Day 196: New Plant Friends: Oriental Bittersweet

In this series we’ll be looking at some of my newly identified plant friends. Some are medicinals, most are not.

The first plant we’ll be looking at is the Oriental Bittersweet, or Celastrus orbiculatus which is an introduced invasive vine that resembles the American native variety Celastrus scandens. The difference, I’ve been told, is that the outer shell on the berry of C. scandens is a darker orange compared to the invasive variety. It’s possible that the photo I took is actually of C. scandens, and if anyone is able to tell please let me know!

As for it’s medicinal value, C. scandens roots were used by several Native American groups and pioneers to induce vomiting, to treat venereal disease, and to treat symptoms of tuberculosis. According to the USDA’s plant profileof C. orbiculatus “…is an Asian folk medicine used for treating rheumatoid arthritis and bacterial infections. Medical and pharmacological studies show that Oriental bittersweet derivatives have antitumor, antiinflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial, and insecticidal properties. One Oriental bittersweet derivative shows ability to reverse multidrug resistance of cancer cells to cancer-treatment drugs. Oriental bittersweet bark is used as a fine fiber in China. Enzymes in Oriental bittersweet leaves clot milk. These leaf extracts may provide an alternative to calf rennet enzymes used in making cheese.”

It was a nice find out in the woods. The bright berries are quite striking against the otherwise dead foliage surrounding it.

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