Clematis ligusticifolia is a climbing, spreading vine with showy flowers. It is also known as Old-man's Beard and Yerba de Chiva, and Virgin's bower, (though Old-man's Beard may also refer to C. vitalba, and Virgin's bower may also refer to C. lasiantha). It is native to North America where it is widespread across the western United States in streamside thickets, wooded hillsides, and coniferous forests up to 4,000 feet.
It was called "pepper vine" by early travelers and pioneers of the American Old West. They used it as a pepper substitute to spice up food since real black pepper (Piper nigrum) was a costly and rarely obtainable spice. Like the rest of the Clematis genus, it contains essential oils and compounds which are extremely irritating to the skin and mucous membranes. Unlike Black Pepper or Capsicum, however, the compounds in clematis cause internal bleeding of the digestive tract if ingested internally in large amounts. The plants are essentially toxic. Despite its toxicity, Native Americans used very small amounts of clematis for migraine headaches and nervous disorders. It was also used as an effective treatment of skin infections. A whole-plant hot water extraction was used to treat eczema, and a leaf compress is used to treat chest pain, sores, and boils.[medical citation needed]
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