Squawvine (Mitchella repens ) is a plant that is native to North America. It is an evergreen herb belonging to the madder or Rubiaceae family. It grows in the forests and woodlands of the eastern United States and Canada. Squawvine is usually found at the base of trees and stumps. Although squawvine grows year round, herbalists recommend collecting the herb when the plant flowers during the months of April through June.
Squawvine's name refers to its use by Native American women as a remedy for a range of conditions. Squawvine is also referred to as "partridge berry" because some people consider the other name to be insulting to Native American women. Squawvine is also known as squaw vine, squaw berry, checkerberry, deerberry, winter clover, twinberry, and hive vine.
Squawvine's name stems from its use by Native American women for conditions related to childbearing. The plant was used to ease menstrual cramps, strengthen the uterus for childbirth , and prevent miscarriage. During the final 2 to 4 weeks of a Native American woman's pregnancy , she drank tea made from squawvine leaves so that childbirth was less painful. The herb was said to regulate contractions so that the baby was delivered safely, easily, and quickly. After the baby was born, the Native American mother who nursed her child would put a squawvine solution on her nipples to relieve the soreness.
In folk medicine, squawvine continued to be a remedy for women's disorders. In addition to conditions related to childbirth, the herb was used to treat postpartum depression , irregular menstruation , and bleeding. In addition to treating internal ailments, a squawvine wash was said to provide relief to sore eyes. Squawvine is still used in folk medicine to treat conditions including anxiety, hemorrhoids, insomnia , muscle spasms, edema , and inflammation.
Current uses of squawvine
Squawvine is used in alternative medicine to tone the uterine lining and prepare a woman's body for childbirth. The herb is taken for painful menstruation and to tone the prostate. It is also said to help promote fertility and to increase the flow of mother's milk.
Furthermore, squawvine is recognized by practitioners of alternative medicine for its effectiveness as a diuretic. It is used to treat such urinary conditions as suppression of urine. Squawvine is also a remedy for diarrhea , shrinking tissues, muscle spasms, and nerves.
Squawvine is still used as an eye wash. It is also used as a skin wash and to treat colitis.
Squawvine is available in various forms. Commercial preparations include tinctures, extracts and powdered herb.
Squawvine tea, which is also known as an infusion, is made by pouring 1 cup (240 ml) of boiling water over 1 tsp (1.5 g) of the dried herb. The mixture is steeped for 10 to 15 minutes and then strained. Squawvine tea may be taken up to three times a day. Women seeking relief for difficult or painful menstruation can combine squawvine with cramp bark and pasque flower.
Squawvine tincture can be used in an infusion. The dosage is 1–2 mL in 1 cup (240 ml) of boiling water. The tincture dosage can be taken three times a day.
Use in pregnancy and lactation
Pregnant women should not take squawvine during the first two trimesters of pregnancy . Some herbalists, however, recommend taking the herb during the eighth and ninth month to make labor easier. During those months, squawvine can be taken once or twice daily. It can be combined with raspberry leaves in this remedy to prepare for childbirth.
Nursing mothers with sore nipples can try a nineteenth-century folk remedy. A squawvine ointment is prepared by first making a decoction. A non-aluminum pan is used to boil 2 oz. (2 ml) of the powdered herb and 1 pint (470 ml) of water. The mixture is simmered for 10 minutes. It is then strained and the juice is squeezed out. The liquid is measured and an equal amount of cream is added to it. This mixture is boiled until it reaches a soft, ointment-like consistency. It is cooled and can be applied to the nipples after the baby has finished nursing.
Some herbal remedies have been studied in Europe, but no information was available about the safety of squawvine as of June 2000. Squawvine is believed to be safe when taken in recommended dosages for a short time. There should be no problems when this remedy is used by people beyond childhood and those who are above age 45. Some of the assessment that squawvine is a safe remedy, however, is based on the fact that no problems had been reported when squawvine was used by people including pregnant women and nursing mothers.
Squawvine is an herbal remedy and not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The regulation process involves research into whether the remedy is safe to use. In addition, the effectiveness of squawvine for its traditional uses in childbirth and during lactation has not been clinically tested.
People should consult a doctor or health care practitioner before taking squawvine. The patient should inform the doctor about other medications or herbs that he or she takes. Once treatment with squawvine begins, people should see their doctors if their conditions haven't improved within two weeks.
Opinion is divided about whether squawvine is safe for women to use. On one side are those who caution that squawvine should be avoided by women who are currently pregnant or are planning to conceive within the short term. Herbalists advise that it should not be taken during the first two trimesters of pregnancy. Furthermore, squawvine and other herbal remedies should not be given to children under the age of two.
There are no known side effects from using squawvine. Little research has been done, however, on its safety.
No interactions have been reported between squawvine and other herbs or medications. Before using this herb as a remedy, however, a person should first consult with a doctor or health practitioner to discuss potential interactions.
Duke, James A. The Green Pharmacy. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press, Inc., 1997.
Keville, Kathi. Herbs for Health and Healing. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press, Inc., 1996.
Ritchason, Jack. The Little Herb Encyclopedia. Pleasant Grove, UT: Woodland Health Books, 1995.
American Botanical Council. P.O. Box 201660. Austin TX, 78720. (512) 331-8868.
Herb Research Foundation. 1007 Pearl St., Suite 200. Boulder, CO 80302. (303) 449-2265. http://www.herbs.org.