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While people worldwide have caught on to the many amazing ways that toyons can be used, the versatility of toyons has been utilized by Native Americans for several generations. Many Native American tribes would use its fruits, leaves, and bark to fit their different needs. So, what uses did Native Americans have for toyons?
Native Americans used toyons primarily for food. There were several different ways the fruit, produced by toyons, was prepared that gave off different tastes. Toyons were also used to treat infected wounds and body aches, make paint, and manufacture tools.
This article will greatly detail the numerous ways the Native Americans utilized toyons. To learn more about the versatility Native Americans found in this plant, continue reading this article.
Native American tribes primarily used toyons for consumption. Because eating the fruit from this plant raw tasted bitter, Native Americans found that cooking the berry-like pome in different ways was much more palpable.
Additionally, cooking toyons removes the toxic compounds, making them safe for ingestion (source). Toyons are unsafe to eat in large doses due to small amounts of cyanogenic glycosides.
Chumash, Tongva, and Tataviam were a few of the tribes that would roast and boil them. The pomes would also be dried and ground up for later use when cooking. Common foods and drinks Native Americans would use the toyons to prepare were:
2. Treatment of Infected Wounds
Native American tribes such as Kumeyaay and Tongva used the healing abilities of toyons. These tribes used this plant to treat infected wounds.
An infusion of bark and leaves was created and used to wash the infected areas and cover their wounds so they could heal properly (source).
3. Treatment of Stomach Disorders
Native Americans often used toyons to help treat different types of stomach disorders in their tribes. Toyons were used as a natural remedy in which tea would be made from the leaves and consumed by Native Americans for healing.
4. Manufacturing Weapons
The wood from toyons is very strong. Because of this, the Chumash tribe found toyons to be highly beneficial for making weapons (source).
The Tongva tribe also used the wood from toyons for these purposes. Arrows and harpoons were common weapons that Native Americans made from toyons (source).
5. Manufacturing Tools
The Tongva tribe, as well as the Chumash tribe, are among Native Americans who used toyons to manufacture tools.
These tools were fashioned from the hardwood of toyon. The strong wood from toyon made it ideal for constructing tools. The tools Native Americans made from toyon include:
6. Treating Discomforts of Menstruation
Native Americans also used toyons to regulate or suppress women’s menstrual cycles by using the leaves to create an infusion.
This infusion would also help with infections and helped to ease the aches and pains of cramping. It also helped to reduce inflammation.
7. Quenching Thirst
At times when there was no water around for Native Americans to drink, their mouths would become very dry. Native Americans, such as the Mahuna tribe, would eat the toyon berries to quench their thirst.
The bitterness from eating the raw berries would cause their mouths to salivate, which would help their mouths not be dry anymore until they were able to drink water again (source).
8. Relieving Body Aches
Native Americans would use an infusion of leaves to aid pain and body aches. Native Americans depended on their bodies for everything they did, whether hunting, gathering, building or any other necessary things to care for their families and tribe. When Native Americans felt the aches and pains of their daily work, they would consume tea made from toyons to treat themselves.
9. Making Clothing
Native American women would use the bark from the toyons to make clothes. They would strip the bark from the toyons, dry it, and shred it to create fibers.
The women would then weave the fibers to create durable and protective clothing (source). This technique was used to make many different articles of clothing from toyons. Some of the clothing constructed from the bark of toyons were:
10. Used for Fuel
The hardwood from toyons was beneficial for Native Americans. They would use the toyons as firewood for fuel. Toyon is flame resistant and, therefore, would burn slowly and for a long time, making this a helpful resource.
Toyons are a renewable resource that grows back very quickly. Within three years, they can grow as big as 10 feet (3 meters).
11. Creating Dyes
Dyes were created from the leaves and stems of toyon branches. Native Americans would boil the stems and leaves for an extended period of time.
The dye is left to sit for a few days and then boiled again. Once the process was finished, they could dye everything from clothing to fish nets.
12. Creating Paints
Native Americans found that toyons could be used to create paint. They would create color using different pigments found in nature. Some of these things included:
- Red clay
- White clay
- Flower petals
- Root juice
Native Americans would crush the pigments and grind them into a paste before blending them with other things found in nature to create paint.
They used paints for storytelling. Some things many tribes loved to decorate to tell their stories were their clothing, animal hides, and pottery, and they could use paint to do it.
Native Americans also painted their bodies for battle, dance, and rituals. Different designs and colors symbolize different meanings. They believed the symbols painted on their faces would give them protection. In warfare and hunting, they used to paint on their bodies to:
- Intimidate their enemies
- Camouflage themselves when hunting
- Serve as a mark of distinction and honor
Horses would be painted as well. Native Americans would paint their horses before battle and before buffalo hunting.
They would paint symbols of their horses’ achievements on their bodies. The paint on horses also represented luck and protection before a battle.