Can’t make it to the drug store right now? Whatever the reason, you do have some natural medicinal options in the winter season. Look for these three plants to lessen the symptoms and shorten the duration of your next case of the cold or flu. All you need is a sharp eye and a patch of wild growth to find these common and potent medicinals.
Mullein is a native plant, which favors dry, rocky soil and full sunlight, and is found throughout the US. An easy way to spot patches of this plants in cold weather is to look for the chocolate brown skeletons of the second-year plants. Look for 4- to 6-foot-tall stalks, which often have branching flower heads that resemble the arms of a saguaro cactus. The part you want for medicine are the velvety green leaves, which can still be found in winter growing in basal rosettes on one-year-old plants. Treat head colds by crushing the leaves into boiling water and breathing the steam. This medicated vapor acts as a decongestant.
The little red berries of barberry contain a compound called berberine. This acts as an immune system booster, helping your body fight off viral attacks like the common cold and the flu. The bitter taste of the berries isn’t very inviting, but eating a handful each day you’re feeling sick can shorten the illness, much like elderberry and Echinacea will. Look for small bushes with small dangling red berries. The two native varieties of the shrubs will have thorns in sets of three growing all over the twigs. The introduced Japanese species will have single thorns growing around the twigs. All three species can be used medicinally. As an additional point of identification, check the seeds in the red berries. Each berry should contain dark, slender seeds—typically two per berry.
This non-native plant grows from coast to coast on sunny open ground, although it’s originally native to Europe. Its most common use is as a poultice for cuts and other wounds. But you can fight colds and flu with it by making a tea from the leaves. Chop up the fresh leaves and add one tablespoon to one cup of scalding hot water. Soak the leaves for 10 to 15 minutes. You can sweeten the drink if you need to, or drink it commando-style. The anti-viral compounds help your immune system through its battle, while the diaphoretic compounds will get a sweat going to help break fevers.
Just make sure you use a field guide or guidance from an expert for positive identification of these plants. The last thing you need to do is poison yourself while you’re already ill.
Have you made medicine from wild plants? Tell us what you used by leaving a note in the comments.