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Use of Plants in the Hunger Games

Herbal Fact or Fiction?

Many of you have either read the books or seen this year’s movie The Hunger Games. I was pleasantly surprised by the use of plants as food for survival and as remedies for serious wounds. The exactness of the herbal, medical or food use in the story is remarkable. In real life, could the plants used have truly helped Katniss and Peeta survive?

The story takes place in North America and the plants used have a well-established traditional food or medicine use. In the movie, Katniss places a bouquet of white flowers of Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) on the dead body of the character Rue. The use of Yarrow as a funerary herb dates back to the Neanderthal Stone Age and it was considered a sacred plant in ancient China.

It is an impressive plant for wound healing as it is well known for the healing of deep puncture wounds. It is also called Soldier’s Woundwort, which describes one of the best uses of Yarrow. It was used by the Greeks and Romans to heal sword and spear battle wounds and stop the flow of blood from open wounds. The analgesic and dermatological medicinal use by North American natives is extensive and well documented. Its properties (antibacterial, analgesic, wound healing, stopping bleeding) make it the perfect remedy for the infected sword wound of Peeta. The leaves can be chewed and applied to burns or wounds to stop the bleeding and pain. A paste can be made with the flower heads or they can be chewed and applied directly to wounds.

The character Katniss is named after the plant Arrowhead (Sagittaria spps). Of the 30 katniss species, Sagittaria latifolia is most prevalent in North America and is well known as a food source. Sagittaria cuneata Sheldon is well known by North American natives for both its food and medicinal uses. The tubers are large, nutritious, rich in starch, and edible with a potato-like taste. The food use of Arrowhead tubers is often described in survival books. In the movie, Arrowhead leaves are placed on Katniss to heal the swollen wasp stings. The fresh leaf of Sagittaria cuneata Sheldon is well known for its use in treating inflamed skin, skin disorders, cuts, burns and bee stings.

Beware, not all plants are safe to eat! The character Foxface dies after eating the poisonous berries of Nightshade (Atropa belladonna). The fruit contains several milligrams of belladonna alkaloids. The lethal dose varies from several berries in children to a handfull in adults. It is considered one of the most toxic plants in our hemisphere. It is important to keep these berries away from children especially because of their sweet taste.

Bottom line:

Plants can save lives or cause death. Survival in the wilderness requires a good understanding and visual identification of the plant. Be sure you know your plants, because those dark blue berries may not be that sweet after all. What would have happened to Peeta had Katniss not known the danger of eating those dark sweet berries?

 

 

Guy Chamberland is the Vice Presient of Reasearch at CuraPhyte Technologies. He can be contacted at curaphyte-technologies@live.ca