There was a time when you’d run down to the local apothecary if you weren’t feeling well, or go talk to the neighborhood “simpler” (one who prepares simple medicines) for medical complaints. Those colorful characters would prescribe some sort of remedy from the abundance of nature and send you on your way. Sometimes it didn’t work, but other times, you were actually using the forerunners of today’s over-the-counter medicines. These methods and materials were well known centuries ago, but have fallen into obscurity since the advent of the corner drug store. But dig a little, and you’ll find the old connections are still there. Many of our modern medicines trace their history back to where they were first discovered in wild plants. Even the word “drug” is still anchored in the past, as it comes from the old Dutch word droog, which means dried plant. Here are five amazing medicinal plants that can be found almost anywhere and can be used to treat what ails us. And as an added bonus, they’re all edible, too.
With over 200 active medicinal compounds, yarrow tops the chart of medicinal mojo. Crush the fresh leaves and apply them to bleeding wounds to staunch the flow of blood and discourage infection. The dried powdered leaves can work in the same way. The fresh or dried leaves can also be used for tea and as a culinary herb. Just make sure you have 100 percent positive ID of this plant and any others you plan to ingest or apply to your skin.
Fresh green mullein leaves were used by some Native Americans as moccasin inserts to keep their feet warm. Not only do the fuzzy leaves offer insulation, they also release an oil that opens up the capillaries to increase the flow of blood. Mullein leaves can also be placed in hot water: you can breathe in the steam to relieve congestion (though many Native folks just smoked the leaves for the same result) or drink it as a tea. The pretty yellow flowers can also be soaked in oil to create earache drops.
This common lawn weed is an excellent antidote for bee stings and venomous insect and arthropod bites. Crush the leaves and apply the green gooey mess directly to the bite or sting. Relief should come very quickly. The leaves and seeds can be eaten raw or cooked.
Another ubiquitous lawn weed, dandelion cleanses the liver and blood, and acts as a diuretic. Eat any part of the plant in any way you like. My favorites are the roasted root coffee and fried flower fritters.
This native to Asia is a great tonic for skin problems, liver issues, and gout. Make a tea from the roots, or simply eat the edible leaves and roots for relief.
Do you use wild plants for food or medicine? Please tell us your favorites by leaving a comment.