Native to North America, Europe, and Asia, Pipsissewa is an evergreen plant that grows around the world in temperate climates, thriving in woods and shady places in sandy soil. It has several stems and grows to about eight inches, producing shiny, wedge-shaped leaves and small flat-topped clusters of white flowers tinged with red. It is now extensively grown in Europe, Asia, Siberia, and North and South America, and is a protected species in Germany. The leaves are gathered in summer.
It was much used by Native North Americans, especially the Okanagan-Coleville, Iroquois, and Delaware, to induce sweating and to treat such fevers as typhus. They also used it for kidney and bladder complaints, to regulate menstruation, and externally for skin diseases, including smallpox. They also used it to treat childbirth complications, respiratory problems, rheumatism, stomach cancer, constipation, venereal disease, and heart ailments.
European settlers used the herb for rheumatism and urinary and kidney problems.
Pipsissewa was listed in the US Pharmacopoeia from 1820 to 1916.