NativeTech: Native American Technology and Art
Indigenous Plants & Native Uses in the Northeast

(Typha latifolia)


Food: The roots may be ground into a flour. The sticky sap between the leaves is an excellent starch and can be used to thicken soups and broths. The white colored shoots at the base of the leaf clusters can be boiled or steamed or sliced and eaten raw in salads.

Medicine: Pollen is hemostatic & astringent. Place directly on cut to control bleeding. Take internally for internal bleeding, menstrual pain, chest pains, & other forms of blood stagnation. Pollen is also mildly diuretic and emenagogue. Use fresh, pounded root directly as a poultice on infections, blisters, & stings. Sticky starch at the base of the green leaf is antiseptic, coagulant, & even a bit numbing. Boil leaves for external skin wash. Starchy, mashed root use as a toothpaste. Drink root flour in a cup of hot water or eat the young flowerheads to bind diarrhea and dysentrery.

Technology: The leaves and stalks were used extensively in making sewn exterior mats for wigwams. String could also be made from fibers at the base of leaves. By folding a few leaves from the cattail stalk, Chippewa made simple dolls and small toy ducks that really float. The small ducks were usually made in groups of five to resemble a flock. The fluff from cattails was often used to insulate footwear in the winter, or to pad a baby's cradleboard.

Note: For additional information browse NativeTech's Uses for Cattails and Grasses

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© 1994 - Tara Prindle
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