Practical Skills: Medicinal Plant Walk

One of the workshops that I attended at the Maps Meet was the Medicinal Plant Walk. Taught by an herbalist named "Doc," all the attendants ended up with a wealth of information. Now, believe me when I say that information and discussions on plants and their medicinal and/or edible qualities do not end here, but for now I am concentrating on information that was received at this gathering.

We started our walk underneath a pine tree. Pines (any kind) happen to be full of vitamin C, and when used topically may be used to cure sores, cuts, and rashes. Pine needles, as well as firs, have similiar qualities to willow, which means they may be used as aspirin.

What did we discuss next? No medicinal plant walk would be complete without dandelions! Dandelions are chock full of vitamins A, K, and C, and the leaves and root of the dandelion will actually help to grow back an unhealthy liver.

Mint is also a common one you might hear about. There are over 50 species of mint and all can interbreed with one another. All may be used as insect repellent, as well as a stomach soother and taken for mild fevers (as a tea is best). You may also use heavy doses for headaches and menstrual pains. You may also use the leaves as a wash for muscle aches and sores. Note: A wash is when you boil the plant down and then apply topically, sort of like a tea for your skin. To help stabilize blood sugar, for diabetics and those with hypoglycemia in particular (though good for anybody), adding mint leaves to your water in the morning and drinking mint water throughout the day will help.

Next up we examined some blackberry plants. Blackberry is useful as it is used as a cure for dysentery. In a survival situation with perhaps a limited water supply, having a cure for that particular problem might just save your life. You use the leaves of the plant and boil them for the cure. Use as many as you wish to, and depending on how serious your condition is, the color of the water will end up differently. You will want the water to be green for mild cases of dysentery, brown for somewhat serious cases, and dark brown or black if you are close to death. If the leaves don't happen to be in season you may use the root. Of course, if you wish to use the entire plant, leaves, root and fruit, you can always make yourself some nice blackberry jam!

Strawberry has a great deal of vitamin C hidden away in its roots. George Washington's troops dug in the snow to dig up strawberry roots and headed off scurvy.

Plantain, every-ones favorite medicinal plant. "The plant that thought of everything," is how Ben describes it. To be used topically, the plantain (roots or leaves) must be crushed up, not chewed (you would be asking for more trouble than it's worth), and placed on the wound. Plantain will help to stop bleeding and may even reverse blood poisoning. An example of this is of a man who had a septic cut that resulted in blood poisoning. Not being in an area where he, and his companions, could head off to the hospital quickly, they had to deal with it themselves while traveling. His companions took shifts and placed crushed plantain on the wound every 20-30 minutes. When they arrived at the emergency room, the doctor wanted to know what was wrong. When they showed him the wound, the doctors reaction was one of "Yeah, so what? It's a cut!" The blood poisoning had reversed itself.

Jewelweed, one of the most interesting plants that I encountered on this walk, has leaves that shine like silver when they are underwater. The leaves may be crushed into a juice and rubbed on the skin to be used as a cure for poison ivy and poison oak. Not only is it a cure, but it is also a preventative medicine. If you happen to be in a area where you know you will come in contact with poison ivy or poison oak, rub jewelweed on your skin and you will be fine for approximately 2 hours.

Yarrow is used primarily for the stopping of bleeding. The blossom of the yarrow is the best part for this use. If the blossoms are not in bloom, use the leaves instead. You may also make yarrow tea out of the leaves to help break fevers and get rid of headaches.

Wild Ginger, not related to common ginger, grows low to the ground and if crushed will produce a ginger-like smell. The root and the leaves of this plant may be used to help the breaking of fevers and to help reduce the effects of menopause. It may also be used as a tincture, using the entire plant, to help with coughs. It is not an expectorant, but rather will break up the mucus, making it easier for you to breathe.

Comfrey leaves may be used on burns, placing on the area after crushing it up well. Comfrey has the interesting property of accelerating cell growth. It may be placed on cuts, wounds and even on areas where a bone is broken, as it is transdermal (goes through the skin). It is excellent in helping with stomach ulcers. Comfrey has gotten a somewhat bad wrap for it's cell growth acceleration properties, however, it will not accelerate abnormal cell growth, such as cancer cells.

Well, that is all for now. Look back for more of our experiences and what we learned at the Maps Meet!

Wild Ginger

– Miranda Vivian



  1. Dandelions said,

    August 10, 2006 at 10:06 pm

    My daughter only 28 yrs. old has already had 18 kidney stones that required hospital satys and operations until she learned that when she felt one coming on she drank about a gallon of dandelion tea in one day. The next day all symtoms would be gone. This has happened over and over for her so she knows it works and no longer has to be rushed to a hospital.

  2. Aftermath said,

    August 10, 2006 at 11:47 pm

    Well it is fantastic to hear that dandelions are working well for your daughter. Herbal medicinals are certainly something I hold in higher respect for than modern sick-care medications. It certainly has been around long enough! Herbal medicines are typically preventative care, while the modern hospital stay, doctor visits, prescription drugs are mainly for those that are already ill.
    I think I would prefer to prevent than have to cure.
    Is she drinking the dandelion tea on a fairly regular basis now?

    – Miranda Vivian

  3. Rix said,

    February 17, 2007 at 6:07 pm

    With jewelweed, I usually use the stalks instead of the leaves, as they tend to be more juicy–especially the “knees” or swolen, round-ish joints in the stem. Split the stem with your thumbnail, and rub each of the two halves on your skin irritation. This plant is usually very invasive, so there is not much reason to worry over damaging an entire plant this way.

    I have tried Steve Brill’s witch hazel and jewelweed tincture and found it to be very effective at preserving the jewelweed juice to keep at home or to take with you on trips where you don’t expect to find it growing. I preserved some this way and kept it for about 4 years before I used it all up, and it was efficacious to the last. As with any herb you’re preserving, keeping it away from sunlight will help it last longer.

    Here’s the method (which Brill tells about on his tours but doesn’t list on his website for some reason.) Use regular witch hazel extract that you can find at any drug store. Stuff as many jewelweed stems as possible into a bottle (I used an empty Evian bottle) and pour in enough witch hazel to completely cover the jewelweed. Store in a cool shady spot and shake vigorously twice a day for two weeks. After two weeks, the solution should have a nice greenish to green-brown tint. Strain the solution and store in a cool, dark place. I kept mine in the same Evian bottle tucked inside a paper bag in the pantry.

  4. Delia said,

    February 8, 2008 at 7:26 pm


    I just ran over this web page, while trying to find out how to make essential oils. Love this stuff. Thank you.

    Here is what I don’t quite get, and if someone know, please share the information. The vitamins in plants, vegetables … are at a maximum level when they are live. As soon as they get boiled, steamed …. the level of vitamins goes down. I wonder how much there is left of the vitamins, in an essential oil, or in a jam (like the blackberry jam mentioned above). Are the levels substantial, and how are they compared to what it started it – is it a 20% loss, or 90% loss.

    Thanks again for all the great info. I’ll be digging in.

  5. May 9, 2010 at 8:11 am

    D. ELENTU.

  6. rkp said,

    June 30, 2012 at 5:17 pm

    do you have any suggestions for a book/books that cover a lot of this material? great site!

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