The peach tree has not only been a giver of fruit for Ozark people, the Ozarks has a long history with both peaches and apples, but also a wonderful source of medicine. Traditional use in Cherokee medicine include:
Decoction or teaspoon of parched seed kernels taken for worms.
Infusion of scraped bark taken for vomiting.
Infusion of any part taken as a purgative.
Used for skin diseases and leaves wrung in cold water used to bathe swelling.
Strong infusion taken for fever.
Infusion of leaves taken for sick stomach.
…and in Koasati medicine:
Leaves rubbed on the scratches of tired legs.
(From Daniel E. Moerman’s Native American Ethnobotany)
Here are some of the traditional uses in the Ozark mountains. You’ll notice many crossovers with the indigenous uses for the plant, no coincidence there:
Scraping bark in a certain direction to prevent vomiting or as a purgative – “In scraping bark from a tree or shrub, the direction in which it is cut may make a vast difference in its effect as medicine. Peach-tree bark, for example, if the tree is shaved upward, is supposed to prevent vomiting, or to stop a diarrhea. But if the bark is scraped downward, the tea made from it is regarded as a violent purgative. In general, the old-timers say that if the pain is in the lower part of the body, it is best to scrape the bark downward, to drive the disease into the legs and out at the toes. If the bark in such a case were stripped upward, it might force the pizen up into the patient’s heart, lungs, or head, and kill him instantly.” ~Vance Randolph OMF 95
Leaves used as an emetic – “A thick ooze of peach-tree leaves is another valuable emetic, according to Mr. Lewis Kelley, of Cyclone, Missouri.” ~Vance Randolph OMF 96
Leaves used for worms – “A tea made from peach leaves is also a common remedy for worms…” ~Vance Randolph OMF 106
Roots used for seven-year itch – “A mess of peach roots, ground up and mixed with lard, is said to cure the seven-year itch.” ~Vance Randolph OMF 109
Bark for upset stomach – “For vomitin’ peel the bark off a peach tree one way to help git rid of the stomach distress, to git rid of the vomitin’- peel it the other way…If you strip the bark down towards the body of the tree, it stops the vomiting, and if youens strips it up the tree it starts the vomiting. Don’t youens forgit to bile it or soak it in water or hit won’t work.” ~Sherman Lee Pompey GG
Leaf tea for glands, bladder, and kidneys – “Now this old lady told my first wife about peach tree tea. If you have gland trouble, it’ll cure it. It works for it’s done it for me. Get the leaves of the limbs from the north side of the peach tree. Get your leaves and dry ‘em and save ‘em and then as you think you need to drink some tea just put it on and bring it to a boil and then set it off and let it seep. If you get the limbs, boil your limbs to get the medicine out of it. That’ll cure up your gland trouble as well as prolonging your life. There’s not a better kidney and bladder medicine than that it. It’ll really kill the gland trouble if you’ll stay with it. The first glass or two of peach tree tea you can really tell the difference in urinating. It’ll run right through and I mean it’ll clean you out. The more you drink the better off you are and the better shape you’ll be. It’s really wonderful.” ~Carter and Krause HRIO
Used as a sedative – “A good sedative can be made by boiling peach tree bark.” ~Mary Parler FBA II 1346
Leaves used in a poultice – “Twist peach tree leaves and boil them in water. Then put this mixture in a cloth sack and put on any place that is paining.” ~Mary Parler FBA II 1366
Peach tree stick used to cure asthma – “For asthma take a peach tree limb the length of the child and then bury it. The asthma will then go away.” ~Mary Parler FBA II 1431
OMF – Ozark Magic and Folklore by Vance Randolph
GG – Granny Gore’s Ozark Folk Medicine by Sherman Lee Pompey
FBA – Folk Beliefs from Arkansas collected by University of Arkansas students and edited by Mary Celestia Parler