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Ethnobotanic: The red cedar is used by many tribes for incense in purification and ritual (Kindscher 1992). For numerous tribes, the red cedar tree symbolizes the tree of life and is burned in sweat
lodges and in purification rites.
The Blackfeet made a tea from the berries of the red cedar to stop vomiting (Kindscher 1992). A Blackfeet remedy for arthritis and rheumatism was to boil red cedar leaves in water, add one-half teaspoon of turpentine, and when cooled, rub the mixture on affected parts. The Blackfeet also drank a tea made from red cedar root as a general tonic; mixed with Populus leaves this root tea became a liniment for stiff backs or backache (McClintock 1909, Johnston 1970, Hellson 1974).
The Cheyenne steeped the leaves of the red cedar and drank the resulting tea to relieve persistent coughing or a tickling in the throat. It was also believed to produce sedative effects that were especially useful for calming a hyperactive person. Cheyenne women drank the red cedar tea to speed delivery during childbirth (Grinnell 1962). The Cheyenne, along with the Flathead, Nez Perce, Kutenai, and Sioux, made a tea from red cedar boughs, branches, and fleshy cones, which they drank for colds, fevers, tonsillitis, and pneumonia (Hart 1976).
As a cure for asthma, the Gros Ventres ate whole red cedar berries or pulverized them and boiled them to make a tea. They also made a preparation from the leaves mixed with the root, which they applied
topically to control bleeding (Kroeber 1908). The Crows drank this medicinal tea to check diarrhea and
to stop lung or nasal hemorrhage. Crow women drank it after childbirth for cleansing and healing
The young leafy twigs of the red cedar were officially listed in the U.S. Pharmacopoeia from 1820 to 1894 as a diuretic (Kindscher 1992). The distilled oil of the red cedar has been officially listed as a reagent in the U.S. Pharmacopoeia since 1916 (ibid.).
The wood of red cedar is very durable, and was used for lance shafts, bows, and other items. Flutes made from red cedar wood were highly regarded by the Cheyenne. Cedar boughs were used for bedding. The Menomini wove mats of cedar bark. The mats were used for roofing temporary structures, for partitions, floor mats and wrappings, and for various purposes in the canoes.
According to Webster's Dictionary of Word Origins, the word "gin" was derived from "genever" (now spelled with an initial J) from the Latin Juniperus by way of old French. It was a Dutch word for a drink made of distilled spirits and flavored with juniper berries when this was still a new concoction. British soldiers returning from wars in the lowlands brought home the word along with the beverage. In it's new land, however, the word was influenced by the similar sounding name of a city in Switzerland, and thus the earliest name for the drink is geneva, which appeared in print in 1706. In eighteenth century England, the popular creation of new slang or cant words by clipping longer words was just as common as it is today, thus there arose a shortened form, gin, to not only mean the Dutch drink but also a similar liquor made in Britain.