Healing Properties of Lantana Plant
**NOTE - ALL OF THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION IS ONLY TO SHARE THE MEDICINAL RESULTS
I HAVE PERSONALLY EXPERIENCED WITH THIS AND OTHER PLANTS. NO INFORMATION IN THIS
BLOG IS ANY SUBSTITUTE FOR A PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL ADVICE, AND I AM IN NO WAY PRESCRIBING
OR EVEN RECOMMENDING THIS OR ANY OTHER PLANT AS TREATMENT FOR ANYONE WHO IS READING.
MOST, IF NOT ALL POWERFULLY MEDICINAL PLANTS CAN BE QUITE TOXIC, DEPENDING ON THE
PART OF THE PLANT USED, YOUR OWN WEIGHT/HEALTH AND HOW MUCH OF THE PLANT IS USED.
PLEASE EXERCISE CAUTION AND USE AT YOUR OWN RISK**
When we first moved to Texas a little over 4 years ago, one of the plants that immediately
caught my interest was a small bush that is very common throughout the hill country,
central and south TX. This plant made me think of nettles family or mint family,
with its opposite, spiny leaves and square stems. However, it is in another family
which also contains (medicinal) plants with opposite leaves and square stems - namely
the Verbena family.
Knowing that there wouldn't likely be much information on this plant in any typical
herb books, I immediately started researching ethno-botanical resources to see what
data existed about Native American usage, and wherever else this plant might be
found. It turned out that Native Americans in this region used it as a sort of respiratory
anti-spasmodic - or what we could even term as a "relaxing expectorant." This coincides
with research done with some of the alkaloids from this plant which were found to
lower blood pressure, induce shivering and accelerate deep respiration in dogs.
As luck would have it, there was a chest-cold type of illness going around in our
family at that time. I took the immediate opportunity to mix the fresh lantana leaves
into a formula I had already used a few times before with great success: Juniper
needles, wild rosemary leaves and virginia creeper bark (or just the vine stalk
cut up). To this, I added lantana leaves - all ingredients in equal amounts - and
made a steam-inhalation pan/pot out of it.
This worked very well, and the next time around, I tried the lantana leaves alone
in the same setup which again worked very well specifically as a relaxing expectorant.
The next thing I wondered about this plant, even though I hadn't found any information
about it (ethno-botanically), was if it might be a type of vulnerary, or tissue-healing/protecting
plant? I don't know what made me think this, but I know that a lot of respiratory
herbs work well on the skin as well, and I just had an intuitive feeling that this
was maybe worth a try.
I didn't have to wait too long. Working with knives, axes, etc., much of the time,
I do get the occasional cut. This particular time, I had a full bag of throwing
knives, some of which were brand new and very sharp. While paying more attention
to one of my dogs that I thought was chasing after a deer, I was reaching into the
bag to pull out a few knives, and suffered a nice deep (through all layers of skin)
laceration on my hand, maybe 1.5" long or so. After a few moments of obligatory
cussing, I walked over to one of the few dozen, healthy lantana bushes we have growing
around our property. I picked 3 or 4 younger leaves that looked the most juicy,
and squeezed them into a pulp as much as I could between my fingers. This green
pulp I then stuck into the cut, squeezing out the juice into the cut and literally
sealing off the cut with this green bandage. What happened next was really amazing.
The wound stung similar to the sting you feel (although milder) with alcohol. The
bleeding stopped. After about 5 minutes of holding that bandage on, there was literally
no pain. Not that the cut hurt badly to begin with, but it was literally as though
there was no cut. This fascinated me, so I took a few more leaves, rinsed them lightly
with cold water, turned them to pulp and bandaged them onto the wound as a poultice.
The cut healed up very well overnight, not even the slightest tinge of red (infection)
that is common if you look closely enough at any cut after 12 hours or so, and the
edges were pulled together and healing very nicely. Up to this point, the only anti-microbial
type of wound-healing herb I had used with this much success had been chaparral
(Larrea spp.). Comfrey of course works well, as do several other plants (mullein,
plantain, etc) for wound-healing, but not with the anti-microbial type of action.
The fact that lantana has alkaloids that are dangerous (toxic to livestock and humans)
is part of what makes it medicinal, most likely.
Reading more detail, both ethno-botanical and current studies, reveals its possible
use internally as a diaphoretic, febrifuge, vermifuge, cardio tonic, anti-viral,
anti-bacterial and even possible anti-tumor activity. Externally as a hemostatic,
anti-microbial and tissue healer (vulnerary), I would probably rate this plant as
one of my own top 5 external-use plants. Younger leaf growth seems to be most effective.
Dried and/or made into a salve would be the preferred preparations (I always prefer
poultice of the raw/dried herb over a salve, but that is of course not always possible
or very convenient). Additional uses I have found for lantana: Berries (WHEN RIPE,
DO NOT EAT UNRIPE LANTANA BERRIES) are actually edible. Supposedly. Just seeing
or reading that they have been eaten in small quantities is probably still a whole
different level of "edibility" than for instance a blueberry. I've eaten a few of
them ripe and raw, and felt a little bit queasy afterward. Cooked and strained they
might be edible or even jelly material. I couldn't say on that subject as I haven't
taken the time to harvest and do something with the berries (yet).
However, I would say that anything you do with this plant, do with caution. There
is no doubt that parts the plant can be toxic to humans, and as always, the plants
on the "toxic" end of the spectrum are often very powerful medicine. The safest
application of the plant, in my own experience so far, is as a medicine and for
external use in wound care.
A few final additional uses are that: 1) The roots of this plant are amazing basket
and weaving material. The stalks/stems are decent as well, but the roots extend
horizontally over long distances and grow close to the surface. A large shrub may
have many dozens of feet of flexible roots (even when dry - although it re-wets
just fine too) branching off in each and every direction. 2) The stems make decent
hand-drills for friction fire
starting if you can find a straight and long enough stalk So to summarize the uses
I have personally found for this amazing plant (which is considered an invasive,
noxious weed by many people), as well as a few others:
- Relaxing Expectorant
- Tissue Healing (anti-inflammation, wound proliferation)
- Edible Berries when Ripe (and preferably cooked and strained) as at least famine
- Friction Firemaking
- Good pollinator plant
- Good honey plant (bees)
This is another example of what we consider an invasive species (or "opportunistic
species" as I prefer to call them) that is actually an extremely useful plant. It
is one of my favorite plants in my own local-plant herbal pharmacy, and has proven
its worth time and again for me.