Nature provides us with everything we need in order to survive and there are a few wild plants that are commonly used as first aid. These wild healing plants are well-known for their healing properties and those living off the grid have been using them for years.
If you get stranded in the wild or if you plan to live off-grid you should learn how to find the following wild healing plants as you could use them until professional medical help would be available. Some of these wild healing plants are already available in your garden or living area and most people see them only as invasive weeds, without having a clue about their healing benefits.
6 wild healing plants to forage:
This plant is has been used for centuries across North American and Europe and it is widely spread across the country (BONAP map here). Nettles are known to treat: allergies, anemia, arthritis, bronchitis, burns and scalds, fatigue, internal bleeding, kidney stones, parasites, poor circulation, pre-menstrual syndrome, urinary tract infections, and more. Because of its many nutrients, stinging nettle is traditionally used as a spring tonic. It is a slow-acting nutritive herb that gently cleanses the body of metabolic wastes. As a diuretic, stinging nettle increases the secretion and flow of urine. This makes it invaluable in cases of fluid retention and bladder infections. It is also anti-lithic, breaking down stones in the kidneys and gravel in the bladder. When it comes to wild healing plants, stinging nettle stands out due to its many uses and besides being a good edible, it can also be used to make cordage and bring feeling back to frozen hands and feet. Europeans and Native Americans used the fibers from stinging nettle to make sailcloth, sacking, cordage, and fishing nets. If you would like to use nettles for food or tea, you need to harvest the plants before they flower. Otherwise you can harvest stinging nettles from the time the new leaves emerge until late fall when he flowers have gone to seed. If you plan to make cordage, allow the plants to go to seed to ensure good propagation. A decoction of the plant has been used to produce a green dye for clothing for centuries and during WWII the British government used his green dye for camouflage. Stinging nettle has been used throughout history as animal fodder, as vegetarian rennet in cheese making.
Although it is seen as a garden weed in many parts of North America, Plantain is one of the most powerful wild healing plants. Even more, plantain is an edible plant that can be foraged in both wild and urban environments. Plantain is originally native to Europe and today, it can be found in many parts of North America (BONAP map here). Believed to have been brought to the Americas by the Puritans, plantain was referred to as “white man’s footprint” amongst some Native American tribes because of how it well it thrived in the disturbed areas surrounding European settlements. Plantain has been used by the first pioneers due to its natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It is of great use when it comes to speeding recover of wounds, and for itching or pain associated with skin problems. Externally, Plantain has been used for insect and snake bites, and as a remedy for rashes and cuts. I use it to make a healing salve, which can be used as a natural antibiotic ointment on cuts and bruises. The strong fibers within the leaves were also used for making thread, fishing line and even cloth. Raw young leaves are best harvested in spring, when they are young and tender. In summer, harvest seeds and older leaves for cooking.
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This plant grows wild all across the United States (BONAP map here) and it was one of the wild healing plants used by the Native Americans tribes. It was known and appreciated for its highly antimicrobial and anti-infectious properties. Yarrow was first used by ancient Greeks over 3,000 years ago for treating external wounds on the skin to slow down bleeding. The flowers and leaves of yarrow were eaten and also made into a tea-like drink. The leaves of the yarrow can be used cooked or raw. Although they have a bitter flavor, you can use them in mixed salads and are best used when the leaves are young. The entire plant can be used, both dried and fresh and it is recommended to gather it while in flower. Fresh leaves can be used to treat gastrointestinal problems, fight fevers, lessen menstrual bleeding and improve circulation. You can also make a tincture or poultice to treat rashes and broken skin.
This plant is considered an invasive weed in the United States, but it’s also appreciated for its wide range of medicinal and food uses. It is one of the wild healing plants that can be used completely and each part of the plant has specific uses. The leaves, flowers, seed pods and roots can be used for both as food and medicine. The leaves and young shoots of common mallow are edible raw or cooked. Immature seeds are also edible raw or cooked and they contain 21% protein and 15.2% fat. All parts of common mallow are astringent, laxative, urine-inducing, and have agents that counteract inflammation, that soften and soothe the skin when applied locally, and that induce the removal of mucous secretions from the lungs. Due to its astringent, bactericidal and anti-inflammatory properties, common mallow can be used externally as an herbal treatment for wounds, skin rashes, insect bites and swellings. This plant is highly appreciated in the Jewish culture as it played an important role as famine crop during the siege of Jerusalem in 1948. Survivalists often use the roots of common mallow as a toothbrush replacement and homesteaders used to make cream, yellow and green dyes by using this plant.
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Although Burdock is native to Europe and Northern Asia, thanks to the first settlers this plant is now widespread throughout the United States (BONAP map here) where is seen as a weed. This is one of the wild healing plants that was widely used as a food source in Europe, but also for its medicinal properties. The root, herb and seeds can be used and you need to learn when to harvest them. The roots are dug in July and you need a little effort as they are 12 inches in length and about 1 inch thick. The leaves can also be collected in July, but the seeds should be collected when ripe in the fall. Young burdock roots, flower stems and even very young leaves are consumed eagerly in many parts of Asia and Europe. To remove the bitter taste of the roots, slice them thinly and soak them in water for a few hours. When it comes to its healing properties, the root is principally employed, but the leaves and seeds are equally valuable. You can make a decoction using both root and seeds and its anti-scorbutic properties will help heal boils, scurvy and rheumatic affections. An infusion of the leaves is useful to impart strength and tone to the stomach, for some forms of long-standing indigestion. When applied externally as a poultice, the leaves are highly efficient for tumors and gouty swellings, and relieve bruises and inflamed surfaces generally.
This annoying weed is a well-known wild healing plants and it was first mentioned in the tenth century by Arabian physicians. This plant is native to Eurasia and North America (BONAP map is here) and it’s known to be entirely edible. This plant can be used as an abundant natural food source when times are tough since all parts of the plant can be eaten. Europeans settlers grew dandelion to use as a supplement to food as well as for medicine. The root is often roasted and used in teas or consumed whole. Dandelion root is best collected before flowering in spring when they are most tender. Dandelion leaves are a great addition to salads or other dishes requiring greens while the yellow flowers can be eaten raw, cooked or made into wine. Dandelion leaves act as a diuretic, increasing the amount of urine your body makes. The leaves are used to stimulate the appetite and help digestion. Dandelion flower has antioxidant properties and overall, dandelion may also help improve the immune system. Herbalists use dandelion root to detoxify the liver and gallbladder, and dandelion leaves to help kidney function.
These wild healing plants are available for everyone, regardless of where they live and they will come in handy when no doctor is around. Rather than relying on modern medicine and pump your body full of chemicals try to discover the benefits these wild healing plants bring.