Traditional uses and benefits of Sneezeweed

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Sneeze Weed Quick Facts
Name: Sneeze Weed
Scientific Name: Helenium autumnale
Origin United States and Canada, from Northwest Territories as far south as far northern California, Arizona, Louisiana, and Florida
Colors Brown or rust-colored
Shapes Dry, one-seeded, 1 ⁄16 inches long seed capsule
Taste Pungent, bitter, Acrid
Health benefits Support for head colds, respiratory infections, intestinal worms, fevers, sprains, sore joints, torn ligaments and bruising
Helenium autumnale popularly known as Sneezeweed or Common sneezeweed is a North American species of flowering plants in the daisy or aster family (Asteraceae). The plant is widespread across much of the United States and Canada, from Northwest Territories as far south as far northern California, Arizona, Louisiana, and Florida. It has not been found in southern or central California, or the 4 Atlantic Provinces of Canada. Some of popular common names include Sneezeweed, Common sneezeweed, Fall sneezeweed, Mountain sneezeweed, False Sunflower, autumn sneezeweed, bitterweed, smooth oxeye, mountain sneezeweed, Helen’s flower, Large-flowered Sneezeweed and Dogtooth-daisy. The genus name, Helenium, comes from the Greek name helenion which is the name of a Greek plant which honors famous Helen of Troy. According to Greek mythology, Helen of Troy, the daughter of Greek God Zeus and Spartan queen Leda, was the most beautiful woman in the world. There is a myth that her tears produced a similar plant on the island of Pharos. The flowers started to grow from the ground soaked with tears of Helen of Troy. The species name, autumnale, refers to the season of the flower’s blooming—autumn.

The dried flowers of have been traditionally used as a snuff to create sneezing to relieve congestion and clear nasal passages during head colds and respiratory infections, hence the common name ‘Sneezeweed’. However, the plant isn’t a weed, and it doesn’t cause sneezing. It is harvested from the wild for local use as a medicine and source of materials.

Sneezeweed Facts

Name Sneeze Weed
Scientific Name Helenium autumnale
Native United States and Canada, from Northwest Territories as far south as far northern California, Arizona, Louisiana, and Florida
Common Names Sneezeweed, Common sneezeweed, Fall sneezeweed, Mountain sneezeweed, False Sunflower, autumn sneezeweed, bitterweed smooth oxeye, mountain sneezeweed, Helen’s flower, Large-flowered Sneezeweed, Dogtooth-daisy
Name in Other Languages Afrikaans: Sneezeweed
Albanian: Sneezeweed
Amharic: Ashikerekerewi (አሽከረከረው)
Arabic: Aeshab (اعشاب)
Armenian: P’rrshtal (փռշտալ)
Azerbaijani: Asqırmaq
Bengali: Sneezeweed
Bulgarian: Sneezeweed               
Burmese: Naypyitaw (နေပြည်တော်)
Chinese: Pēntì (喷嚏)
Croatian: Sneezeweed 
Czech: Kýchnutí, záplevák podzimní
Danish: Sneezeweed, Høst-solbrud       
Dutch: Nieskruid
English: Sneezeweed, Common sneezeweed, Fall sneezeweed, Mountain sneezeweed, Swamp sunflower, tall sneezeweed     
Esperanto: Kaŝvestita
Estonian: Aevastatud, sügisheleenium
Filipino: Sneezeweed  
Finnish: Sneezeweed
French: Eternuements, Hélénium, Hélénie automnale, Hélénie d’automne         
Georgian: Shemogep’arot (შემოგეპაროთ)
German: Niesen, Gewöhnliche Sonnenbraut, Herbst-Sonnenbraut, Gewöhnlicher Sonnenbraut
Greek: Ftérnisma (φτέρνισμα)
Gujarati: Chīṅka āvē chē (છીંક આવે છે)
Hausa: Sneezeweed     
Hebrew: עייף    
Hindi: Sneezeweed
Hungarian: Sneezeweed, őszi napfényvirág       
Icelandic: Sneezeweed
Indonesian: Bersin         
Irish: Sneezeweed
Italian: Helenium autumnale
Japanese: Kushami (くしゃみ), dangogiku (ダンゴギク)
Javanese: Rasane           
Kannada: Sīnuvike (ಸೀನುವಿಕೆ)
Kazakh: Tüşkirw (түшкіру)          
Korean: Jaechaegi (재채기)
Kurdish: Sneezeweed  
Lao: Sneezeweed
Latin: Sneezeweed
Latvian: Sķavas
Lithuanian: Ciaudulys
Macedonian: Kivavica (кивавица)
Malagasy: Sneezeweed
Malay: Sneezeweed     
Malayalam: Tum mal (തുമ്മൽ)          
Maltese: Sneezeweed 
Marathi: Śiṅkā yēṇē (शिंका येणे)
Mongolian: Naitaakh (найтаах)
Nepali: Chheenkiekee (छींकिएकी)         
Norwegian: Sneezeweed
Oriya: ଛିଙ୍କିବା   
Pashto: چینایی              
Persian: عطسه               
Polish: Kichanie, dzielżan jesienny, helenka jesienna
Portuguese: Sneezeweed
Punjabi: Chika (ਛਿੱਕ)
Romanian: Sneezeweed             
Russian: Sneezeweed, gelenium osenniy (гелениум осенний)
Serbian: Sneezeveed (снеезевеед)
Sindhi: نِڪ       
Sinhala: Kivisum (කිවිසුම්)
Slovak: Helénium jesenné
Slovenian: Kihne
Spanish: Estornudo        
Sundanese: Bersin         
Swedish: Sneezeweed, Solbrud               
Tajik: Sneezeweed
Tamil: Tum mal (தும்மல்)
Telugu: Sneezeweed
Thai: Sneezeweed
Turkish: Sneezeweed   
Ukrainian: Chav (чхав)
Urdu: چھینک
Uzbek: Hapşırma
Vietnamese: Hít vào      
Welsh: Tisian, Blodau Tisian, Blodyn Tisian
Zulu: Athuke
Plant Growth Habit Upright, clumping, fibrous-rooted, perennial wildflower
Growing Climates Wet meadows, marshes, rich thickets, meadows, shores, moist calcareous soils, wet openings, edges, along rivers, streams and ponds, mesic hardwoods floodplains, sandy alluvial dikes, drainage ditches, pine flat wood depressions, wet woodlands, wet roadsides, moist soil of limestone bluffs, moist Blackland prairies, fens, forests, seepage areas, soil prairies, railroads, poorly drained pastures and abandoned fields
Soil Prefers loamy or silty soils that are high in organic matter.   Plants thrive in wet or evenly moist soil but will tolerate a bit of drought after establishment
Plant Size Can reach 2 to 5 feet in height and 2 to 3 feet in width
Stem Stems are erect or ascending, winged, and branched above the middle. Above the middle the stems are moderately to densely covered with short, spreading to ascending, somewhat curled hairs
Leaf Sneezeweed leaves are lance-shaped to narrowly oval, with a few teeth. These leaves occur alternately on the stem. They are directly attached, with the leaf base continuing down the stem as a wing
Flowering season August to October
Flower The heads are several to numerous at the tips of the branches. Both the disk and ray flowers are yellow. The disk measures 1-2 cm wide, and the 10-20 rays are 1.5-2.5 cm long.
Fruit Shape & Size Dry, one-seeded, 1 ⁄16 inches long seed capsule (cypsela)
Fruit Color Brown or rust-colored
Taste Pungent, bitter, Acrid
Plant Parts Used Leaves, stem
Propagation By seed in spring, by division in autumn or spring, or by basal softwood cuttings in containers in a cold frame in spring
Lifespan Survive from 4 to 5 years in the wild
Season June through November
Available Forms Infused oil, salve, liniment, or poultice

Plant Description

Sneezeweed is an erect, upright, clump-forming, fibrous-rooted, perennial wildflower with stout green winged stems and shallow fibrous roots. The plant normally grows about 2 to 5 feet in height and 2 to 3 feet in width. The plant is found growing in wet meadows, marshes, rich thickets, meadows, shores, moist calcareous soils, wet openings, edges, along rivers, streams and ponds, mesic hardwoods floodplains, sandy alluvial dikes, drainage ditches, pine flat wood depressions, wet woodlands, wet roadsides, moist soil of limestone bluffs, moist black land prairies, fens, forests, seepage areas, soil prairies, railroads, poorly drained pastures and abandoned fields. The plant prefers loamy or silty soils that are high in organic matter. Plants can thrive in wet or evenly moist soil but will tolerate a bit of drought after establishment.

Stem

Stems are erect or ascending, winged, and branched above the middle. Above the middle the stems are moderately to densely covered with short, spreading to ascending, somewhat curled hairs. They are also moderately covered with yellow, stalk less or impressed glands. Below the middle the stem is sparsely to moderately hairy.

Leaves

Stem leaves are alternate, stalk less, numerous, and spread outward. The leaves are longest at the middle of the stem, becoming slightly smaller as they ascend the stem. The upper and lower surfaces are sometimes hairless but are usually moderately to densely covered with short, mostly spreading, sometimes curved hairs. They are also densely dotted with yellow, stalk less or impressed glands. Middle and upper stem leaves are 1½ inches to 6 inches long and 3 ⁄16 inches to 2 inches wide. Basal and lower leaves are somewhat smaller than middle stem leaves. Basal leaves are lance-shaped, inversely lance-shaped, or inversely egg-shaped, and are sometimes cut with shallow, rounded lobes (pinnatifid). Lower and middle stem leaves are inversely egg-shaped to inversely lance-shaped. They are tapered at the base and angled or taper to a sharp point at the tip. The base of the leaf blade continues down the stem as a narrow, green wing. The margins are either untoothed or are toothed often only above the middle of the blade. Upper stem leaves are inversely lance-shaped to lance-shaped but otherwise similar to middle stem leaves. Basal and lower stem leaves are absent or withered by flowering time.

Flower

The inflorescence is 2 to 25 flower heads in open, leafy, branched, panicle-like clusters at the end of the stems and branches. Each cluster is on a ¾ inches to 3 inches long, sparsely to moderately hairy stalk. The whorl of 15 to 21 green bracts at the base of the flower head (involucre) is globe-shaped, 5 ⁄16 inches to ⅝ inches long, and ⅜ inches to ⅝ inches in diameter. The bracts of the involucre (phyllaries) are in 2 series. The outer phyllaries are fused at the base.

Each flower head is 1 inch to 2½ inches in diameter. There are 8 to 21 ray florets and 200 to 400 or more disk florets. The ray florets are yellow, ⅜ inches to 1 inch long and ⅛ inches to ⅜ inches wide and double notched at the tip. They are narrow at the base and taper evenly to a broad tip. The disk florets are yellow to brownish and form a large, globe-shaped, sometimes somewhat flattened disk. Flower stalks are finely hairy and slightly swollen at the base of the flower. Flowers appear over a lengthy late summer to autumn (sometimes to first frost) bloom as indicated by species name. Flowering normally takes place in between August to October.

Fruit

Fertile flowers are followed by dry, one-seeded, 1 ⁄16 inches long seed capsule (cypsela) with a tuft of 5 to 7 short bristles (pappus) attached to the end. Seeds are finely hairy but lack a tuft of hairs at the tip.

Traditional uses and benefits of Sneezeweed

  • Sneezeweed leaves and flowers are used as medicine for their anti-inflammatory, astringent, diaphoretic, and anti-parasitic properties.
  • Dried flowers have been traditionally used as a snuff to create sneezing to relieve congestion and clear nasal passages during head colds and respiratory infections.
  • Dried nearly mature flower heads are used in a powdered form as a snuff to treat colds and headaches.
  • When made into a tea they are used in the treatment of intestinal worms.
  • The powdered leaves are sternutatory.
  • An infusion of the leaves is laxative and alterative.
  • An infusion of the stems has been used as a wash in the treatment of fevers.
  • The plant contains helenalin, a compound that has shown significant anti-tumor activity.
  • It is used topical for sprains, sore joints, torn ligaments, bruising, and generally for inflammation and trauma to the muscular-skeletal system.
  • Sneezeweed helps to rid the intestines of worms, and other parasites.
  • The decoction can be used for fevers and chills.
  • This plant was once used by the Native Americans to cure head colds.
  • Powder made of dry leaves was used in the past to induce sneezing and facilitate elimination of the evil spirits from the body.
  • Native Americans used common sneezeweed in treatment of fever and common cold.

Other Facts

  • The chemicals in sneezeweed can poison livestock, particularly sheep.
  • The sesquiterpene lactone helenalin found in sneezeweed has insecticidal properties and has been found to be poisonous to fish and dogs.
  • The plant is toxic to livestock.
  • Helenium means tenderness and tears.

Precautions

  • The plant is poisonous to ruminants.
  • Contact with the plant might cause dermatitis in sensitive people.
  • It may cause sneezing and skin rash.
  • Leaves, flowers, and seeds are poisonous to humans, if eaten in large quantities, causing gastric and intestinal irritation, which can become fatal.
  • The plants also contain sesquiterpene lactones, which may cause a skin rash in some people.

References:

https://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=36006#null

https://npgsweb.ars-grin.gov/gringlobal/taxon/taxonomydetail?id=27906

https://pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Helenium+autumnale

https://www.cabi.org/isc/datasheet/114697#toidentity

https://gd.eppo.int/taxon/HENAU

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helenium_autumnale

http://www.theplantlist.org/tpl1.1/record/gcc-85973

https://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?kempercode=c930

https://gobotany.nativeplanttrust.org/species/helenium/autumnale/

http://www.minnesotaseasons.com/Plants/common_sneezeweed.html

https://www.illinoiswildflowers.info/wetland/plants/sneezeweed.htm

https://temperate.theferns.info/plant/Helenium+autumnale

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