatory, antinociceptive, antipyretic, antimicrobial treatments. Current interest revolves around results showing Goldthread to be the most potent of 15 natural medicines found in Canada with respect to cytotoxicity in five hepatoma human cell lines, including Hepatitis B (HB) virus genome. Thus, its reported success in inhibiting cancerous cell growth. Caution should be taken when using cancer drugs and natural remedies.

Further References

“Goldthread (Coptis trifolia); also known as Alaska Goldthread, Canker Root, Common Goldthread, Trifoliate Goldthread, Vegetable Gold; perennial evergreen herb with creeping rootstalk.

Family: Buttercup (Ranunculaceae)

Flower: White, star-shaped, 5-7 petals; usually solitary at tip of leafless stalks; May-July.

Leaves: Basal leaves on long slender stalks, triangular shape, 2-5 cm wide, compound with 3 leaflets, upper surface is shiny dark green, margins with rounded teeth.

Height: 7-15 cm.

Habitat: Cool, moist habitats in coniferous forests, swamps, bogs, road banks, thickets, mossy places, cedar swamps, and in damp woods. Prefers low light, cool, moist conditions on relatively infertile soils, which are acidic. Goldthread does not tolerate disturbance and disappears after logging. Requires some shade, possibly because of its preference for moist sites.

Interest: The Goldthread rootstalk is bright yellow or gold in colour and looks like a bit of golden wire. It is reported that Native Americans chewed roots to treat mouth sores and made tea from the roots to treat mouth sores. The name Coptis means “cut”, referring to the divided leaves.

Thanks and Photo Credits to Blupete (Nova Scotia) and Andy (Northern Ontario) Book References: MicMac Medicine, Laury Lacey


Wild Strawberries, U-Picks & Strawberry Crepes!!

Wild Strawberries are everywhere on the Eastern Shore!

Wild Strawberries are everywhere on the Eastern Shore!

Wild Strawberries are ripe in Nova Scotia! Find a field or roadside and pick to your heart’s content! Put them on your cereal, make jam, add cream and sugar in a bowl, or just pop ’em in your mouth! Small but delicious!

Cultivated strawberries are ripe too & we’ll be celebrating Canada Day Weekend with fresh Strawberry Crepes, Jurgen’s specialty. Stay tuned for the recipe!

U-Pick Strawberries

Here’s where to pick along Highway 7, Eastern Shore.

Glenhill Farm Ltd.
Hwy #7, North Lochaber, NS. Phone: 902-783-2787. Email: staylor@stfx.ca. Directions: 12 miles south of Antigonish on Highway #7 in North Lochaber, pre-picked fruit sales, roadside stand, fresh fruit desserts, homemade jams. Contact: Sid,

Haveracres Farm- strawberries
318 St. Joseph’s Road, St. Joseph’s, NS. Phone: 902-863-5763. Directions: Turn right off highway #7 at Gaspereaux Lake. Follow signs to St. Joseph’s, turn right at stop sign, farm is 1/2 m beyond. Maple syrup for sale.

Taylor Farms
Number 7 Highway, Lochaber, Antigonish, NS B2G 2L3. Phone: 902-783-2530. Directions: 13 miles out Number 7 highway from Antigonish. Second strawberry farm on the left as you come into Lochaber. Our hours are: Monday to Saturday, 8am to 8pm

Top 10 Things to Do on a Rainy Day (for Adults)

Ecum Secum in the Fog

Ecum Secum in the Fog

Simply put, I love rainy days on the Eastern Shore (especially rainy Sundays)!  My top reason for enjoying rainy days here is NO BLACKFLIES! Here’s my top 10 things to do on rainy day:

1. Go for a walk outside in the rain. Breathe the nice damp air, and notice how different everything smells. Fresh, clean and green! Walk along the beach. Listen to the rhythmic sound of falling rain.. it’s so relaxing.

2. Afterwards, go home and put on some dry clothes and fix a cup of hot tea, chocolate, coffee or soup. If you have a working fireplace, light a fire.

3. Go back out later and enjoy the warm, summer rain again. This time, let your hair get wet. It’s a great conditioner! Take off your shoes and splash in the puddles, just like you did when you were a wee tyke! Relive the moment!

4. It’s a great time to garden when the soil is moist — put on some rubber boots, a raincoat or just regular clothes!  That’s what your washer and dryer (or a clothesline if you’re into appropriate technology) are for!

5.  Go fishing! Every fisherman (and woman) knows that that’s when they’re biting! Did I mention NO blackflies?

6. Okay, the inside story. Curl up somewhere you can hear the raindrops and read a good book — you know, the one you’ve been wanting to read for ages.

7. Housecleaning – I know, it’s work, but how about organizing that closet, finally! Same goes for workshop stuff. Find your tools in the mess on your bench and put them away! You’ll feel better, I promise!

8. It IS a good time to ‘not procrastinate’. Take one piece of paper, virtual or not, answer an email you’ve been putting off, pay your bills online, catch up on your tax information or filing. Yep, you’ll feel better for this one too.

9. Reward yourself with fish & chips or a healthy wrap at the Trail Stop ( in Moser River). You can eat inside on “The Back Porch” and listen to the rainfall on the roof.  Oh, and did I mention no blackflies?

10. Okay, I promised this was for adults, so put on some soft music, draw the blinds, light a candle, and go for it! 🙂

Plant a Tree for Earth Day – Trail Stop

This year’s tree seedlings are ready to go for anyone on the Shore who wants to plant a tree for Earth Day. $1.

The little Red Pines are really attractive, but what I like the most is that the Red Pine is indigenous to Nova Scotia, but not seen that often anymore.

Planting Red Pine seedlings is helping to restore it along the Eastern Shore. Pictures soon.

Please Eat the Easter Lilies

“Consider the lilies of the field” – New Testamente-lily1

Last Saturday, I purchased an Easter Lily (also known as the White Trumpet Lily or Bermuda Lily) for my mother and noticed that the checkout slip read simply “Asiatic Lily”. Grown by the thousands in Oregon, this simple white Asiatic lily has origins in Bermuda via Japan and has become a symbol for faith and hope at Easter.

The register slip made me curious however about the differences between Asiatics and Orientals and whether or not all lilies can be eaten, so I decided to look it up once and for all.

Here’s what I found:
The Difference Between Asiatic Lilies and Oriental Liliese-lily-21

Essentially, there is little difference – both lilies are grown from bulbs.

Scented: The Asiatics are scent-free while the Orientals are scented, something to remember if you have scent allergies.

Blooming Season: Asiatics like the white Easter Lily, bloom in the spring; Orientals bloom in the fall.

Are day lilies edible? Which part can you eat?

Here’s what Farmer’s Almanac has to say:

Almost every part of the lily is suitable for eating. It goes well with pork and soy sauce, a nod to its Chinese heritage. You can eat the green buds of day lilies.

As to taste, here’s a post on iVillage GardenWeb:

Culinary Uses: The young green leaves are edible raw or cooked. Older leaves become fibrous. Tubers are also edible raw or cooked and have a nutty flavour. Young tubers are best, though the central portion of older tubers is also good. Steam or boil the tubers as a potato substitute, or toss them raw onto a salad instead of croutons. The flowers can be eaten raw or cooked. The petals are thick and crunchy, making very pleasant eating raw, with a nice sweetness at the base because of the nectar. They taste somewhat like fresh peas.

They can be fried for storage and used as a thickener in soups and stews, or used as a relish. Leaves and young shoots can be cooked and used as a substitute for asparagus or celery. Take small shoots under 15cm, strip away the larger leaves, saute in a little garlic and oil, add raw to salads, or simply steam and drench in butter for a nice, crunchy treat.

Here’s a recipe: boil a few day lily buds and add them to herb butter. Make herb butter with 1/2 cup creamed butter, 1/2 tablespoon finely chopped parsley and 1/1/2 tablespoons of chopped savory. Add lemon juice and seasonings to taste. You can eat the tubers of lilies all summer, even after the blooms have gone away. Eat them like radishes or chopped into salads.

e-lily31Cautions: The leaves of some lilies are toxic to cats and can cause harm if they eat a lot.

Similarly, eating too many leaves can cause hallucinations in humans and eating too many flowers can act as a diuretic and/or laxative.

Here are a few more recipes from iVillage Garden Web, oriental style of course:

Day Lily Bud Saute
2 dozen day lily buds, white bases removed
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup olive oil
3 eggs
pinch of nutmeg
salt and pepper
I clove garlic, finely chopped

Saute the garlic in a little olive oil. Beat eggs, mix in enough flour to make a thin batter. Add the garlic, salt and pepper, and nutmeg. Add a teaspoon of milk if the batter is too thick. Dip the buds in the batter and saute until golden brown.

Daylily flowers can be stuffed, or added to soups and vegetables dishes. They can be boiled, steamed or added to stirfries. Add them to salads, or coat with batter and fry. Daylily leaves taste a little like creamed onions. Choose young leaves for best flavour. Add to soups, vegetable dishes and stirfries.

Day Lily Pork
3/4 cup onion rings
3 tablepsoons butter
1 clove garlic, mashed
8 thin slices of pork
1 tablespoon cornflour
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger
1 tablespoon Madeira wine
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups chopped day lilies

Saute onions in the butter until translucent. Remove onions from pan with a slotted spoon and set aside. To butter, add garlic and pork slices. Cook both sides of pork, and remove from pan, leaving the juices and butter within the pan. Stir cornflour into the soy sauce until smooth, add to the pan with ginger, wine, salt andpepper. Stir ingredients until thickened and clear. Add the chopped day lily and onions to the pan and stir 2 minutes over medium heat. Pour this mixture over pork and serve.

Pasta with Day Lily Buds and Mushrooms
about 185g oyster or shiitake mushrooms
1 heaped cup daylily buds, 2-3cm long
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon freshly chopped marjoram
1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste
freshly grated parmesan cheese
500g fresh fettucinne noodles

Put water on to boil while preparing vegetables. Tear mushrooms into large bite size pieces and remove stem of shiitakes. Rinse the daylily buds and pat dry. In large frypan, heat butter and oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and saute them about 1 minute. Add mushrooms and stir for 1-2 minutes. Add daylily buds and stir 2-3 minutes. Add the herbs and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover the pan and let stand over low heat for a few minutes while pasta is cooking. Drain the pasta, add it to the vegetables, and toss well. Add another tablespoon of butter or oil if necessary. Taste for seasoning and serve hot. Garnish with bread crumbs and parmesan if desired.

Spiced Pickled Day Lily Buds
2 litres day lily buds, freshly boiled and drained
3 cups white vinegar
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon whole allspice
2 sticks cinnamon, 5cm long, broken up
10-12 whole cloves

Rinse and drain unopened day lily buds; clip off any stem remnants. Put buds in a saucepan, add water barely to cover. Bring quickly to the boil, cover, and simmer 20 minutes. Drain. (At this point, the buds can also be served as a vegetable dish after adding salt, pepper, spices, etc. Or they can be stuffed with ricotta cheese and served.
Pack hot buds into 8 sterile 400ml preserving jars. Combine vinegar, brown sugar, salt, allspice, cinnamon, and cloves in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Boil 3 minutes. Pour pickling solution over buds, distributing spices equally. Seal at once. Leave for a few weeks before using.

Finally, the Easter Lily can be planted outdoors (about 3″ of soil above top of bulb) and will survive the winter if mulched well. It likes its head in the sun and its feet in the shade@

More Than 1/2 US Homes Planting “Recession Gardens”

A National Gardening research center report says 43 million of the 111 million households in the US will grow at least some of their own fruits, vegetables, berries and herbs in 2009.

Garden centers have reported almost a 20% increase in sales over last year’s figures as people across N.A. re-establish ‘Victory Gardens’, as they were known during WW II food shortages.

Long term food security in a time of widespread global drought is also a growing concern.

Seedy Saturday Shaping Up

Seedy Saturday
Garden Swap Meet

Buy and sell, barter or swap your surplus seed, bulbs, plants, garden tools and equipment with other Eastern Shore EAST gardeners.

Join us at the Trail Stop in Moser River, just east of the bridge on Saturday, April 18th between 9:00 and 2:00. Hot drinks and munchies, courtesy of the Trail Stop.

For FREE table information, call Gail at 347-2602. We’ll have a few tables available, but if you can bring one, that helps a lot.  Other ‘spring’ stuff, like bicycles, etc? Why not? It’s an opportunity to say hello to your neighbours after a long miserable winter.

If it’s a sunny and warm day, we’ll have the ice cream stand going and of course,  fresh farm eggs in any weather! These sell out fast, so speak quickly for them.

Snow/rain/hail  location: The “Stone Soup Cafe” on the hill @ 35 Parkers Loop Road, better known the “Shellnut Property” or “The Prospector’s”.

The house is visible as you cross the Moser River Bridge, heading east.

Gardeners’ Gathering, April 18th

Trail Stop Country Market

Seedy Saturday! Barter, swap or sell your surplus seeds, bulbs & plants, garden tools & equipment on Seedy Saturday, April 18th, 10:00 am ’til 2 pm.

We’re having  a get together with other local gardeners to share seeds, bulbs and  information – we’re interested in and experimenting with extending the growing season and growing various grains for seed.

Free table space for your gardening stuff! Call Gail 347-2602.
Munchies, courtesy of the Trail Stop

Trail Stop Stuff Available Now

  • Rhubarb
  • Daylilies
  • Quince
  • Snowball Bush
  • House Plants

  • Scarlet Geranium
  • Spider Plants
  • Bedding Plants Available Mid-May!

    How about you? Nothing to trade or sell? Come anyway!
    Trail Stop Country Market
    1/2 Way Pit Stop
    Halifax to Cape Breton (or back)SeesTrail (

    >Saving the Land That Feeds Us

    >Soaring oil and food prices have been labelled by some as “the first real economic crisis of globalization”.

    According to the current issue of “Alternatives Journal“, the owner of a dairy farm north-west of Toronto recently pocketed a cool $4.5 million dollars for his 40 hectare property. The $35,000 per acre payout by developers proved too good to resist.

    The current issue of Alternatives Journal states that “Our growing nation’s insatiable appetite for housing, and the commercial and industrial development it spawns, has brought us to a fork in the road.”

    Standing at that crossroads, our choices are few: continue on the path of mass urban development and it’s energy dependent imported food supply or take the road less travelled, towards protection of farmland and the farmers who supply food for the local market. Read the full article here:

    Alternatives Journal

    >Abandoned Farmlands Are Key to Sustainable Bioenergy

    Recent research conducted by Stanford University in partnership with The Carnegie Institution Department of Global Ecology has determined that there are sufficient abandoned farmlands in the US and Canada to provide up to 10% of our current energy needs in bioenergy production.

    But it won’t be tomorrow, researchers warned. Read more at:

    Renewable Energy World