Often underrated, medicinal plants play an essential role in curing minor health issues, but not only that. In fact, the healing plants you can forage could help prevent major health distress, providing you with the possibility to become your own doctor.
Any survivalist should have a solid array of skills to always rely on. This precious amount of knowledge allows you to carry less load on your back and fix situations and diseases with what you can find in the surrounding environment.
“If you don’t prepare, you could lose everything. If you prepare for the worst and nothing happens, you’ve lost nothing.”
In an SHTF scenario, hospitalization structures could be overpopulated or, at the very opposite, not accessible at all.
In such a “What if” situation, your previous knowledge of the local flora may not only come in handy, but it could literally save your life.
A closer focus on medicinal herbs and plants
“First, ask yourself: What is the worst that can happen? Then prepare to accept it. Then proceed to improve on the worst.”
Medicinal herbs and plants have prehistoric roots. Discovered and used for ages, their knowledge and benefits have been handed down from generation to generation, till current times.
Their chemical compounds have been studied and used to cure a lot of minor and major diseases like respiratory/enteric/cardiovascular, epidermal diseases, and many others.
The most common compounds which can b found in plants can be clustered into four major biochemical classes:
For hundreds of years, a large number of medicinal plants have been employed, especially within non-industrialized societies.
Their benefits were also economical: they were cheaper than regular meds and pretty much available to everyone.
In 2012, the annual global export value of the thousands of medicinal plants was estimated at around US$2.2 billion. Five years later, it reached several hundred billion dollars.
Because of the massive export of medicinal plants, the World Health Organization started to promote a more rational gather and safe usage of such plants.
Nonetheless, a lot of medicinal plants are suffering from climate change and the destruction of their natural habitat, following the high demand coming from all over the world.
Why you should learn to recognize medicinal plants
In any outdoor environment, a minor cut could turn into a big problem if not treated properly.
The occurrence of cutting yourself with any cutting tool, with part of your gear, or with any natural material is a real thing in a survival situation. In fact, this type of situation occurs even more than you would think, and it will be experienced even more when SHTF.
In an emergency situation, you may suffer from:
- physical and mental fatigue
- sleep deprivation
- bad (or not sufficient at all) nutrition and hydration
All the factors mentioned above have a direct and tremendous effect on even the smallest cut. This is mainly the result of a lack of your body’s immunity defense.
In a survival situation, every part of your body is overstressed and exhausted.
Without clean water and the usage of disinfectant, a minor cut could easily and rapidly be infected and go into gangrene. Even faster than you may expect.
What if you don’t have any access to clean water and disinfectant?
You could rely on your knowledge of medicinal plants and make them your best allies when it comes to the necessity to hinder the progression of a cut like in the example we depicted above.
Keep in mind that medicinal plants have a lower and slower effect than commercial meds.
So you need to repeat the medication several times before getting 100% sure you fixed the emergency.
The risk of any allergy to a specific medicinal plant is more than a remote possibility. Nonetheless, the effects show up very slowly, even before the production of any possible, real, worse effects on your body.
Additionally, medicinal plants have a very delicate effect. This happens to be the best solution when your whole body finds itself in a condition of extreme weakness. In order to defeat it, the secret is to maintain yourself always properly hydrated.
Safety rules with medicinal plants
“Your immune systems are comprised of all parts of the eco-system you know as yourself, and include not only every part of you, from your conscious and subconscious thoughts to your physical body systems, but also how you live and function in relationship with the larger ecosystems that surround you.”
― Robin Rose Bennett
Safety rules related to medicinal plants and herbs are quite similar to the ones for edible plants.
Gather and employ them only if you are 100% sure to identify them correctly.
My personal advice is not to rely on only books and manuals, especially on those with black/white pictures or sketches.
Identifying plants, in fact, can be tough. This happens to be even more tricky in the following circumstances:
- in shady areas
- in twilight time
- in weak physical condition
- in a state of mental and physical dizziness
- when you are in a rush
- when you panic
- when you are overstressed
A good starting point is to purchase some books, watching good and clearly explained videos, and attending to some identification plant classes and seminars.
You need to also pay attention to a simple fact: not all medicinal plants and herbs are also edible!
In your first step into foraging, you definitely need to be under the constant monitoring of a senior or experienced forager. Remember that mistakes can be lethal.
The next step is to study your local flora and to start being accustomed to the species and where to find them, along with the properties and their blossoming season. Bring with you the best local manual or field guide you are able to find and pay extra care while starting to gather them.
If you feel insecure, you can still bring the plants you gathered to an expert before using them. Better be safe than sorry!
Use common sense
“Oma says, when we were put on earth a really long time ago, each person came with a plant to heal all the troubles that come later….We’ve got Indian balsam, sage, wild rose. We’ve got juniper berries and honeysuckle. All of them do something different inside, heal things.”
― J.J. Brown
As it is impossible to predict the features of an emergency situation, the best option you have is to become familiar with as many plants as possible and to understand where and when you are more likely to find them.
Cluster them in your memory for their benefits, so you will know what you need in different cases.
In order to stop bleeding, you need to use a plant with hemostatic properties. Common bistort (Polygonum bistorta) is an excellent example. You need to extract the powder from her dried roots. Then you apply the powder directly to the external wounds.
In order to prevent any wound infection, you can do some lavages with the following infusions:
- Plantago major leaves and stem. You can also chew them and apply them directly on wounds.
- Prunella Vulgaris You can chew them too and later apply.
- Arctium lappa infusion with dried roots
- Betula pendula leaves infusion is a common disinfectant.
You can use wood carbon as well as pine needles tea as a remedy against diarrhea.
Taraxacum officinale leaves, eaten either raw either boiled, are good to favor digestion.
Rosa canina berries not only contain Vitamin C, but they are also good as a regulator for your stomach functions.
You can apply leaves of Plantago, Betula, or Arctium to calm the itching. Apply them as infusions at a mild temperature on your skin.
Taking care of your teeth in a survival situation isn’t easy. Nonetheless, brushing them with some of the cold ashes of your campfire is a long-time remedy you can find in all survival manuals and guides. It is easy, functional, and very effective!
Ashes can also be used to wash your clothes and hair. Not the best smell, but.. it works.
You can also employ the bark of Alnus glutinosa.
“In my opinion, no one in the medical profession has reached infinity of thought. No one can claim authority over another’s right to heal. By using herbs to heal, the very plants we walk alongside on the earth, we not only create empowerment within ourselves but also identify and connect with dis-ease, allow it a swifter passage for greater healing to be made“.
– Niki Senior – Master Herbalist
Medicinal plants and herbs have many pros, but to make them your allies, you need to master their identification and usage knowledge.
Before finding yourself in a survival situation, make some tests and always keep your skills sharp! Go out, identify plants and keep a journal of your findings!
Kyt Lyn Walken has written this article for Prepper’s Will.