Herb: Canadian Yew
Latin name: Taxus canadensis
Family: Taxaceae (Yew Family)
Medicinal use of Canadian Yew:The Canadian yew is a very poisonous plant, though it was employed medicinally by several native North American Indian tribes who used minute amounts of the leaves both internally and externally in order to treat a variety of complaints including rheumatism, fevers, influenza, expelling afterbirth and dispelling clots. Modern research has shown that it contains the substance "taxol" in its shoots and bark. Taxol has shown exciting potential as an anti-cancer drug, particularly in the treatment of ovarian cancers. This remedy is very toxic and, even when used externally, should only be used under the supervision of a qualified practitioner. See also the notes above on toxicity. The plant is abortifacient, analgesic, antirheumatic, antitumor, diaphoretic, diuretic, emmenagogue, febrifuge and pectoral.
Description of the plant:
Habitat of the herb:Rich woods and thickets.
Edible parts of Canadian Yew:Fruit - raw. Very sweet and gelatinous, most people find it delicious though some find it sickly. The fruit is a fleshy berry about 8mm in diameter and containing a single seed. All other parts of this plant, including the seed, are highly poisonous. When eating the fruit you should spit out the large seed found in the fruit's centre. Should you swallow the whole seed it will just pass straight through you without harm, if the seed has been bitten into, however, it could cause some problems.
Other uses of the herb:A green dye can be obtained from the leaves.
Propagation of Canadian Yew:Seed - can be very slow to germinate, often taking 2 or more years. It is best sown as soon as it is ripe in the autumn when it should germinate 18 months later. Stored seed may take 2 years or more to germinate. 4 months warm followed by 4 months cold stratification may help reduce the germination time. Harvesting the seed "green" (when fully developed but before it has dried on the plant) and then sowing it immediately has not been found to reduce the germination time because the inhibiting factors develop too early. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots once they are large enough to handle and grow them on in pots in a cold frame. The seedlings are very slow-growing and will probably require at least 2 years of pot cultivation before being large enough to plant out. Any planting out is best done in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Cuttings of half-ripe terminal shoots, 5 - 8cm long, July/August in a shaded frame. Should root by late September but leave them in the frame over winter and plant out in late spring. High percentage. Cuttings of ripe terminal shoots, taken in winter after a hard frost, in a shaded frame.
Cultivation of the herb:Rich woods and thickets.
Known hazards of Taxus canadensis:All parts of the plant, except the flesh of the fruit, are highly poisonous.
Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.