SILK TASSEL ( A very important plant medicine for your First Aid Kit)
Garrya flavescens, G. wrightii, G. goldmanii
Other Names: Quinine Bush, Guachichi and Others
Garrya is a genus of flowering plants in the family Garryaceae, native to Mexico, the western United States, Central America and the Greater Antilles. Common names include silk tassel, and tassel bush.
They are evergreen dioecious wind-pollinated shrubs growing to 1–5 m (3–16 ft) tall. The leaves are arranged in opposite pairs, and are simple, leathery, dark green to gray-green, ovate, 3–15 cm (1–6 in) long, with an entire margin and a short petiole. The flowers are gray-green catkins, short and spreading when first produced in late summer; the male catkins becoming long and pendulous in late winter when shedding pollen, 3–20 cm (1–8 in) long; the female catkins usually a little shorter and less pendulous. The fruit is a round dry berry containing two seeds.
Michael Moore writes " Silk Tassel is a strong and reliable smooth-muscle relaxant, one of those generally classed as parasympathetic inhibitors or anticholinergics. In proper doses it has little effect on the central nervous system but slows down the impulses of the vagus nerve, myenteric plexus nerves, and the sacral ganglia of the parasympathetics. This makes it useful pain reliever and antispasmodic for diarrhea, dysentery, gallbladder attacks, and menstrual cramps."
In my use with clients, I have found it to be one of the FINEST of antispasmodics for menstrual cramps, dysentery (especially from Protozoa infections), and for severe lung spasms, like the kind associated with asthma attacks.
The extract of Silk Tassel in my first aid kit, probably is in the top 10 category of most used herbal medicines in my kit! Using it for asthma attacks and hectic coughing fits, stomach and intestinal cramping, especially from food poisoning type situations. Menstrual cramps from "hell" (been told), and dysentary from bacteria or amoebic origins.
The part of the plant used as a medicine is the leaf and twigs, preferably dried, and extracted as a 1:5 plant extract, using about 50 to 60% alcohol. Dosage range can vary depending on use, but 10 to 20 drops, up to 5 times a day. I also, sometimes make a fresh plant extract with the leaves, a 1:2 ratio, 50% alcohol.
There are only a few herbs that I have witnessed, that have the potential to stop a full blown asthma attack. An extract of Silk Tassel is one such herb. While caution should be used with using Silk Tassel with children on a regular basis (just a darn strong herb!), it could be used (and I have), with children suffering from an asthma attack, especially if the child's normal medicines for asthma are not present, or run out, or just are not available because of distance to proper medical help. I have seen it work, and it is one of the reasons why it is in my herbal first aid kit.
Another reason to have on hand, is simply that it could be the most effective non-narcotic for menstrual cramps. This plant medicine is so effective for menstrual, intestinal tract, gallbladder, liver, kidney, lung cramping and spasms, that sometimes a 5 to 10 drop dose of the extract works within minutes, to lessen or totally eliminate a cramp or spasm. It is a very effective and strong plant medicine. Although, I have sometimes included it in formulas for small duration usage, like 2 to 4 weeks (especially in Protozoa formulas, like giardiasis ) it should not be considered a tonic herb for long term use.
I like to categorize plant medicines, in 3 categories,
#1 food plants, generally safe for long term use, and mostly nutritional.
#2 food/medicine plants, these are fairly safe plants, with usually some history of being used by some culture as a food, and as a medicine. These are usually safe for long term use, i.e. Nettles Leaf is a classic food/medicine plant, which can be used for long term use by most people.
#3 Then there are straight and strong medicine plants. Silk Tassel is a medicine plant. These plants in this category are never meant to be used for long term use, but just long enough to cause the change (healing) that you are seeking. Respect plant usage in this category and you should not have a problem.
Another use for Silk Tassel is in preventing or treating giardiasis. If one has this amoeba or suspects that they have ingested it by drinking, unfiltered or questionable water from a spring, stream or even street food. Then, I have found that a small amount of Silk Tassel extract taken internally can help with sometimes preventing, and most certainly can help in treating Giardia and other amoebic infections.
Some Contraindications: Prescription medication and over the counter drugs should be avoided when using Silk Tassel (has a complex chemistry), and is not appropriate in pregnancy or with children, unless fully trained in its use. If you experience shortness of breath and cold clammy hands, then you have probably taken too much, and you need to reduce your dosage a bit. Overall, I have used with thousands of people, and as long as one uses common sense, I have never seen a problem.
Silk Tassel is a very, very important medicine plant and I encourage serious herbalists to get to know it …it can be life saving.