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"Part 1: Medicinal Plants," from Ainu Economic Plants by John Batchelor and Kingo Miyabe, 1893

1. Arikko

Thalictrum Aquilegifolium, L.

Karamatsu-sō. The Feather Columbine

The roots of this plant eaten either raw or roasted are said to cure pains in the stomach. They are very bitter to the taste, Sometimes, however, on occasions of stomach-ache a decoction is made by steeping the roots in boiling water, and a good strong dose taken. This is said to work wonders. Should a person wound his hand when at work, or thrust some sharp object into his foot when walking through the forest, he will take the roots, chew them to a paste, and apply to the wounded part to prevent suppuration [Pus formation].

Some of the Ainu take the leaves of this herb, roll them between the hands to bruise and make them soft, and then plaster over any part of the body where there should be an internal pain or contusion

2. Horap or Orap

Paeonia obovata, Maxim.


The root of this plant is dug up, dried and preserved for medicinal purposes. It has a bitter taste. In cases of stomach-ache some Ainu take a piece of the root, and swallow it with water. It is said to have an immediate effect. The root chewed to a paste is sometimes applied to aching joints of the body. For ordinary slight ailments, a decoction of this root is commonly recommended.

In Mukawa and elsewhere, the seeds of this paeony are recommended as a remedy for sore eyes; when used for this purpose, the seeds are chewed up and put in a piece of clean white cloth; the juice is then squeezed out into the eyes. In Usu, when a person suffers from a pain in his ears, the smoke from a mixture of tobacco and powdered seeds is blown into them.

3. Opke-ni or Omaukush-ni

Magnolia Kobus, DC.


The bark is the part employed as medicine. A decoction is taken it time of colds. As in the case of Pukusa (see No. 39 and 120) and Kikin-ni (see No. 13 and 58.), the bark of this Magnolia is believed to have the mysterious power of driving away the demons of disease. In times of a pestilence, a piece of the bark is commonly put into the drinking water as a preventive. Branches are placed over doors and windows as a charm. A thin decoction is often made and drunk in place of tea.

4. Repnihat

Schizandra chinensis, Bail.


The vines are the part generally used as medicine, although the fruit is also sometimes used. By some Ainu it is believed to be a specific for colds. When taken for colds, a piece of the vine is rolled up and put into a cup containing boiling water. The thin decoction thus made is taken. It is also recommended by some Ainu as a remedy for sea-sickness

5. Otompui-kina

Chelidonium majus, L.

Kusa-no-wo. The Common Celandine

The stem and leaves, after having been softened by dipping into hot water, are applied externally to any place where there are internal pains caused by a fall or contusion. Some Ainu believe that the yellow juice of this plant destroys warts. This may possibly have been learned from the Japanese. It is also reputed to be an antidote against snake-poisoning. Some Ainu apply this plant to the stomach to relieve internal pains. A most peculiar practice is, when a child suffers from constipation, to place a small piece of bruised stem in the anus. This is said to have an immediate effect.

6. Riten-kina

Stellaria media, L.

Hakobe. The Chickweed

This common weed is widely used for external application to bruises or to any part of the body where the bones ache. The stems and leaves are steeped in hot water before being applied.

7. Kutchi-pungara

Actinidia arguta, Planch.


In the spring of the year, when the vine of this climber is cut, sap flows out freely and in large quantities. The sap is used as a medicine and is believed to be a good expectorant. (See No. 51).

8. Shikerebe-ni

Phellodendron amurense, Rupr.

Kiwada or Shikoro.

The inner bark of this tree is much esteemed by the Ainu as a medicine. It is yellow in colour and extremely bitter to the taste. It is applied externally over any portion of the body where there should be internal pain, particularly such as may have been caused by falling from a horse, or by any similar accident. It is also applied to burns, scalds and sore eyes. The bark is bruised and made damp either by chewing or with water before it is used. Persons who travel in the interior of this island and who are called upon to wade streams the greater part of the day, suffer greatly from a skin disease called mizu-mushi by the Japanese. This disease attacks the spaces between the toes, quickly making them quite raw. An application or two of the inner bark of the shikerebe-ni is said to remove the malady.

The berries of this tree are much prized by some Ainu as a medicine ; they are said to be a good expectorant. In some places the berries are used in cases where the muscles have been strained and caused to swell. On such occasions a few of the berries are chewed into a pasty mass and put upon the affected part. The fruit is also used as an article of food.

9. Shiu-ni or Yuk-raige-ni.

Picrasma ailanthoides, Planch.


The bark of this tree has a very bitter taste which is believed by the Ainu to be poisonous. A strong decoction is often used to kill head-lice. Eruptions on the scalps of children are also sometimes washed with it. It is said that should deer eat the bark of this tree they die very soon after. Hence the name, which means "Deer-killing-tree."

10. Tochi-ni

Æsculus turbinata, Bl.

Tochi-no-ki, The Horse-chestnut

The nuts of this plant are often used as a medicine. They are taken and dried for future use. When required they are soaked and well scraped. The scrapings are then steeped in water and the decoction used to wash wounds with. The Ainu often use it for washing the eyes of horses when they run water or discharge matter.

11. Oikara

Pueraria Thunbergiana, Benth.


The root of this plant is dug up and used as a remedy of aches and bruises. The root is thoroughly roasted at a fire and the affected part of the body well rubbed with it. The root-stock of the Pueraria is rich in very fine starch and is much esteemed by the Japanese ; but the Ainu know nothing of it as an article of food.

12. Chikube-ni

Cladrastis amurensis, Benth var. Buergeri, Max.


The bark of this tree is believed to have a poisonous property. It is externally applied on the body where there is internal pain.

13. Kikin-ni

Prunus Padus, L.

Yezo-uwamizu-zakura, the Bird-Cherry

The bark of this tree is sometimes steeped in hot water and used as a remedy for stomach-ache. The decoction is drunk.

The bark is also sometimes used as a beverage in place of tea. At Saru and elsewhere this plant is believed to have the power of driving away the demons of disease and is therefore used as a charm.

14. Tokaomap

Cicuta virosa, L.

Dokuzeri, the Cowbane or Water Hemlock

The root-stock of this plant is deadly poisonous. Some Ainu apply externally the charred root-stock when there is a pain in the bone.

15. Upeu

Seseli Libanotis, Koch var. sibirica, DC.

Ibuki-bōfu no isshu

A kind of umbelliferous herb having a strong medicinal smell and flavour. It is much used as medicine and is said to be good for every complaint. It grows in dry places- especially on sandy beaches. The root is the part used. In times of epidemic disease upeu is much sought after by the Ainu for it is thought to be a great preventive of illness and is said to act as a kind of charm. I have often seen them chewing it, and found it hanging up in huts to keep off sickness. During a time when smallpox was raging I saw a dog, with some tied to his collar, driven round a house! This plant may be taken at any time in place of tea or water and is, indeed, often preferred. A decoction is usually made by steeping the herb in hot water; and is so taken in cases of severe cold. Some of the old Ainu mix small pieces of this root with their tobacco to improve its flavour.

16. Yakara-kina or Mo-shiu-kina

Angelica refracta, Fr. Schm.


A kind of umbelliferous plant found growing in wet and damp places. It is used for medicinal purposes, and is said to be especially good in cases of pain in the stomach. The root-stock only is used. It is generally taken in decoction though sometimes it is put into soup and eaten with the food.

From the fact that upon procuring samples of the dried root-stocks of this Angelica at the villages of Saru and Chitose in the month of March, it seems that they must form one of their common medicines. They are cut up very small with a knife, and put in hot water. The decoction thus made is drunk, herb and all. At Saru it is taken in time of chest-troubles, and Chitose, in cases of stomach-ache and chest-troubles.

17. Chima-kina

Aralia cordata, Thunb.

Udo, The Spikenard

Some Ainu use the root-stock of this plant for wounds inflicted by bears or other animals. A decoction is often made and the wounds washed with it, after which fresh slices are applied. The spikenard is also used for food by some Ainu

18. Oinamat

Adenocaulon adhaerescens, Maxim.


When a person is poisoned by sumach (Rhus), the leaves of this plant softened by warming at a fire are generally applied.

19. Noya

Artemisia vulgaris, L.

Yomogi, the Mugwort

When one has taken cold, the stem and leaves of the mugwort are boiled in a pan, and a patient is made to inhale the steam, with a cloth covered over his head and the pan, until he or she freely perspires. Sometimes in similar cases, a decoction of the stems and leaves are drunk. A moxa is sometimes made by pounding leaves. This plant is also often to be found up in houses as a charm against evil, but particularly against disease.

20. Kamui-noya

Artemisia sacrorum, Ledeb., var. latiloba, Ledeb.


This kind of mugwort grows chiefly on rocky cliffs and sometimes on the sandy banks of rivers. It is sub-shrubby in habit, and has a strong medicinal odour. It is largely used as a medicine by the Ainu of Kushiro, Kitami and Teshio. The name _Kamui-noya _is also applied by some Ainu to other species of Artemisia. (A. Stelleriana, Bess. and A. Japonica, Thunb.)

21. Makayo.

The flower-shoot of Petasites japonicus, Miq.


This flower-shoot is sometimes used by the Ainu for food, but is often taken in strong decoction for heavy colds. It is very bitter to the taste. (See Korokoni, No. 80).

22. Seta-korokoni

Arctium Lappa, L.

Gobō, the Burdock

The young leaves of this plant are softened by rolling them between the palms. They are then applied to skin eruptions. It may also be remarked that the roots of this plant are sometimes boiled and eaten as food.

23. Epotan-ni

Ligustrum medium, Fr. et Sav.


Some Ainu believe that chop-sticks made from this shrub, if always used, will prevent the teeth from becoming carious.

24. Ikema or Penup

Cynanchum caudatum, Maxim.


A kind of Asclepiadaceous plant used for food and medicine. It is said to be good for any complaint, but is a special remedy for small-pox. To wounds of all kinds a the decoction when applied is said to prevent the formation of pus. Half cooked roots are said to have an intoxicating effect, and to cause loss of all control over the limbs and to do away with the sensation of the skin. The root is dried and stored up for future use, however, it is sometimes taken fresh either roasted or boiled and is said to have a very sweet flavour. In time if epidemic sickness the root is chewed in its raw state and the juice blown from the mouth sometimes upon and over the afflicted person, sometimes all over the inside of the hut and through the door and windows, and sometimes, again, round the house and even whole villages. When so used the _ikema _or penup is supposed to act as a kind of charm to drive away the demon of sickness. Those who use this plant so are generally intoxicated by it.

It is also said to be very efficacious as an antidote to poison. As an article of food this plant is used very sparingly and well cooked.

25. Chiukomau

Physalis Alkekegi, L.

Hōzuki, the Winter Cherry.

When there is a pain in the hips, the fruit is smashed and applied as a poultice.

26. Seta-endo

Elsholtzia cristata, Willd.


The decoction of this highly aromatic plant which is commonly found around the huts of the Ainu is prescribed to persons suffering from the after effects of intoxication. It is also used in the place of tea.

27. Toiorush-mun or Kamui-keu-kina

Mentha arvensis, L. var vulgaris, Benth,

Hakka. The Peppermint

The bruised leaves of this plant are applied to any place where a person is in pain.

28. Shumnu-hash

Lindera hypoglauca, Maxim.

Kuromoji or Torikoshiba

Among some Ainu this plant is looked upon as a good remedy for stomach-ache, and has a very nice smell and flavour. The wood is broken up fine and boiled. When cool a dose is taken. Sometimes, however, the decoction is poured over rice or millet and taken.

29. Ketu-hash

Daphne chinensis, Lam., var. Breviflora.

Koshōnoki or Karasu-shikimi

The whole plant is reputed to have a poisonous property, but especially its berries and roots. Some Ainu burn the roots to charcoal and pound them to powder. This powder is applied to bruises or places where there is any internal pain; but it is never applied to cut-wounds

30. Ni-haru

Viscum album, L.

Yadorigi or Hoya, the Mistletoe

The Ainu like many nations of northern origin hold the mistletoe in peculiar veneration. They look upon it as a medicine good in almost every disease. It is taken either in food or separately as a decoction. The leaves are used in preference to the berries, the latter being of too sticky a nature for general purposes. Some Ainu have been known to use the mistletoe leaves merely for tea without any reference to their supposed medicinal properties, while others sometimes mix it with their stews.

By many Ainu the mistletoe is supposed to have the power of making the gardens bear plentifully. When used for this purpose the leaves are cut up into fine pieces, and after having been prayed over, are sown with the millet and other seeds ; a little also being eaten with the food. Barren women have also been known to eat the mistletoe in order to be made to bear children. That mistletoe which grows upon the willows is supposed to have the greatest efficacy because the willow is looked upon by the Ainu as being a sacred tree. (See. No. 100.)

31. Kapai

Laportea bulbifera, Wedd.


The stems and leaves of this plant are, after having been well roasted and mashed, used as fomentation for ulcers. (See also No. 105).

32. Kamui-tat

Betula Ermani, Cham.


The bark of this birch can be peeled off in very thin layers. Some of these papery layers are sometimes pasted over wounds in place of plasters. They are said to possess good healing properties and to prevent inflammation.

32. b. Nitat-kene

Alnus japonica, Miq.

Han-no-ki or Yachiba-han-no-ki, the Alder

A decoction made by steeping the bark of this tree in hot water is said to be good for pains in the stomach. Ainu women take a dose of this medicine immediately after child-birth. The special name of this decoction is Ichuptasarep. It is said to be exceedingly bitter to the taste.

33. Ura-susu or Urai-susu

Salix multinervis, Fr. et Sav.


The fresh bark of this shrubby willow is widely used by the Ainu for application to cut or bruised surfaces. The bark is cut into fine shreds with a knife, and plunged for a short time into hot water to make it soft. It is then applied to the wound and is retained there by bandage. The bark is renewed from time to time.

34. Yai-ni or Nup-kurun-ni

Populus tremula, L.


The fresh bark is cut up into fine shreds and applied to cut-wounds to prevent the formation of pus.

35. Shungu-unkotuk

The resin of Picea ajanensis, Fisch.

Yezo-matsu no yani

Some Ainu apply the resin of this spruce to cut wounds to hasten their healing

36. Nimak-kotuk

Cremastra Wallichiana, Lindl.

Saihai-ran or Hakkuri

The root of this orchid is used as a remedy for toothache. It is merely chewed and then expectorated. It is of a very sticky nature and clings to the teeth very tenaciously, hence its name. Nimak, "teeth," and kotuk, "to adhere to." Sometimes a stiff paste or ointment is made of this herb and spread over swellings and boils as a remedy. However, in whatever way it may be used it is not supposed to be a very certain cure, and is not applied when other more favourite remedies are at hand. A strong glue is made from the roots of the plant by pounding them well.

37. Shuwonte

Smilax herbacea, L.

Shiode, the Carrion Flower

The application of the softened leaves is said to heal troubles of the eyes. They are also applied to skin eruptions and wounds,

38. Etoruratkip

Polygonatum giganteum, Dietr., var, falcatum, Maxim.

Naruko-yuri, the Solomon's Seal

A piece of the root-stock of this plant is sometimes put into the mouth of a child who suffers from laceration of the tongue and lips and is allowed to remain there until the pain is relieved

39. Pukusa or Hurarui-kina

Allium victorialis, L.

Gyojya-ninniku or Kitobiru

This herb is said to be specially useful as a remedy for colds. It is also sometimes to be found hung up in door-ways and entrances and by windows as a charm against epidemic disease.

40. Surugu-kusuri

Acorus Calamus, L.

Shōbu, the Sweet Flag

The root stock of this plant is extensively used by the Ainu as a medicine. It is dried and kept with ikema and moshiu-kina. Pains in the stomach caused by drinking bad water, or by eating improper food, are said to be relieved by taking a decoction of this root-stock. It is also said to be efficacious in cases of cold and headache.

41. Shupuyanup

Lycoperdon sps.

Kitsune-no-chabukuro. The Puff-ball

Spores of this fungus are sometimes outwardly applied by the Ainus to cure pains in the body. It is also applied as a remedy for scalds and burns.

42. Shiu-karush or Kui-karush

Polyporus officinalis, Fr.

Eburiko or Toboshi

A kind of fungus growing upon larch tree and having a very bitter taste. This polyporus is used by some Ainu as a medicine. It is chewed and rubbed into painful places. But generally its decoction is swallowed as a remedy for stomach-ache. It comes chiefly from the Kurile Islands and was greatly prized by the old Japanese doctors.

43. Umma-shikarush

A kind of toadstool which grows only from horse-droppings. It is sometimes applied to wounds, scalds and burns as a remedy.

44. Nikambi

The white leathery layers of the fungus mycelium found between the bark and wood of dead oak, elm or ash trees. It is applied to wounds on the body to stop hemorrhage.

John Batchelor and Kingo Miyabe, Ainu Economic Plants (Yokohama: Meiklejohn & Co., 1893).

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