Partridgeberry is an old folk remedy for “female troubles.” Native Americans relied on this herb to help facilitate all aspects of childbirth, including labor, delivery, and expulsion of afterbirth. Used several weeks before expected delivery, Partridgeberry is thought to stimulate the uterus and encourage a safe and easier birth. It is also used to promote suppressed menstruation and relieve painful menstruation.
Partridgeberry is an ornamental, creeping, evergreen perennial. It is native to North America and thrives in dry woods among timber and also in swampy places in humus-rich, neutral-to-acid soil in shade. It beautifies the dull, colorless winter forests with its green, clover-like leaves and bright scarlet berries that hug the ground. The berries are edible but tasteless, dry, and full of stony seeds and are said to be the favored food of the ruffed grouse, a bird similar to the European partridge; thus, the name Partridgeberry emerged. Another common name, Deerberry, is derived from the fact that deer also eat the berries. The aerial vine is used in herbal medicine.
Native Americans carefully guarded the secrets of this herb, but it was finally revealed that Cherokee and Penobscot women (among others) used the herb several weeks before confinement in order to render childbirth safe and easy, and because they were the first to utilize the herb in this manner, the herb received another common name, Squaw Vine. The English colonists learned of this use and adopted Partridgeberry as an aid in childbirth and as a remedy for menstrual cramps. The vine was included in the U. S. National Formulary from 1926 through 1947. Among the constituents included in Partridgeberry are resin, wax, mucilage, dextrin, saponin, tannins, alkaloids, and glycosides.
Partridgeberry is believed to facilitate all aspects of childbirth. Taken by Native American women during confinement (the last stages of pregnancy and nearing delivery), the herb was believed to prepare the uterus for an easier and safe delivery. Partridgeberry is thought to stimulate and tone the uterus, strengthen and relax the uterine muscles, and thus strengthen uterine contractions. Finally, the herb is said to help expel afterbirth when delivery is over. Partridgeberry is believed to benefit all uterine complaints and many gynecologic ailments and has been used to ease menstrual cramps and bring on suppressed menstruation. The herb is also said to relieve pelvic congestion and alleviate the mucous discharge of leukorrhea.
As a tonic and astringent, Partridgeberry is thought to soothe mucous membranes and reduce catarrh and excess mucus. It is also believed to be effective in the treatment of diarrhea and colitis. Partridgeberry also exerts a mild tonic and soothing effect on the nervous system and is thought to calm the nerves, ease nervous exhaustion, and irritability.
As a mild diuretic, Partridgeberry is believed to promote suppressed urine and is also said to be effective in some cases of dropsy (edema), which is the retention of fluid by the body that causes swelling and discomfort. (It is not a disease in itself, but a manifestation of some other condition and should be checked by a doctor.) Used externally, nursing mothers may find relief in a topical lotion made from the leaves of Partridgeberry and applied to the breasts to ease soreness after breastfeeding. It has also been used as an astringent skin wash.