AMARANTH (photos) (Amarathus
Grows from the N.E. United States all the way to the West Coast, including
Grows in poor soil, exception - desert and alpine areas. The green
leaves can be used like spinach in salads or cooked. It tastes similar to
broccoli. Save the water from boiled amaranth for medicinal purposes for
internal maladies. The seeds of this plant can be used for cereal or mixed in
with flour for bread. Ground seeds can be used for a flour substitute.
ANGELICA - (Angelica archangelica) A member of the parsley
family. The flowers are white on purple stems, found along streams and in
swamplands. This plant is found in the eastern parts of Canada, as far south
as Delaware in the United States - as far west as Illinois. It is the root
that is peeled and boiled like a potato, though seeds can be crushed and
boiled for tea as well. It relieves stomach cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea. It
also soothes ulcer pain. The water from boiling the root can be used like tea.
Boiled root can be mashed and used for hand lotion in winter hen hands get dry
and cracked. One must be careful not to mistake Poison Hemlock for Angelica.
BIRCH TREE - (Betula lenta ad B. papyrifera) found in
eastern Canada and United States. Found in forests as far south as Georgia,
and east to Illinois. Birch is seen a lot in Wisconsin as well. Little twigs
and shaved bark can be boiled for tea. In spring, birch tree sap can be used
to boil down for syrup - similar to maple trees. The inner bark can be dried
and ground into flour or added to stews. A strong tea can be used on the skin
against itchy poison ivy rash, or bee stings similar to calamine lotion
jewelweed, or tannic acid. Leaves can be dried and used in winter for tea, but
much of the food value is lost by drying or boiling too much. The tea has a
calming effect prior to sleep. Tea made from the leaves has a diuretic effect.
BLACK ALDER TREE - (Alnus-glutinosa) found in damp
soils and meadow edges. Grows about 50 feet tall. Its early spring leaves get
a sticky substance on tem. It flowers in spring and then develops catkins like
small pinecones -long and thin. This tree is found in the northeastern United
States, as far south as Delaware and west to Illinois. If you need to clear
your stomach of bad food or other substance, a tea made from the bark of the
Black Alder Tree will make you vomit. Powdered Black Alder will stop bleeding
when sprinkled on a wound. An ointment made from Black Alder can also be used
for poison ivy or bee stings. Mild tea can be used to brush the teeth
and cure gum disease and heal abscessing and decaying teeth.
BLACK COHOSH - (Cimicifuga racemosa)
Family of Ranunculaceae - also called Black snakeroot, the Rattle Weed or
Rattle root, Bugbane, Bugwort and Squaw root. It is the rhizome and
roots that are used from this plant. A North American
forest plant - it should not be confused with the
As a genus, Cimicifuga includes twenty three temperate climate plant species,
six of these are found in North America, one species is common in Europe, and
the remaining species are found in the temperate regions of eastern Asia and
the Far East. Black cohosh can be found in shady woodlands of the United
States and Canada, particularly in the southeast, northern Oregon, Washington,
and Ontario. The plant is hardy and tall with feathery racemes of white
blossoms measuring 1 to 3 feet long. The flowers bloom in June and July and
thrive in moist, shady areas. The stout, black rhizome along with the root
are used for medicinal effects.
The use of the black cohosh as an herbal
medicine was initially practiced by Native Americans, who place great value on
this particular herbal remedy to this day. Native American preparation of the
herbal remedy typically involved initially boiling the root in some water, the
beverage produced was drunk directly as a treatment for numerous disorders and
conditions, including problems such as rheumatism, all kinds of diseases
affecting women, and all debilitation such as
and related respiratory tract
uterine region and especially, to stimulate menstrual flow in women affected
menstruation related disorders. Herbalists also suggest its use as an
astringent, it has been used as a diuretic, as an alterative, in the anti-diarrhea
role, as a cough
suppressant, as a diaphoretic, among other known uses.
Native Americans named this plant Squaw root
because it works on women's issues so well. Following experiments began to
show that a compound or a methanol like extract found in the black cohosh
bears substances which can bind to the estrogen receptors in the uterine
tissues of rats. Rats given this extract were observed to have a selective
reduction in levels of the luteinizing hormone - these experiments were
conducted on ovariectomized rats. What is inferred from these results is that
the black cohosh definitely displays some degree of estrogenic activity and
there is some validity to the traditional use of this herbal remedy in the
treatment of gynecological disorders. This herb lowered the blood
pressure in rabbits and cats, but not in dogs, so one cannot state that it
works on all animals or in humans. Black cohosh,
tested in more than 1,500 patients was published in German by 1962. The
successful use of black cohosh was reported by the study groups in the
treatment of pre-menopausal and
symptoms - some of the claims were a reduction in the appearance of
and significant improvement of the
which often affects menopause women.
Some disorders such as inflammatory
treatable using the black cohosh and this have been confirmed again and again,
the positive treatment and cure from such problems is true particularly when
the disorder is associated with menopause and its related conditions. The
black cohosh is also a proven and very effective remedy against all rheumatic
problems, including such severe disorders such as
arthritis - especially when it is used for long periods of time and on a
The value of the black cohosh is also
apparent in its sleep inducing and sedative action, indeed the treatment of a
variety of conditions, including
tinnitus - persistent ringing in the ears - is possible using the black
cohosh. The herbal remedies of the black cohosh and its peculiar properties
are also effective against
whooping cough and
asthma and their
associated physical symptoms.
BONESET (Eupatorium perfoliatum) - This plant looks similar
to Angelica except the leaves are hairy and wrinkled and jointed. It grows
near water, has white clustered flowers from mid-summer to mid-fall. It grows
in wet lands from eastern coastal states from Canada south to Florida and west
to Texas. After the bone is set, drink a cup of tea made from the large leaves
of the Boneset plant twice a day to help knit the bones. The bone will heal in
1/2 to 1/4 the normal time. Boneset also helps with swollen joints from
arthritis and rheumatism. 1/2 cup of Boneset tea mixed with 1/2 cup of
Catnip tea will relax sore muscles. Cold tea will help with stomach digestion
and a mild laxative effect. A warm tea of the same strength will help with
colds, flu, fever and night sweats. A strong tea produces vomiting and strong
laxative effects. Boneset tea mixed with mint tea is good for the common cold.
Cold steeping of the tea retains much of the Vitamin C of the plant. Use the
upper leaves of the plant for the cold remedies, use the lower older leaves
for the vomiting and laxative remedies. Gather the leaves before it flowers so
all the strength doesn't go into the flowering process. The dried leaves
can be kept in cloth bags hanging from the rafters until needed.
BULRUSH (Scirpus validus) - grows in shallow water and mud
in either fresh or brackish water. One must be careful when collecting
this plant that you don't get it from areas where garbage or oil or other
toxins can get in it because the bulrushes will pick up the toxins and hold
them. The stems are very smooth and round and
don't have leaves on them. The stems are pithy. The blooms of flowers
appear at the top of the stems from mid-spring to early fall. They are found
throughout the tropical States, but may extend north to Delaware and southern
New Jersey. (Note: They grow in Wisconsin, Illinois, and low lands
in other Midwest states, and I've seen them in a marsh in California as well.)
You can make bulrush candles by soaking the whole stem in hot rendered fat.
The fat soaks up into the pithy center of the stem. The bulrush candle will
burn for two or more hours. The roots of the bulrush can be eaten raw.
The stems can be bundled up and used for shelter as well. The roots can
also be cooked or steamed and taste similar to bamboo shoots. The pollen and
seeds can be ground into flour, to thicken soup. The flour made from the
pollen and seeds can be mixed with flour made from roasted and dried roots as
well and made into bread. Little cakes can be made from 1/2 bulrush
flour and 1/2 acorn flour. For medicinal purposes, the rootstock can be
poulticed using tannic acid from acorn boilings and used on open wounds,
poison ivy, bee stings, and other skin irritations.
(Cornus canadensis) Grows on mountain
slopes and cold woods, mostly in Canada and northern United States, south to
northern West Virginia - through mountain slopes.) The plants looks like
a small umbrella wit a whirl of six leaves. It looks like it has huge flowers,
but the flowers are actually made up of tiny flowers surrounded by four-petalled
bracts. Berries are bright red and tightly clustered, appearing from late
summer to mid-fall. One can eat the berries right off the bush.
They don't have a strong flavor - be sure not to eat green ones. The berries
can be cooked, baked in pies, cakes, etc. Mix with honey and water for more
sweetness. Berries can be partially chewed in the mouth and used
as a poultice for burns. Mixed with tannic water, it can be used for relief
for itching of poison ivy, bee stings or other skin irritations.
(Arctium lappa) The burdock thrives on waste
ground and disturbed soils. They bloom only every other year. The
flowers are dark purple and get nasty thistles that hurt to the touch in
the fall. It is found all over the northeastern U.S. and Canada. The
root is edible and the dried stalks can be used to start a quick fire
out in the rough. The roots have to be boiled twice - dumping out the
bitter water in between boilings. Young leaves of this planet can be
added to a salad. Cooking the leaves, you have to dump the boiled
water out 4 times to get rid of the bitterness. Leftover cooked roots
can be dried and crushed and added to stew to thicken it. You can
also use the fresh leaves for medicine - rubbing it on itchy skin will
relieve the itch and pain. A second year planet is best used for
medicinal purposes. Cooking the leaves slowly in boiling water and
soaked can be used as a poultice for skin problems.
(Nepeta cataria) This plants grows along
roadsides in waste ground or disturbed soils. It blooms from late spring to
early falls, flowering with white to light violet with little purple spots.
The leaves are arrow-shaped, gray-green with white downy covering. It smells
slightly minty. It is found all over the U.S. For medicinal
purposes, it is best to use non-blooming plants for the strongest medication.
The leaves from the top of the plant should be dried in the sun, crushed, and
then added to a cup of tea, steeping for 1/2 and hour. This will put you right
to sleep. By collecting the new leaves during the year, drying them in bunches
upside-down in a dry place, you can store the leaves in a glass jar for future
use. It makes a very soothing tea. This tea also makes the person sweat
profusely which is sometimes a good thing as it opens the pores of the body.
Be sure to drink a lot of water before and after this treatment so you don't
get dehydrated. The dosage of tea can be lessened by drinking less tea or by
using leaves from a blooming plant. A lesser dose will relieve pain and
anxiety - a greater dose will put you to sleep and make you sweat.
CATTAIL (Typha spp.)
(Similar to Bulrush above) This plant is tall and straight
with sword like leaves. It is topped with a sausage-shaped head on top - which
starts out with tiny flowers and golden pollen spikes. It turns from
green to brown. It flowers in late spring and is found in shallow water and
fresh or brackish marches. It is found everywhere in the U.S. and Canada. The
stalk with its head can be dipped in tallow (grease) and used for a torch at
night. Soft cattail down can be collected and stuffed into fabric to make a
pillow. Many cattails collected together can be used for mats, shelter, food,
warmth, making fires, making rafts, medication, and lots of other things.
Young plants with pollen can be collected to use for stews and bread.
Cattail roots have little corms on them which you can pick off for food and
replant the root back into the ground to grow some more. The corms can be
eaten raw. Young stems can be eaten raw also. The green flower stalks can be
cooked and peeled and eaten like corn. The early pollen can be collected,
dried, and mixed half and half with flour for bread. Cooking the pollen, it
gets like oatmeal cereal. You can also add the pollen to scrambled eggs and
pancakes. You can make pemmican by using dried pollen and mix with dried
berries, jerky, tallow, nuts, and whatever is in the area. As a
medicine, by using the rootstock cooked will cure diarrhea. About 2 cups a day
will take care of that problem. If you have skin problems, by picking the
leaves, there is a sticky ooze which you can put on cuts and it also numbs
pain on the skin. The numbing effect can be used for toothaches too. It also
works on poison ivy, boils, bee stings, and other infections. Burning the
cattail can be used to keep away mosquitoes and fumigating the tent. A
raw cattail stalk can be used as a toothbrush and the cattail flour used for
CHICORY - (Cichorium intybus) (The picture is also labeled 'curly
This is an elegant plant with beautiful blue flowers. The
flower petals have square-tipped and fringed, sometimes pink or even white
color. They close by late afternoon or when a storm is coming across the sky.
The sap is milky, and the basal leaves look much like a dandelion's. The
flowers are stalk less with hardly any leaves and the whole plant seems to be
composed only of flowers floating along its stem. The root is white, fleshy,
and thick. Chicory is found throughout the United States, growing on
roadsides, waste places and disturbed soils. Medicinally, chicory can be
placed in a cloth, simmered in hot water for about 15 minutes, cooled slightly
and then placed on an abscess, boil, or open wound on both human and animals.
After that cools, fresh chicory can be placed on the wound. It can also be
used for poison ivy, insect stings and athletes foot. Chicory tea can be
made by roasting the roots in fall until brown and brittle, then grinding with
stone until granulated. Then tea is made by putting an amount of chicory in
the bottom of a cup and adding boiling water. Honey and mint can be added for
flavor as the chicory will be slightly bitter. Small, fresh chicory leaves can
be eaten fresh like a snack, or steamed like spinach. A mild tea can be used
as a mouthwash and its good to aid digestion also. Mild tea is made from small
new leaves, stronger tea is made from older larger leaves which are more
bitter. Its also good for an upset stomach - steeped for 20 minutes.
CHICKWEED (Stellaria spp.)
This plant may grow upright or in tangled masses on the
ground. It has tiny leaves and can easily be missed. The leaves are paired and
smooth and flowers for most of the season. It gets a long stalk with tiny
white flowers. The flowers are deeply notched at the tip and longer than
the sepals. The plants are found all over the United States. It can be found
in clearings of damp forests. Deer, rabbits, and groundhogs forage on this
plant. If you eat a lot of this plant with no other food, you will get
diarrhea and a lot of bloating. So, medicinally, it can be used for
constipation. It is best to drink it in a tea form and then stay close to the
bathroom. If you are hiking, you will want to find a private spot quickly.
Chickweed can be used raw and in salads. Mouse chickweed is hairy and it needs
to be cooked to eat it. Besides constipation, the tea can also be used to
clear up the sinuses and sinus headaches. It does not dry out the
sinuses like strong medicines do. Boiled in a cloth, poultices can be put on
skin abrasions, bois, blisters and bruises. Added to tallow, it can be used
for chapped lips and weather ravaged skin.
COLTSFOOT (Tussilago farfara) - This plant grows on waste grounds. The flowers
are yellow and bristly looking. They grow on stems with reddish scales. The
flowers bloom in spring on stalks that seeming come right out of the ground.
The leaves don't appear until after the flowers fade and are heart shape, they
are wavy and reach 18 inches in length. It grows mostly in the northeast -
ranging to Ohio and New Jersey. For food, crushed leaves brunt to ash
tastes similar to salt. Tea can be made by simmering fresh leaves for 1/2 an
hour. Strain out leaves and add 2 cups of sugar to 1 cup of coltsfoot
extract. Boil the mixture down to a syrup. Hard balls of candy will form when
dropped into cold water. If not boiled enough, you can spread the syrup on
baked meat or drizzle over ice cream. Also good in tea or coffee or pancakes.
For medicinal purposes, boil fresh leaves in water for at least 1 hour. Wipe
directly on bee stings, poison ivy rash, mild cuts or abrasion. This water can
be used for a cough syrup which will make you cough, or use it for hoarseness.
The syrup boiled down to candy thickness can be used for a cough drop as well.
Coltsfoot leaves smoked in a pipe can cause the release of congestion and
relieve the lungs during a cold.
COMFREY (Symphytum officinale) Comfrey loves waste
places and is found along roadsides, ditches, and in old fields. It is a hairy
plant, coarse in appearance with alternate spear-shaped leaves that taper to a
winged stem. The flowers may be purple, yellow, pink, or white. They are
five-lobed and bell shaped. The flowers appear as a curling cluster on a
curved stem. Just before the flowers, there is a pair of wing like leaves.
It flowers all summer. It grows on the east coast all the way from
Canada to Georgia.
Powdered comfrey will stop a small bleeding wound. As
food, the early spring leaves can be cooked like spinach. The hairiness on the
leaves disappears with the cooking. Later on in the season, the leaves can
still be cooked but the water has to be changed several times as it will be
bitter. The dried leaves make a wonderful tea. The root is where the
medicinal properties are located. Early spring or late fall is the best
time to dig the roots. After digging, let the root partially dry in the sun.
Scrape away the dark outer layer and make long strips of what is left. Let the
pieces completely dry right where they are. Once dry, they can be powdered
easily. When the powder is placed on an open wound, the wound will heal
with no infection and no scarring. As a medicinal tea, seeped in a cup of hot
water, it can be used for diarrhea, ulcers, and as a cough medicine. It can
also be used as a mouthwash for a sore throat, bleeding gums, and abscesses.
Crushed and simmered roots can be used as a poultice on bruises, boils, bee
stings, and poison ivy. It has also been used on arthritis and rheumatism.
Also try it on sprains and pulled tendons. In cold water, seeped for 6 hours,
a milder tea is made for general purposes like coughs. Use 1/2 cup 3 times a
day. By adding crush dried out rose hips, it makes a great cold remedy for the
DANDELION: Taraxacum officinale
Other names: Blowball, Cankerwort, Clock Flower, Irish Daisy,
Lion's Tooth, Milk Witch, Monk's Head, Piss-a-bed, Priest's Crown :
A perennial, the Dandelion is a member of the sunflower family, the
name comes from the French, 'dents de lion' ("teeth of the lion") due to
the shape of the
leaves. A native to Europe, it is now widespread as it was taken
around the world for its
culinary, uses. Dandelions are popular with beekeepers as they are an
early source of nectar.
The dark green leaves form a rosette close to the ground and are not
killed by close mowing. The fleshy tap root goes down vertically and a
small portion can regenerate if left in the soil. If it is cut off below soil level
it comes back as a multi-crowned plant. The flower buds form at the centre
of the rosette in early spring and are lifted up by a hollow stem which
can reach 45 cm if in long grass, the yellow composite flowers open to be
pollinated by insects or the wind. The bracts at the back of the flower
close up again and the seeds ripen. The stem which had lowered during the
ripening, rises again to a higher level and the bracts open to reveal a
sphere of fluffy parachutes each carrying a seed.
The flowers can be
used to make wine, the young leaves boiled like spinach or added uncooked to
salads, and the large roots used as a vegetable or roasted and brewed for a
coffee-like beverage, which is slightly bitter. Dandelions used to be grown in unheated greenhouses
to provide salad leaves in winter. Flower heads not yet in bloom,
can be boiled like brussell sprouts. Cover with melted cheese for dinner. They contain potassium, sodium,
phosphorus and iron. The leaves are a richer source of vitamin A than
carrots and also have some vitamins B, C and D.
It is a mild laxative and diuretic, has been
used as a tonic and blood purifier, for skin conditions, joint pain,
eczema and liver conditions such as hepatitis and jaundice.
To make coffee, washing the roots carefully, removing all blemishes and
old cuts. Let them dry slightly for six hours in the fall sun. Roast the roots
in an oven slowly until dark brown and brittle. Grind the roots in a mortar
and pestle. Do this in the sun to make sure that all the particles are dry. To
keep the root particles over the winter, place in a jar and seal with a layer
of paraffin or beeswax. You can mix the dandelion root particles with half
chicory, or adding 1/3 mint leaves, or 1/3 green pine needles or 1/3 dried
ELDERBERRY -(Sanbucus canadensis) Grows in rich damp soils, streambanks,
ditches, and wet thickets. It flowers in early summer, and the berries appear
in early fall. It can be found in the northern U.S. and Canada, but also as
far south as Georgia and Louisiana.
The flowers of this plant can be placed into a cup of hot water to ease
stomach problems, and ease headaches at the same time. (Do not use unripe
berries, stems or leaves - which can cause diarrhea and general stomach upset)
The ripe berries can be made into pies, juice, and jelly by adding
pectin. The flowers can be dipped in batter and deep fried. You
can make pemmican by combining 1/2 tallow, one-third jerky and one-third
reconstituted dried elderberries. Burns, including sunburn have been healed by
mixing berry syrup and tallow into a paste and placed right on the burn.
It can also be used on bee stings, acne, and scrapes. A mild tea mixed with
tallow, placed on a boil or splinter will aid healing.
EVENING-PRIMROSE - (Oenothera biennis) A robust annual, which has naturalized throughout the United States. Flowers are light
yellow borne on tall, sturdy spikes. Blooms are up to 2 inches across, opening
in late afternoon. Prefers well-drained soils in full sun. The plant is
very leafy, rough, and hairy. It blooms from June to October. It grows on
roadsides and waste ground in the eastern and central U.S., though it can be
found in North Dakota and Idaho as well.
In spring the roots of the young first year primrose look like little pink
carrots with a scent of their own. Cook them just like carrots by slicing them
across in penny fashion for 1/2 an hour changing the water 3 times. You can
sprinkle them with coltsfoot salt and little pieces of their own leaves like
Crushed leaves added to 1/2 cup of hot water and steeping 15 minutes make a
good cough medicine. Dried leaves made into tea makes a good digestive
medicine. Older people can take a cup or primrose tea twice a week to keep
their digestive system working smoothly.
Sweet Goldenrod (Solidago odora) Goldenrod produces a showy,
bloom-like cluster of small yellow blossoms which bloom between July and
October. (Many people are allergic to Goldenrod in the fields - so
beware if you are and skip this one) It is found in dry open woods, on
the fringes of old fields and roadways. The crushed leaves have a sweet
anise-like odor. The leaves are parallel veined, slender, toothless and smooth
with tiny transparent dots when held up to the sky. It is found almost
everywhere in the United States.
Dried goldenrod make great tinder for starting fires in the dead of winter.
A strong tea can be made from the dried leaves as well. It tastes anise
flavored. Shredded leaves can also be added to salads for the flavor or
garnish. Mixed with rose hip or mint tea is very beneficial and tasty.
A poultice made of steeped goldenrod leaves, strained and mixed with
tallow, takes the pain and swelling of bee stings down quickly. A tea made
with young flowers makes a good mouthwash, or general skin wash. The tea is
good to aid digestion and minimize gas.
Greenbrier (Smilax rotundifolia) Greenbrier is a climbing vine. It
has spiny sharp thorns that are needlelike. Large patches of this plant is
difficult to penetrate except by crawling along the ground that animals use.
The animals who hide under these plants are raccoons, rabbits, grouse,
pheasant and many others. Sometimes even deer hide under these plants.
Being inside a large brier patch, one can feel protected and secure.
Brier vines can be used to make rope or baskets or even mats. By soaking in
tallow, the vines can stay supple for many years. Dried vines makes
great kindling for fires and the green spurs of the vine can be used for
New green leaves of this plant can be cooked like asparagus, or even eaten
raw. The roots of the plant can be processed so that the fibers are removed
and the remaining powder saved for later use. Mixed with flour can be used for
gravy thickening. It can also be mixed in cold water and sweetened with honey
or mixed with mint to make a refreshing drink in summer.
The medicinal uses are many as well. The powder from the root, mixed with
tallow, can be used as a salve for insect bites. Adding tannic acid made from
acorn husks, an ointment can be made to treat wounds. Fresh leaves, partially
chewed and soaked in tannic acid can be used as a poultice to relieve the itch
of chigger or red-ant bites.
Hemlock Tree (Tsuga canadensis) The Eastern Hemlock is a large, long-lived
tree. The trees have small, evergreen needles (less than 1 inch long) that
are narrow, flat, and soft. The needles have a dark-green appearance on their
topside, and are light-green with two distinguishable white lines on their
underside. These lines consist of four rows of
stomata that are used by the tree for gas exchange. The twigs of the
Eastern Hemlock are slender, yellowish to grayish brown, and rough when their
needles fall. The bark of the Eastern Hemlock appears reddish brown and is
flaky on young trees. It becomes thicker and darker as it ages and eventually
becomes roughly grooved. The cones of the Eastern Hemlock are very small
(from Ĺ to ĺ of an inch long), and appear pale green in the early autumn and
turn a darker brown in the late autumn. The cones hang singly from the tips
of twigs and have 2 small seeds underneath their rounded scales. This
tree grows from Canada southward, both east and west.
To a medicine man, parts of the hemlock tree grown near water are soothing,
and from a hemlock tree growing on a high ridge are powerful. Parts
taken from these trees should not hamper its growth in any way. Leaves
steeped or small new twigs in hot water makes a wonderful tea and can be mixed
with pine-needle or mint. The inner bark of this tree can be dried and
made into flour which can be used for soup thickener or ash cakes. It has an
acquired taste. Not everyone likes it.
The tea can be used as a mouthwash, or a toothpaste for swollen gums. It
also settles upset stomachs or clears up diarrhea. A stronger tea makes a good
skin wash or antiseptic for sores, abrasions and insect stings. It can be used
for sunburn or poison ivy as well. Powdered bark can be put into shoes if the
feet are uncomfortable or sweaty. It cuts down on foot odor as well on
underarms and groin areas.
IRIS - BLUE FLAG (Iris versicolor) Native to Eastern Canada and upper
eastern United States. It can also be found growing wild in the Western
foothills, montane, subalpine.
Wetlands, meadows, openings. Late spring/early summer.
A hardy lakeshore perennial herb of shallow water, 2'-3' tall.
sword-shaped bears two ranks of sword-shaped, long, narrow leaves sword-like
leaves emerge from thick horizontal root stock (corm) which are covered with
fibrous roots. This emergent will grow to heights of four feet in spreading
clumps. The individual leaves are somewhat shorter than the entire plant.
Leaves are folded on the midribs so that they form an overlapping flat fan.
Stems unwinged, erect, generally have basal leaves
that are more than 1 cm. wide. stout stem grows from a thick, cylindrical,
creeping rootstock nearly straight flowering stems
Rhizome tends to form
large clumps from thick, creeping rhizomes.annual joints, 2" or more long,
about ĺ" in diameter, cylindrical in the lower half, becoming compressed
towards the crown, where the cup-shaped stem-scar is seen, when dry, and
numerous rings, formed of leaf scars are apparent above and scars of rootlets
below. It is dark brown externally and longitudinally wrinkled. The fracture
is short, purplish, the vascular bundles scattered through the central column.
are long, slender and simple. Flower
large, showy, light to
deep blue with yellow and whitish markings at the base of the
sepals. Borne 2-3 to a stem. The well developed flower petals and sepals
spread out nearly flat and have two forms. The
duration of Iris missouriensis flowering is determined by the amount of
late spring snow and early summer rain.
The blue flag rhizome has a very
slight but peculiar odor, and a pungent, unpleasant taste. When used
internally, fresh blue flag produces nausea, vomiting, purging, and
gastrointestinal cramping. The dried root is less acrid and is
traditionally employed as an emetic, diuretic, and cathartic. It has
also been used for syphilis, some scrofula (tuberculosis infection of
the neck lymph glands), skin disorders, and dropsy (edema).
Roots widely used by Aboriginal peoples in poultices for sores, inflammation
and burns. The root or rhizome is the
part most often used and is the source of the iridin, also known as irisin.
Iridin is usually used as a powdered extract that is bitter and nauseating and
has diuretic and laxative properties.
Leaves can be used to weave baskets and mats.
Jewelweed (Impatiens pallida) Also, sometimes called "spotted touch-me-not"
The flowers with ripe seed will jump right off the plant if touched. The jewelweed stems are succulent,
transparent and very watery. The flowers are pale yellow and the leaves
appears transparent under water. They bloom from July to October. It loves
wet, shady places. It grows throughout the Appalachian range south to Georgia
and into Kansas and Montana. (This flower seed is also sold and grown
all over the country as an annual) As an annual, it comes in other colors as
As a medicine, the acid in the plant fluid can neutralize poison ivy - but
it must be done immediately. It also deadens the pain of the nettle sting or
other itchy rashes, working well on bee stings, sunburn and blisters. It has
also been used on acne blemishes. The juice from the cooked greens makes a
good skin wash when bathing water isn't available. It makes a good insecticide
mixed with tannic acid from boiled cedar bark, keeping off ticks. Once poison
ivy is established, mixing jewelweed juice with tallow makes a good ointment
to stave off the itchiness of the rash.
As a food, the stems have to be picked before reaching 6 inches tall and
then the water dumped out at least twice, otherwise it is a mild poison. It
has been used, mixed with cattail corms. (Not recommended as a food)
LADY SLIPPER (Cypripedium calceolus var. pubescens or parviflorum)
Perennial herbs, growing in moist
woods and meadows in the Northern States and Canada. This eastern wildflower produces incredible crystalline-white
flowers with bright pink lips. This flower comes in other beautiful colors
by similar latin names. The leaves are broad and strongly plaited.
Basically, this is a bog orchid and requires moist, fertile, leafy,
humus-rich, neutral to acidic soil, in a sheltered site. 30 inches tall;
12-inch spread. Root of many tufted fibers. C. PUBESCENS: Stem a foot or
more high, usually several from the same root-stalk. Leaves broad-oval, acute,
many-veined, clasping at base, three to six inches long by two to three inches
broad. Flowers mostly solitary, rarely two to three on a plant; sepals long-lanceolate,
two, the lower composed of two united either their entire length or at their
tips; petals long, linear, twisted-wavy, spreading, and greenish like the
sepals, marked with peculiar purple spots; lip gamboge-yellow, shorter than
the greenish petals, one and a half to two inches long, with a narrow
aperture, spotted inside, scentless. Whole plant covered with a soft
pubescence. May and June.
The roots are about a line in diameter, tufted,
brownish yellow, forming a gray powder. They have a peculiar and
somewhat unpleasant relaxing odor; and a slightly bitter and
rather nauseous taste. Age and heat greatly. impair their
qualities, which are distinctly volatile. They contain an
oleo-resinous substance, and a very small quantity of oil is
obtainable by treatment with ether; but neither of these fairly
represents the plant. Water acts on them imperfectly; alcohol, and
diluted alcohol, extract their virtues fully.
Properties and Uses: The
roots of these plants are the medicinal part, They are
nearly pure relaxants, with not enough stimulation to be
available. Their influence is manifested slowly, and is expended
wholly upon the nervous system; and it is only through the nervous
tissues that they impress other parts. Thus they belong to the
pure nervines or parodynes, and are antispasmodic, and mildly
tonic to these structures.
They are used in all the multiplied forms of
nervous irritability and excitement, except when arising from
advancing putrescence. They. soothe and calm the entire system,
easing all forms of pain growing out of local or general
irritation, and inducing quiet and usually securing sleep.
They have been accused of possessing narcotic properties, but I
could never detect any such impression from them; as the sleep is
not accompanied by stupor, is no more profound than would
naturally follow the most sanative relief from protracted pain or
nervous agitation, is associated with a warm and gentle
perspiration, and is not followed by ,any suppression of the
secretions or feelings of languor. Such facts are not indicative
of narcotism, or else all forms of relief from suffering and
excitement must be of narcotism. Further, the cypripedium can not
be given in quantities to stupefy acute suffering in the presence
of offending substances, as opium will do; but the relief obtained
from it must always be connected with such a relaxation and
opening of the emunctories as will make a way of escape for
injurious materials; and it is always peculiar of it that ease
will not be obtained by its use, unless at the same or a previous
time the system has been depurated of morbific accumulations.
Hence it is a nervine only when the frame has been, or is being,
rid of such offending elements as would provoke the restlessness;
and that fact alone shows how wide is the difference between this
agent and any narcotic. The cypripedium itself aids somewhat in
this depurative work, as is made known by a mild increase of
perspiration, diuresis, and even alvine action, in connection with
its use; but its influence on the secernents is too indirect and
feeble to accomplish much elimination, and hence this remedy is
then combined, or used coetaneous with such agents as influence
those secreting organs that need assistance in each particular
Lily (Lilium candidum) Also called: White lily, Meadow lily.
The flowers appear in June and July
These lilies are found in the wild in Pennsylvania mostly, having been
brought into this country from Eastern European countries, Syria and Asia. Lilies are usually
cultivated in other states:
Lillium longiforum - the Easter Lily everyone loves - also called the
Madonna Lily originally came from China.
White lily is a perennial plant growing up to 60-150
cm in height. Itís a bulb species with large scaly white bulbs, about 1 m
tall stalks, and linear leaves; some leaves attached to the base of the
stalk, spreading around it, other leaves erect, lanceolate, with slightly
dentate margins. Flowers are rather large and strikingly white.
Each flower has six slightly curved petals and six stamens with white
filaments and long yellow anthers. The flowers are wonderfully
aromatic. Bulbs are odorless, with a bitter and mucilaginous taste.
Bulbs are harvested in August and can be used fresh or dried. Bulbs and
flowers are the parts of the white lily plant that are used for
The essential oil, extracted from flowers (0,3%),
is rich in vanillin (up to 2,5%), p- hydroxy-m-methoxytoluene (up to
50%), p-cresol, linalol, terpineol, phenylethyl alcohol and its
esters, with acetic, palmitic, benzoic, propionic and cinnamic acids.
Flowers also contain flavonoids (kaempherol and its derivatives),
lilaline, jatrophine and carotenoids.
Bulbs contain starch
(about 14%), soluble polysaccharides (glucomannan)4, phytosterols,
pyrrolic alkaloids, amino acids, such as g-methylene glutamic acid,
and tannins. 2. d- methylene glutamic acid can be found in the bulb
scales. By blooming time, bulbs and roots contain abundant amounts of
the later acid, together with its lactone derivative - a-methylene-butyrolactone
- and mineral salts, noticeably boron. Novel saponins of the
spirostanol and furostanol types have been identified in Lilium
of white lily - It is an astringent
mucilaginous herb that heals damaged and irritated skin and
tissue. Useful in leucorrhoea and prolapsus
uteri, the decoction taken internally and employed in
injection; it is more decided in its effects when combined with
senecio. Boiled in milk, it forms an excellent poultice for
ulcers, external inflammations, tumors, etc. The recent root
is stated to have been useful in dropsy.
Has been used internally for female complaints and
dropsy, but its greatest value is in external application.
Therapeutic use -
It is used as an emollient cataplasm for tumors, ulcers
and external inflammation, as well as for tumors, corns, burns
It is especially helpful in healing burns and wounds,
as it helps to effect a cure, but without leaving any scar.
Bulbs have traditionally been applied as a poultice for
its properties as a demulcent and abscess or boil reliever.
It has also been used to treat ulcers, wounds and burnt
skin. White lily vinegar is popularly used against warts.
Some recent studies show that the saponins present in
the bulbs of Lilium candidum L. can inhibit epidermal
Lily flowers extract is used in cosmetics to treat
The chemical composition of bulbs (saponins and
polysaccharides) give the extract soothing, anti-inflammatory
and protective properties.
The extract also has hydrating and emollient properties
(polysaccharides). Therefore, it can be added to all types of
formulations aimed at dry, irritated or sensitive skin.
Soluble polysaccharides have a filmogenic action on
skin, which promotes skin hydration. They act by holding
water, consequently maintaining the right moisture level in
the horny layer, which in turn improves skin flexibility.
Polysaccharides are included in the group of
hydrocolloids. These substances act by increasing viscosity,
stabilizing emulsions and maintaining optimal moisture levels.
Use of essential oil
Essential oil is used in the perfume industry.
Lily - Lillium lancifolium See Tiger Lily
Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) Milkweed grows in abandoned fields and
roadsides and likes dry soil. It has hairy stems that are grey-green. The
flowers bloom in pastel colors, white, buff, and dull purple. It can be found
from Canada, all the way south to Georgia and Tennessee, all the way west to
Kansas and Iowa.
Kids love to pick milkweed and play with the seeds that fly like
parachutes. Traditional usage by Native Americans are:
Chest discomfort , Increases milk flow , Warts , Stomach trouble , An appetite increaser , Making cordage
.Consume young green seedpods, sprouts, and buds
.It has a very milky juice, which is used as a domestic application
to warts. It also clears up athletes foot. The juice has a faint smell and sub-acid taste. The root can
be eaten raw as a remedy for stomach trouble. Other remedies are for
treating snakebites and the bites of venomous insects. A skin wash can
be made by making a tea of the juice. The Menominee
ate the buds or made a decoction of the root for chest discomfort.
They also used this plant as a fiber in making cordage. The Ojibwa
made a decoction of the root for women in order to increase milk flow
after childbirth. It also served as an appetizer before feasts to
increase the appetite. Young green seedpods, sprouts, and tops were
cooked as greens.
NOTE: It is said that milkweed sap can cause erratic heartbeat.
Mint: (Mentha spp.) Mint has a square stem and paired, toothed
leaves. The flowers which may be violet, blue, red, or pink, bloom from
mid-summer to early fall and have small lips that are clustered in terminal
spikes. They grow in damp ground, wet meadows, and along stream banks. It is
found throughout the United States.
Mulberry - Red (Morus rubra) Red Mulberry grows in rich soils and
open woods, particularly old farm areas. The leaves are finely toothed, hairy
on the underside and sandy on the top. They may have either two or three
lobes. The twigs are smooth and have a milky sap. The bark is reddish
brown and has smooth ridges. The fruit hangs in pendant fashion, red in
the beginning and then turning deep purple as it ripens. It can be harvested
in early summer. Red Mulberry grows from Florida to Texas - all the way
north to New York, and Minnesota to South Dakota.
New roots of this plant, when powdered can be used for a laxative. It has
been used as a treatment for tapeworms. A small palmful of dried,
powdered young roots in 1 cup of warm water should be used. The new
roots, boiled in water for twenty minutes to one half hour are a great feast.
NOTE: Don't eat these berries unripe, the bark or raw shoots, because you
will start to hallucinate, see things turn weird, laugh at the strangeness,
then start to tremble, get nervous and then vomit. Mullein tea is rather
an antidote, but you will still be very sick for several days. Don't
think hallucinating is fun doing it this way - you'll regret it.
Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) This plant grows in dry waste places, old
fields, and roadsides. It doesn't flower until the second year. The leaves are
soft like velvet. It is found all over the United States.
This plant, dried, is smoked in sacred pipes by the natives. It was always
well prepared and prayed over. Only the medium sized leaves were used and only
the unblemished ones. They should be dried in the afternoon sun and then hung
upside-down to dry more thoroughly. When they are completely air dried, they
should be broken up in a bowl and stirred for several more days of drying.
Once completely dried, it can be mixed with other tobacco or herbs to be
smoked. A dried, stalk, soaked in tallow makes a great torch at night.
For those who know how to make a hand-drill fires in the wild, the dried stalk
of the mullein works faster than a dried stick.
The dried leaves, used as tobacco and smoked and inhaled will stop a
congestive cold in its tracks. The vapors of young leaves being boiled will
open the air passages in the lungs of congestion. This should be done twice a
day to cure the cold. Do not overdo this as it will create an allergy to
the plant over time.
In summer, before the plant breaks into flowering, the uppermost leaves can
be gathered, dried in bunches and after breaking up can be used for a great
tasting tea. This should not be overdone as the tea is also medicinal.
The flowers, steeped in a cup of boiling water. will cure stomach cramps.
You will then get very tired and sleep many hours. It is a great
sedative. It is also a pain reliever. The leaves are stronger than the
flowers, but should be used sparingly. Powdered mullein leaves can be
used as a wound treatment to cure infections. It is a powerful medicine.
Black Mustard (Brassica nigra) This plant grows in waste ground and
old fields and along roadsides. It flowers from spring to mid-fall. This
plant is found all over the United States.
The young leaves in mid-spring can be picked and prepared like spinach or
added to salads. Unopened flower heads can be boiled like broccoli. Once
the flowers have bloomed and the seedpods are dry, the seed should be
collected, dried thoroughly, finely ground, dried again and stored in a dry
place. A mustard seed footbath in winter will warm the worst frozen toes.
Don't forget to rinse the feet afterward as the mustard treatment will
actually burn the skin if left on. This powder can also be used as an
appetite stimulant or to reduce fever.
Ripe seeds can be powdered and mixed with tallow (grease) will make a
wonderful coating on fish you are cooking to enhance the flavor. You can also
add ripe mustard seeds to a jar of pickles you are making. tiny green
leaves can be cooked like spinach, but you will probably want to cook them
twice, dumping out the first water. You can also chop the leaves and add them
to a wild salad. Water from cooking mustard leaves can be saved and used as a
tea to aid digestion.
Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) The leaves of this plant have tiny hairs
which sting to the skin and cause a bad rash along with severe pain. The
leaves are paired and toothed. It usually grows on waste land as a weed in
most of the United States.
Nettles have been used by many dreads as a hair rinse.
Simply, preboil water; add chamomile, nettles, licorice root, yarrow, and
fennel. Add henna for color, if desired. Strain and rinse hair. Nettles grow
in forests and marsh areas. Use gloves when wildcrafting, by pressing the fine
hairs downward against the stem and pinching. Hang to dry out of sunlight. The
stalk of nettles are stripped and dried to make a fiber. The stalk of Nettles
are stripped, dried, and weaved to make the fiber Raime, which is a type of
Nettles make an excellent cooked green, which
provides Vitamins A and C and is high in protein. Nettles have medicinal
properties also: anti-asthmatic (arresting asthmatic bronchial infection),
astringent (causes contraction and arrests discharge), depurative (purifying
blood) when a tea is made of the leaves. Nettle tea can be used for an
external skin wash for minor infections as well. Mixed with tallow (grease) it
can be used as a hand lotion for dried, chapped hands. It also alleviates the
bites of chiggers and mosquitoes.
New Jersey Tea - (Ceanothusu americanus) New Jersey Tea grows all up
and down the eastern coastal states. It is a low, bushy shrub, growing only
about 4 inches tall. This plant blooms from late spring through the summer.
The leaves of this plant need to be dried in order to be used for tea, so
preparation is necessary. The small upper leaves make a mild tea, the lower
larger roots make a stronger tea. The roots of this plant make a good sinus
remedy. The roots are washed and laid to dry on the rafters of your
garage or woodshed. The bark must then be scraped off the roots and
stored in a small cotton bag. Take a small palmful of bark and steep it in hot
water for at least 1/2 hour. Take the tea twice a day during the sinus
problem. (It does not work immediately on all people for some reason,
but don't let that stop you from trying it.) Tea steeped for 45 minutes
to an hour can be used for skin treatment for sores, abrasion, and skin
maladies of all kinds. It can also be used on the hair before the final rinse.
Mixing the tea with tallow can also be used as an ointment. Try that on
pimples to clear up a young teen age face. The tea works as a sedative
and an antihistamine. Works great on the common cold, mouthwash, gargle, sore
throats and for tooth and gum pain. It also works on sore throats and for
OAK (Quercus spp.) All types of Oak trees having various leaf shapes
have acorns. The acorns are thinly shelled and are found nestled in a
tiny basal cap. These trees grow in many states across the northern U.S.
but also in Oklahoma, Texas, and Georgia. California also has some types of
Raw acorns are bitter from tannin, but after soaking or boiling in water
for some time, they become quite delicious. You'll have to change the water
several times. At that point, the acorns can be dried and ground into flour,
which is highly nutritious, high in protein and fats. It makes a great
survival food. They can also be roasted like almonds, roll them in brown sugar
to make delicious nut candy. The inner bark of an oak tree can also be
dried and made into flour, but it is not as good as the acorn itself.
Ground acorn husks steeped into a strong tea can be used as a wash for
poison ivy. Washing the itching part of the skin every hour will take the itch
and swelling away the same day. The first boiling water from cooking acorns
should be saved for a skin wash for all kinds of ailments, including fungal
infections. It can also be used as a gargle for sore throats, gum problems, or
A milder form of this tea such as the third boiling water of the acorns or
from ground oak bark can be used as an enema for hemorrhoids, to reduce fever
or stop internal bleeding. No more than 2 cups a day should be used and not
for more than 2 days. You can add honey to the tea to make it more palatable.
The tea can be used to aid digestion or as a tonic during the cold season.
The red oaks will make a stronger than the tea from the white oaks.
Oak wood, being one of the strongest types of wood can be made into many
useful tools and furniture. Examples are: spears, fish arrows, tool handles,
baskets, backrests, and many other things.
PINE - (Pinus spp.) Pine is an evergreen in many sizes and shapes.
It is a cone bearing tree with slender needles - not leaves. Female cones are
woody, male cones are soft, fleshy, and produce pollen. It is found all over
the United States.
New needles can be diced and boiled in little pieces into a tea. It
contains vitamin A and C. The inner bark of a tree can be dried and made into
flour. This flour can be made into ash cakes. Even live trees can have long
narrow strips to use the inner bark, but the wound will have to be dressed
with pine pitch to heal the tree bark again. Pollen from male cones can
be added to flour, used as stew thickener, or sprinkled atop any grain cereal.
The firm male cones can be boiled and used as emergency food. Ripe pine cones
can be opened by placing them next to a fire. The seeds can be roasted and
eaten or ground into a high-grade flour. The fine little rootlets of the tree
can also be boiled for 25 minutes and eaten.
The inner bark of the tree which is supple can be used as a bandage and
tied to a wound. It will as a drawing salve for insect bites or boils.
It is best used wet - and not dry. Sphagnum moss can also be used on a bad
wound to staunch the bleeding.
The pine pitch that oozes from a wound in the tree can be heated and
cleansed through grass filter and used as glue for wood projects. The resin
from pine pitch can be used to fill cracks in wood furniture, to join wood, as
waterproof wrappings, to attach fish hooks and many other things glue is
PLAINTAIN (Plantago major)
Botanical: Plantago major
Other common names: Greater
Plantain, Common Plantain, Ripple Grass, Cuckoo's Head,
Rat-tail Plantain, Englishman's Foot,
White Man's Foot, Ribwort, Waybread, Waybroad, Snake Weed, Broad-leaved
Plantain, Dooryard Plantain. This plant has a basal rosette of leaves and
grows low to the ground. The greenish-white and tiny flowers are found along
leafless stems that stick upright from the leaves on the ground. It flowers
from summer to mid-fall.
Plantain, like all members of the plantago family, contains a high
amount of mucilage, which soothes and cools
mucous membranes, while at the same time
its astringency helps to relieve
diarrhea, excess menstrual flow,
hemorrhoids and incontinence
in children and adults. It is also used to soothe the
lungs while effectively
loosening and expelling phlegm
and congestion. Plantain also helps
to control vaginal
and other types of infection, remove obstructions from
the liver, kidney and bladder,
and possibly help in managing
A poultice of leaves on an open wound will relieve pain and reduce the
swelling. After that, steep some leaves in hot water for 30 minutes, then let
cool to a warm tea made from the leaves can be wiped onto the wound every few
hours for several days and the skin will heal good as new. A strong tea makes
a good mouthwash for cold sores and gum problems. It will slow down blood flow
from a mild cut. The tea also makes a good cough remedy. It can be
used as a vitamin substitute by eating a few green seeds every day. It seems
to act an internal insecticide, possibly making the skin tasteless to
The new tender leaves,
picked fresh and simmered for 15 minutes make a meal better than cooked
spinach with much more vitamins and minerals. The new tender leaves also are
great in salads eaten raw. The dried seeds can also be eaten on salads, ground
and made into flour and mixed with other flours to make a fine bread.
The make a good snack too after roasting. Crushed dried seeds, mixed
with regular butter make a good peanut butter substitute for sandwiches. It
can also replace peanut butter for cookies.
POISON IVY - DO NOT TOUCH UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES - This is
a vine that grows on the ground and up tree trunks. Touching this plant
can cause weeks of agonizing itching rash - including inside your mouth and
throat. You do not want to risk this agony if at all possible.
REED (Phragmites communis) This plant grows in marshes and brackish
water and along damp roadsides. It is found all the way down the east coast,
across the south and into Texas and Mexico.
Despite their flimsy appearance, when dried, they make fast and tough
arrows that will go through even a fast running deer and other quick and
smaller animals for food. Gathering together a great mound of reeds, they even
make a good shelter that will keep you warm. By gathering the reeds
together into fat bundles and tying them, they can be made into rather an
outrigger canoe. This kind of boat is light, buoyant and easy to maneuver.
Another usage is for mats, baskets, fish traps and spears. They are a great
The seeds of this plant can be dried and ground into flour. Mixed with
blueberries, it makes a nice little ash cake. The seeds can also be put into
porridge or cereal like oatmeal. The reed flour can be used to thicken stew or
soup or even used as breading for fish. The reeds themselves can be
pounded into flour and mixed with water into a paste, can be roasted next to a
fire until it looks like roasted marshmallows, which tastes just as good if
The flour from the root of the reed can be made into a paste and used as a
poultice for insect bites, especially mosquitoes. The flower heads can be
added to tobacco but it is a little bitter, and the old flower heads can be
used as a scrub pad when cleaning irritated skin, especially poison ivy rash.
It stops the itching.
SAGEBRUSH - (Artemisia - wormwood) (There are over 200 types of plants
in the Artemesia category, belonging to the Daisy family) Artemisia, or California
sagebrush, has a pleasant scent. Its fragrance deters herbivores, though, and
washes into the soil, and discouraging competing plants. This method of
defense is called alleopathy. Coastal
scrub communities occur in cismontane California - west of the Sierra Nevada -
and northwestern Baja California on relatively shallow, dry soils (compared to
chaparral) in areas where a Mediterranean climate prevails. They are found at
elevations ranging from near sea level to 1800 feet. A stand located in a
moister climate, such as under the influence of coastal fogs, may reach six
and a half, or more, feet tall. However, one located in a drier climate, such
as on the interior slope of a hillside located in a rain shadow, may reach
only nine inches tall. Factors such as latitude, proximity to the ocean, and
substrate all exercise their influence on the distribution, species
composition, and physiognomy of coastal scrub communities. Various names
have been used to refer to the coastal scrub. "Coastal sage scrub" has been
used because of the predominance of California sagebrush (Artemisia
californica) and black sage (Salvia mellifera) in many associations
of this community. In southern California, coastal scrub is often called "soft
chaparral" (vs. "hard chaparral" or chaparral).
It is commonly known as cowboy cologne, since itís said that
the cowboys used to rub it all over their bodies before a night out on the
town. Used by the Montana Indians as
a general tonic, to restore hair, and as a dermatological aid.
Artemesia tridenta: This
smudging herb is great for ritual cleansing and protection. The Navajo smudged
themselves with grey sage before long hikes or other acts of endurance to rid
the body of undesirable or lingering things. The Paiute patted themselves with
it during religious dances to ensure spiritual cleanliness, and they decorated
themselves with its blossoms and leaves for a spring dance. Washo shamans
decorated themselves with grey sage. The Kawaiisu threw its seeds into the
fire during celebrations because of the firecracker sounds they made. Some
people associate this plant with the Coyote spirit and the direction South
(showing more than a bit of
influence here). It helps in acquiring sacred wisdom, aids longevity through
its ability to purify, protects, and drives away negative forces. You can pour
a decoction of sagebrush into your bath to wash away past wrongs, for
instance. Its leaves and flowers combine well with juniper and rosemary in
smudges. While its imposing size amongst artemisias and its scent allies it
you can also use it for work involving Artemis or other deities representing
virginal female wisdom. Its general usefulness in purification makes it a
great addition to Pagan gardens. Because of this female association and
because the other herb most frequently made into smudgesticks,
white sage, is
called Grandfather Sage, perhaps a good name for this plant is Grandmother
ROSE (Rosa spp) The particular rose we are focusing on are the wild
roses, found in dry open woods, field edges, sandy areas, and other areas all
over the United States. These roses are particularly thorny and many
animals use the thicket of rose bushes to hide in. These roses bloom in late
spring and the rose hips in late summer and hang onto the bushes for a long
These rose hips can be collected to make winter tonic to prevent colds.
They contain a lot of vitamin C and strengthens the immune system. Remove the seeds, and dry the flesh of the
rose hips, which is then ground into powder. To this, add equal parts of rose
petals collected earlier in the year. A half cup of rose hip tea makes a
great tonic to prevent flu and colds in the winter time.
Fresh rose petals can be eaten raw, added to salads, or made into tea. The
fleshy part of the rose hip can be eaten raw or dried and made into tea just
like the petals.
Strong rose tea makes a good skin wash for infections and inflammations,
can be used for mouthwash or other oral maladies. It also has a sedative
effect for headaches or upset stomach. It can also be used as ear drops
for an infected ear. Adding rose petals to hot wine used internally or
as an astringent for the skin. At the onset of a cold, you can mix
yarrow and rose hips to offset the length of the cold. This will induce
sweating to break fevers.
SASSAFRAS - (Sassafras albidum) Sassafras is a medium sized tree. The
leaves come in a variety of shapes as shown in the graphic. The bloom is
yellow, the twigs are reddish, and the fruit is blue. It can be found all over
the eastern coast and into Tennessee and Arkansas.
The wood from this tree is very aromatic and delightful to smell. It burns
very quickly and is easily used for a campfire and especially a bow drill to
start the fire. The root of this tree can be used fresh or dry. Boiling
chopped root in water makes a reddish tea. The roots themselves can be used
several times before they lose their flavor. Sweeten the tea to taste.
The leaves of the tree can be dried and made into powder to thicken stew or
soup, used for flavoring for bread, breading for fish, or for tea. They should
be dried slowly in the sun for best usage.
Note: sassafras has been found to cause cancer in laboratory animals, but
it is said that it would take 12 cups of strong tea per day for the rest of a
human life to cause cancer in people. I remember many old cowboy movies
mentioning sassafras being used.
Sassafras bark tea makes an excellent poultice for take down infections
from scrapes and abrasions on the skin. The tea can be used as a
mouthwash, to help kill pain, to induce sweating, and relieving rheumatism. It
also has the ability to reduce fever.
SHEPHERDS PURSE (Capsella bursa-pastoris) This plant grows in old
waste fields, and its basal leaves are more like dandelion leaves. The
plant blooms in mid summer and can be found all over the United States. The
seeds should be gathered in fall.
The leaves of this plant can be used like spinach leaves and the seeds have
a peppery flavor. It is one of the recommended plants in the Boy Scout
manuals. Use the young leaves for salad or to cook. The heart-shaped
seeds should be gathered, dried and coarsely ground and used for pepper in
salads or other foods. Once the plants starts to form seeds, the leaves
become coarse and bitter. The leaves can still be cooked, by dumping off
the first couple of boilings. It is an acquired taste to eat the older leaves.
Shepherd's purse tea can be used to wash a fresh wound and even to stop
bleeding if the wound is small enough as it coagulates the fresh blood and
constricts the blood vessels. Shepherd's purse can be used in the wild
to control blood pressure and alleviate headaches. 1/2 cup every other
day is sufficient. The tea can also stimulate bowel movements and eliminate
excess water retention. It is also a good antiseptic and blood
NOTE: The herb loses its potency after a year or so in storage, and can
sometimes increase blood pressure rather than lowering it, so it is not
recommended for long time usage.
(Lindera benzoin) This plant is found all over the eastern United States, and
a few states west of the Mississippi. It has a mild spicy scent and is
found in areas that are wet, like along streams and other damp areas. The
leaves are smooth and toothless. The flowers appear before the leaves do
in spring. The fruits contain a single seed.
Both the young fresh leaves and tender twigs can be used to brew this
delicious tea, and both should be dried slowly in the sun and can be used
during the winter later as well. The berries themselves can be poisonous
unless prepared properly for usage. The seeds should only be used for
replanting, and not eaten. The dried berries can be ground up and used
instead of allspice but used sparingly.
A mild tea can be used as a skin wash for insect stings or poison ivy.
People with sensitive skin can use this tea where a stronger tea might not be
good for them.
ST JOHN'S WORT
St. John's Wort, Hypericum Perfortaum known
worldwide as the herb of upliftment for emotions from depression to anxiety,
is also excellent for physical relaxation. The recipe for this "love potion"
is three parts organic extra virgin olive oil and one part fresh picked
flowers. When harvesting, try to pick only flower, not stalk. The most potent
time to harvest is on the day of St.John (June 24).
It may also decrease alcohol intake. The constituent
hyperforin, (found in the plant), appears to be responsible for
decreasing alcohol consumption.
The aerial parts of the plant
can be cut and dried for later use in the form of tea with pleasant,
though somewhat bitter, taste and for its medicinal properties.
Hyperforin, a major constituent, has also been found to have excellent
antibacterial properties; in ultrapurified form a concentration of 0.1
methicillin-resistant forms of
Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
St John's wort is generally well tolerated, The most
common adverse effects reported are gastrointestinal symptoms,
dizziness, confusion, tiredness and sedation.
St John's wort may rarely cause
photosensitivity. This can lead to visual sensitivity to light and
to sunburns in situations that would not normally cause them. Related
to this, researchers at
Fordham University, New York, showed in laboratory experiments
that the drug reacts with light, both visible and ultraviolet, to
free radicals, molecules that can damage the cells of the body.
These can react with vital proteins in the eye which, if damaged,
precipitate out causing
NOTE: St. John's Wort can kill foraging, grazing animals like horses
Poison sumac is not
very common, although the safe sumacs are very
common. Poison sumac only grows in very wet areas.
Staghorn sumac - note the difference in the leaves
from the poison sumac. This extremely
common plant can look like trouble with its bright red berries, but it
really doesn't look much like poison sumac. Note that the leaves are
jagged and the stems are hairy.
Winged sumac leaves
have a winged rachis connecting the leaflets. The leaves are glossy.
SUMAC - (Rhus spp. except Rhus vernix, which is poison) Sumac is a small tree or
shrub with large compound leaves. The twigs are thick and pithy with a milky
sap. The fruit clusters are red and hairy and usually found at the end
of the branches. The clusters sometimes last well into the winter.
The leaves can be either toothed or toothless. They grow on waste
ground, old fields and fence roads. They grow all over the United
NOTE: Poison sumac make a rash worse than poison ivy and lasts for
weeks. Stay away from that plant at all costs. This is why we have
provided photos of the leaves and flowers.
The stalks of the Sumac tree can be used to make bow drills to make fires.
They also make great pipe stems or blowguns.
The flowers soaked in cold water tastes like lemonade - it is very citrusy
tasting. A very tasty concoction is sumac, mint and store-bought tea in
equal parts with honey added. Don't forget to filter out the hair parts
of the berries and seeds - they get stuck in your throat and can be very
The bark of a young sumac can be made into a mild tea used as a gargle can
be used for a sore throat or cold sores in winter. The small root of the
sumac can be chewed on during the day with the same result. It soothes the
pain very well. The same treatment can stop diarrhea very quickly.
This also works for urinary problems. A poultice of pounded seed heads and
leaves made into a strong tea can stop the itching of poison ivy. This
strong tea will also stop bleeding. The tea simmered until it is thick and
syrupy will reduce fever and other mouth irritations.
ONE MORE NOTE; DO NOT TOUCH THE WHITE BERRIES OF THE POISON SUMAC.
DOUBLE CHECK THE PHOTOS ABOVE.
ALSO, SOME PEOPLE ARE ALLERGIC TO ALL FORMS OF SUMAC, SO CHECK FIRST BEFORE
USING FULL STRENGTH THE FIRST TIME.
SWEET FERN - (Comptonia peregrina) - This particular fern is a low bush,
with fern-like leaves. It has a nut-life fruit. It grows on sandy
soil that is dry. It is found from Canada down to Virginia and to
northeast Illinois and Minnesota.
Blended with Wintergreen which grows in the same type of area, it makes a
fantastic tea. People tend to plant this at home so they can enjoy it all the
time. It makes a beautiful house plant. Other mixtures that work well are
pine, mint, catnip, yarrow and birch. It can be served hot or cold and
sweetened with honey if you like.
Sweet fern as a hot tea makes a better skin wash for poison ivy than
Calamine lotion. As other plants, the smaller newer leaves make a milder tea
than the older, larger leaves. Mixing, wintergreen, sweet fern and rose hips
soaked in cold water tea makes a delicious remedy for someone coming down a
cold. A compress of soaked sweet fern leaves makes a great poultice for
drawing and removing boils on the skin. The tea in the strong form soaked in
warm water relieves diarrhea and stomach cramps. The strong tea also makes a
great toothpaste, mouthwash and for sore gums. It has also been used
effectively on children's acne. Older people can achieve normal bowel
movements by drinking 1/2 cup of this tea every other day.
[NOTE: The leaves of this plant look a great deal like marijuana, and
that has caused some people problems with others whose eyes are not trained to
recognize different types of plant.
TARRAGON (Artemesia Dracunculus)
Tarragon is an herbaceous perennial that grows to about 2 feet tall. It has
multibranched growth with narrow, somewhat twisted, green leaves.
Culture Tarragon will grow in full sun but seems to do better in
semishade. It can be propagated from root cuttings or by division. It needs pr
otection in winter in cold climates. Make new plantings every 3 to 4 years.
Harvesting It is best to use fresh young leaves and
stem tips. Flavor is lost when tarragon is dried. Tarragon leaves have a
distinctive flavor similar to anise and are used in salads, marinades, and
sauces. Leaves yield flavor to vinegar when steeped.
Native American groups used a Tarragon root tea for colds,
dysentery, diarrhea, headaches, difficult childbirth, urinary
disorders, and infant colic. It was also taken to promote
appetite. Externally, it was used as a wash for arthritis,
swellings, bruises, rheumatism, and for itching from chicken pox.
Fresh leaves were mashed, moistened, and applied to forehead for
headaches; placed in steam baths for rheumatic or arthritic pain,
and also used in diapers to alleviate diaper rash or raw skin.
But did you also know that Tarragon, (Artemisia Dracunculus)
is also a fantastic insect repellent? You can burn it as a smudge
stick, put loose tarragon on your logs while burning a fire, or
infuse into a lotion, oil or shampoo to avoid mosquitoes and other
insects you may not wish to get close to.
You can use Taragon with great success for your dog for
flea control during the summer. Take some regular old
shampoo, throw some tarragon leaves in there, infuse for
about a week, and use it on your dog, Wash the about once
a week. You will not see a single flea, tick or even a
house fly on him all summer!
THISTLE (Cirsium spp.) This plant loves sunny places, abandoned farm fields
and roadsides. It grows the basal rosette the first year and the flower the
The most fun of gathering these flowers is avoiding getting stuck by the
thorns. You'll need gloves. You will be delighted to know that once you get
all the thorns peeled off this plant, you can eat it like celery as it is full
of water. In the winter, the leaves from the basal rosette can be cooked
and eaten like carrots. They are less bitter if you pour out the first cooking
water and boil them a second time. The roots of the first year rosettes
and eaten raw or cooked. They are a great survival food.
In the fall, the dethorned stalks make good hand firedrills, and the white
down from the old flower makes really good tinder to start a fire.
Fresh roots have the best medicinal properties, but older people might be
sensitive to it. A handful of roots should be boiled in water for 40
minutes . Crush the roots while boiling so the root becomes fibrous.
Strain the liquid and save the roots for a poultice to put on boils, insect
stings, poison ivy, or ulcerated skin. The strong tea made this way can
be used as a mouthwash for cold sores or gum problems, or as a skin wash for
infections. Use in the chilled form to stop the itch of poison ivy or
other types of itchy skin.
TIGER LILY - Lilium tigrinum - The tiger
lily, so-called from the fact that the flowers are spotted
after the manner of the skin of the tiger, is a native of
Japan and China, but has been widely cultivated as a garden
plant. The flowers, which appear in July and August, are large
and borne in a pyramidal cluster at the top of the stem. They
are of a dark-orange hue and marked with somewhat elevated
black or deep crimson spots. A tincture of the plant, in
flower, is used quite largely by homoeopathic physicians, to
whom it was introduced by Dr. W. E. Payne.
of tiger lily has acquired considerable of a reputation as a
remedy for uterine irritation and congestion, its
effects being slowly produced. It has relieved the nausea
of uterine irritation, and the nausea of pregnancy,
and excellent results are reported of its efficacy in
congestive dysmenorrhoea. It is reputed a leading remedy
for chronic ovarian neuralgia, being indicated by
darting, burning pains in the ovaries. When pelvic weight and
prolonged lochia accompany a tardy recovery from parturition,
this remedy promises relief, and much testimony points to its
value in relieving the bearing-down sensations incident to
uterine prolapse. The dose is from 1/8 drop to 5 drops of
a strong tincture of the fresh plant. The remedy deserves a
careful study. Vomiting, purging, and drowsiness were the
symptoms produced in a little girl poisoned by the pollen of
tiger lily (Wyman, 1863).
VIOLET (Viola spp.) This plant can be found in wet meadows, damp woods, and
generally moist areas. The birdfoot violet can be found in more sunny areas.
(The leaves are shaped like a birds foot) The colors of the violet can
be blue-violet, white, or yellow and blooms in the spring. These plants
can be found all the way from Maine, all the way west to North Dakota, Canada,
and all the way south to the Gulf of Mexico.
This plant can be eaten raw right where it grows, or taken home and put in
a salad. They can also be cooked like spinach for 10 minutes.
For tea, dry the leaves and flowers in a cool place for several hours and then
stored in an earthenware container. This tea is good mixed with
strawberry tea and used as a tonic. It is great chilled. The flowers alone can
be steeped in hot water for 1/2 an hour and drunk as tea. It is full of
Vitamin C. This tea can also be mixed with alfalfa, sweet yellow clover,
birch, mint, catnip, and rose hips.
NOTE: Yellow violets may cause a person to have diarrhea.
For a medicinal tea, add a little yarrow leaves and dandelion greens.
Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) This plant grows in poor soils in
the woods or in clearings. The plant has long interconnecting root systems and
grows low to the ground. It is an evergreen plant and the waxy flowers dangle
underneath the leaves like they are under an umbrella. It blooms all summer
and the berries can be seen from late summer, even over winter until the next
summer. It grows from Canada and northern United States all the way
south to Georgia, following the mountain ranges. Even when covered by
snow, it remains green.
The new leaves near the top of the plant are the best tasting and have the
most intense flavor. It is a powerful medicine and not too much should be
eaten. Only one or two leaves should be ingested. For tea, use only a couple
of leaves - the tea can be drunk hot or cold - after filtering out the leaves.
For a medicinal tea, use a palmful of leaves and steep in hot water for at
least 1/2 an hour. This will take away a headache as it contains the chemical
methyl-salicylate, which is a relative of aspirin. This strong tea also
make a good mouthwash for sore throats, cold sores and gum ailments. The steam
from hot boiling leaves can also be breathed in to relieve pain.
The leaves can be used as a poultice, but keep in mind that repeated use can
cause skin irritation. Use crushed leaves mixed with hot tallow (grease),
steep for a time, and then cool. It can be used for mild burns.
Pink Wood Sorrel (Oxalis
Wood Sorrels sorrels are most commonly pink and
Yellow Wood Sorrel (Oxalis
These 3-leaved sorrels are commonly mistakenly
WOOD SORREL (Oxalis spp.) These plants grow all over the world, except
northern Canada and where its cold all the time. These plants live in
cool, moist woods, along field edges and clearings. The leaves have a
sour taste. The flowers come in yellow, pink, or red.
Oxalidaceae: Sorrel Family.
This family has 8 genera and about 800+ species (Carr).
Most individuals in this family have some sort of oxalic acid in their
tissues. For instance, Sorrels, Oxalis spp., which are commonly
called clovers, are a great plant to throw on salads for some extra spice.
Other plants in this family are the star fruits and pickle fruits, all of
which provide a tart treat to the taste buds.
recipe, a 15th Centuryís one, from England, when they accompanied pork and
game with the sauce.
One interesting aspect of the botanical booty is that this particular plant of
the Oxalis family is NATIVE! (you can tell by the fact it sports yellow
flowers), making the whole exercise even more appealing. Aboriginal Australian
sure knew of the edibility of the plant, which can be eaten fresh, having a
lemony taste. The new leaves can be added to salads as a type of spice
because of its sour taste. You can also make a refreshing drink by
steeping the leaves in hot water for ten minutes - a palmful of leaves to a
pint of water. Chill and sweeten to taste - drink like iced tea. As long as
the tea isn't boiled, it contains a goodly amount of Vitamin C. Wood
sorrel tea can be mixed with other teas half and half for different flavoring.
For medicinal purposes, the chilled tea made from the leaves has a great
soothing effect on the digestive system. It relieves heartburn, cramps and
other stomach disorders. A stronger tea can be used for a skin wash.
Do not use it on deep wounds however. Too much of this tea can cause bleeding
because of the oxalic acid in it. It can also cause diarrhea. So use
TOXICITY: Oxalis spp. are used as a poison in Australia,
India, Spain, & Turkey. Large doses can cause oxalate poisoning. Overdose
in animals results in coma and death. Oxalates can bind with calcium
causing physiological problems. The oxalates in Sorrel can be minimized by
properly decocting the herb.
CAUTIONS AND CONTRAINDICATIONS: Oxalis spp. should be
avoided by those with gout, arthritis, kidney stones, or hyperacidity. Not
in pregnancy. Long term usage causes the body to inhibit the ability
to absorb calcium.
YARROW - (Achillea millefolium) Yarrow, a tall white
cluster of flowers with fern
like leaves, and very fragrant. It grows in old fields, old waste grounds and
love sun. It is found all over the United States.
To collect the leaves of this plant, pick just before a rain in areas that
are not in full sun or full shade. Dry the leaves slowly and in a cool place
and store in a glass or earthenware container. Do not keep the container
tightly sealed so the air in the container can breathe in an out. Store the
container in a cool and dry place out of direct sunlight.
Tea made from the leaves brewed in not water for ten minutes make a good
tonic. Please note that this tea induces sweating.
It is used as medicine for sore throats and also
makes a fragrant hair rinse. The stalks of Yarrow are used to throw in I Ching.
The flowers and leaves are excellent for sore throats steeped in distilled
water and add equal parts of honey and organic apple cider vinegar.
Drinking the tea will bring down a severe fever within 15 minutes. It is best
used for this mixing with Wintergreen tea. Drink 1 cups a day for 2 days, and
then discontinue. The tea can be used as a skin wash but prolonged use
can make the skin sensitive to sunlight. It reduces skin maladies and
irritations very quickly. It can even stop nose bleeds and internal
bleeding mixed with other herbs. Use the fresh leaves applied to boils
and pimples directly and keep bandaged. It helps to draw out the inflammation.
YERBA - (Yerba Santa) (Eriodictyon californicum) Also called:
Mountain Balm, Bear's Weed, Gum Plant, Consumptive Weed, Holy Herb and
Yerba Santa is an evergreen aromatic shrub with woody rhizomes, typically
growing to a height of 3 to 4 feet (1 m +) The dark green, leathery leaves are
oblong to lanceolate and covered with shiny resin. They grow in an alternate
arrangement and are pinnately veined and usually serrate. The taste of the
leaves is balsamic and the flowers and leaves smell pleasantly aromatic on a
warm day. Yerba Santa is native to the western and southwestern regions of
North America, and is somewhat native to northern Mexico. It grows 2-6 feet in
height at elevations ranging from 2000 to 3,500 ft. It is typically found in
dry areas that are sparse of other vegetation. The flowers are a delicate
whitish-lavender color, found in curved tubular clusters (helicoid cymes) at
the top of the plant, and are pollinated by butterflies. Yerba Santa blooms
from May to July, depending on the elevation. The fruit forms a grayish-brown
seed capsule, oval in shape, which contains hardened black seeds
Chumash Indians and other
California Indians have used yerba santa (Eriodictyon californicum)
and other related species (Eriodictyon crassifolium,
Eriodictyon trichocalyx) for many centuries in the treatment of
pulmonary (lung) conditions, saliva production, and to stop bleeding
of minor cuts and scrapes.
In the United States and Britain,
Eriodictyon californicum was formally used for conditions
including influenza, bacterial pneumonia, asthma, bronchitis, and
tuberculosis starting in the late 1800s until the 1960s (when drug
regulations became more stringent around proof of efficacy).
Subsequently, the extracts remained GRAS ("generally regarded as
safe") as a flavor for foods, beers, and pharmaceuticals (such as to
hide the bitterness of quinine). Eriodictyon plant extracts
have also been used in cosmetics.
contain flavones with free radical scavenging (antioxidant)
properties, and have therefore been proposed as being beneficial for a
number of health conditions.
It is an excellent remedy combined with grindelia robusta.
It acts well in all forms of cough where there is dryness of the mucous
membranes, in conjunction with other directly indicated remedies. It is
prepared in the form of a syrup, and like prunus virginiana, can
be made a basis or vehicle for other agents. The syrup conceals the bitter
taste of quinine admirably.
YUCCA (Yucca filamentosa) This plant lives in sandy woods, old fields
and sandy waste areas. It is an evergreen plant. Yucca grows in the
southwestern states and California mostly, but is found in Georgia and New
Jersey. Two other species of Yucca grow along the immediate coast, but
Yucca filamentosa is easily distinguished from them by the twisty
thread-like filaments that shred off the leaf margins (these give it the name
filamentosa) and by the near lack of a trunk. This plant is cultivated
and found in other states as well.
The leaves of this
plant can be pounded with wood on wood and used for cordage. It is very strong
and can even be used as a bowstring. It can also be used to weave
baskets and mats and other products like that.
The roots contain a substance (sophins) that become a
lather when pounded in water. This soap is very effective in cleaning, yet is
mild enough to use for hair and skin. it can also be used to wash wounds
and other skin maladies. Diluted, it can be used a mouthwash for cold sores.
The roots can be used as a poultice to drain boils, remove
insect stings and stop the itch of poison ivy. Do not allow to stay on the
skin for more than 1/2 an hour and wash off thoroughly.
The flowers are edible fresh and the dew on the petals will furnish water to
slake thirst. These flowers can be added to a salad. They have an uncommon
taste and very delicious.
NOTE: These are only some of the edible and usable
plants found in the wild. I present other links below which can be used
for the purpose of growing your own herbs and for survival.
HERBS AND SURVIVAL DATABASE