MEDICINE IN THE WILD
By Benjamin ‘Raven’ Pressley
Some say there is a cure for everything in nature, some yet undiscovered. That is plausible. I know along the way in my wildwood treks I have a few go to plants I use. In a survival situation one must be particularly careful and take things like even tiny scratches more serious. Problems such as infections can be even more life threatening in the wild far from any hospitals or modern medicine. These are only a few of many but are my top plants that I use on a regular basis.
There are two varieties.
Both varieties are the same as far as their uses. It is a great antiseptic. Cushing freshly picked leaves can be held right on a cut or scratch. It is also by far the best thing I have seen for Poison Ivy rashes. It is also great for those itchy bug bites like mosquitoes. Take and rub a crushed leaf on that bite and you get the satisfaction of scratching without using your fingernails while applying soothing medicine. This is good for teaching kids who are getting mosquito bit. You can also make a salve from it to carry with you on the trail. Need to treat diarrhea? Make a tea from the leaves. What about the opposite, constipation? Use the seeds and seed husks. It is also edible but a bit slimy.
Mullein (Verbascum thapsus):
Large fuzzy leaves have many uses. I like putting them in my shoes like shoe pads. They are soft and release oils that relax my feet as I go down the trail. It is also great for treating congestion. I keep some rolled up like cigars in my dresser drawers and when I need one it is nice and dry. I light one end and breathe in the smoke. It is also good for a pipe smoke. Making a strong tea (decoction) it may be used in a sponge soaked with it for swelling glands. The tea is also good for drinking for coughs and congestion. If you are drinking it it is a good idea to strain through some cheesecloth to remove any irritating hairs from the plant.
Willow: There are two varieties.
Both varieties contain a natural aspirin (Salicylic Acid) that is a mild pain killer. I have found chewing on a young willow branch has very soothing qualities. Even better though try tying several twigs together and steeping them in hot water for a soothing pain water for a soothing pain relieving drink. Great after a long day of paddling!
A very common well known plant that most curse as a weed. The dandelion root can be roasted, ground and made into a very pleasant tea and has numerous health benefits. It has been hailed as a treatment of loss of appetite, upset stomach, intestinal gas, joint pain, muscle aches, blood tonic, and digestive tonic. It is also very tasty. The leaves can be fried up and eaten as a green. The blossoms are great battered and fried or eaten fresh.
Yarrow – (Achillea millefolium):
Sometimes called the toothache plant. It is an anesthetic and can be chewed on the tooth that is aching, rinse your mouth out and it temporarily relieves the pain. It has been used as a poultice to stop bleeding. Tea made from the dried plant is good for treating colds, fevers, indigestion and other gastric problems. It induces sweat which is good for sweating out a cold.
Yummy berry familiar to most. It is sweet and tasty and makes a great cobbler or jelly but did you know it is also great for heartburn and acid indigestion? Dried leaves made into a tea is also good for mild diarrhea.