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“Just as the wood of the yew is used where strength is required, so the tree is also used medicinally to impart strength.”  Smooth sticks of yew are used by a Swinomish youth to rub himself to gain strength. The Swinomish use boughs to rub themselves when bathing.

The Chehalis crush the leaves and soak them in water which is used to bathe a baby or an old person.  It is supposed to make them perspire and improve their condition. While the Chehalis never drink this water, the Klallan prepare the leaves in the same way, boil them, and drink the infusion for an internal injury or pain.  The Cowlitz moisten leaves of yew, grind them up, and apply the pulp to wounds. The Quinault chew the leaves and 

spit them on the wounds.  This stings, but is supposed to be very healing. They are the only tribe making medicinal use of the bark, which is peeled, dried and boiled.  The liquid is drunk as a lung medicine.

Ethnobotany of Western Washington – The Knowledge and Use of Indigenous Plants by Native

Revised edition by Erna Gunther (1973)

Page 16 – Subject: Taxaceae, Yew Family

University of Washington Press- Seattle, WA


“The people scraped the bark off the western Yew twigs and branches and then made a tea by boiling it in water.  Taken to relieve a stomachache, the decoction was also used for kidney problems.  No formula or song was needed for its ingestion.”

Plants and the People – Ethnobotany of the Karuk Tribe

By Barbara J. Davis and Michael Hendric (1991)

Page 37 – Subject: Taxus brevifolia

Siskiyou County Museum – Yreka, CA


Like other Native American cultures, the Kalapuya used the yew medicinally.

According to Bill Burwell:

“They used yew wood in a skin salve in which the needles and the bark were soaked in water and then prepared with grease into a concoction that was used on the skin as a protection against sunburn.  The Yoncallas used it as a tonic for old people who would ingest a tea made out of the yew needles.”

The Yew Tree, A Thousand Whispers

By Hal Hartzell, Jr. (1991)

Page 139, Chapter 8, Native Americans and Pacific Yew

Hulogosi Publishing – Eugene, OR

Native Americans of the northwest coast used Pacific yew for tools, weapons, personal items, and sacred objects.  They did not destroy their yew as western cultures had done, but took branches and staves for bows, canoe paddles, or digging sticks from living trees.

They crushed needles to make salves for skin diseases and poultices for bronchitis. Needles and bark were brewed into teas or smoked for remedies against headaches, dizziness, and stomach and lung problems.  Women ate yew berries to prevent childbirth.

Native Americans considered the yew to be sacred and made spirit poles, death masks, ceremonial boxes and platters, as well as shaman’s wands, whistles, rattles, drum frames, and other religious objects out of its wood.  Some tribes call it “Chief of the Forest”

Taxol Science and Applications

Edited by Matthew Suffness (1995)

Page 32

CRC Press – Boca Raton, FL


“Four Barks” Medicine for Internal Ailments Containing:

Taxus brevifolia, Acer macrophyllum, Alnus rubra, Quercus garryana …….used for anything wrong with stomach or digestive tract, such as ulcer or liver deterioration, tuberculosis, kidney problems.

Contemporary Use of Bark for Medicine by Two Salishan Native Elders of Southeast

Vancouver Island, Canada

By Nancy J. Turner and Richard J. Hebda (1989)

Botany Unit, Royal British Museum, Victoria, B.C., Canada

Elsevier Scientific Publishers Ireland Ltd.


Dried leaf infusion used as an emmenagogue (stimulate menstrual flow) in adult females.

Plants Used as Contraceptives by the North American Indians– an ethnobotanical study

Krag, K.J. (1976) Thesis – B.S., Harvard University

Botanical Museum, Harvard University

Cambridge, MA


Taxus brevifolia Bark Used to Treat Skin Cancer


Plants of the Olympic Coastal Forests: Ancient Knowledge of Materials and Medicines and Future Heritage (1992)

Forlines, D.R., Tavenner, T., Malan, J.C.S,  Karchesy, J.J.

Basic Life Sciences #59 (767-782)

Lapush, WA, USA


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