I'm helping to facilitate a class - Level II herbal studies - with Jacoby of Third Root Community Health Center (where I spend a lot of my time). We took a field trip to the rare book room of the New York Academy of Medicine yesterday to look at herbals from the 15th Century to now. The librarian had set out crumbling texts that were held together with ribbon, that we carefully turned the pages of looking up our favorite plants. I spent a lot of time looking at early-American texts by Samuel Thompson, an early 19th century self-taught herbalist in the Northeast. His favorite plants were by far, lobelia and cayenne. They came first in his materia medica and had pages upon pages of uses.
Datura also kept coming up in my browsing. You can find this plant growing in tree-pits around brooklyn this time of year - wild (or scattered by a moder-day Johnny-Datura?) and growing furiously in late summer. Many a night I've been out late and observed a few datura growing on my walk home through Clinton Hill. The seedpods are spikey and noticable -> and quite beautiful in this drawing.
Datura, or Thorn Apple, is a notorious hallucinogen & dangerous. It's beautiful and the flowers open at night (why you see it in the late evening walking home) and has been co-evolving with humans for hundreds of years. Would I recomend you taking some? No - not unless you go to the rare book room at NYAM and read all the texts about this beautiful plant. The early American herbalists and botanists have a lot to say. I'm excited to say hello to this plant on the street - but will still stay my distance from ingesting it even after reading the herbals from 100 years ago.
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Stephen Rye is a massage therapist, herbalist, gardener, and organizer.