For thousands of years, man has treated sickness and pain by using the healing properties of certain plants. These healing plants were the only available resource that helped mankind survive when battling ill health, and without them, we wouldn’t be here today.
One of the earliest texts on the subject of healing plants is the Ebers Papyrus, written about 1550 B.C. by ancient Egyptians. The papyrus contains many prescriptions and shows a high degree of medical knowledge.
Even earlier, the Chinese had a book of pharmacopeia detailing the prescribing of drugs, their preparations, and their uses. Known as the PenTh’ao, translated as Essential Herbs, this work is attributed to China’s legendary God of Farming, Shen Nung. Shen is supposed to have lived 2,700 years before Christ.
The very first physicians were all herbalists. Hippocrates firmly believed that the treatment of a specific complaint should be carried out only as part of the treatment of the whole man. He stressed the importance of diet as well as his habits and the environment in which he lived.
Healing plants in modern times
Plants and herbs are still important to the modern medical doctor. Scientists are worried that future anti-cancer drugs may be lost forever because the world’s rain forests are being systematically slashed and burned by peasants and ranchers of third world countries. So far only one to ten percent of the Amazon’s 80,000 plant species have been studied.
Rain forests are like chemical factories. Many of today’s modern drugs have come from various healing plants: Penicillin is produced from mold; cortisone is derived from yams; Atropine, a drug for stomach ulcers, comes from the Belladonna plant; the tranquilizer and high blood pressure drug reserpine from India’s snakeroot; and codeine from the opium poppy of the East.
To the prepper and survivalist, modern medicines, when used wisely and with skill, will prove invaluable during those times when the services of a physician might not be available. Many doctors are willing to prescribe drugs for those building emergency medical kits, especially those leaving for remote areas or on long expeditions.
Herbal medicine, although usually not as potent as modern synthesized drugs, can still be employed to serve mankind. Healing plants can be grown in the backyard garden and provide not only medicinal uses but improve your culinary arts.
A survivalist in an outdoor setting should know and be able to identify a few basic plants that would be beneficial should injury or sickness occurs in a wilderness situation. The following is an abbreviated list of plants and their uses. Be sure to buy a guidebook with good color photos to help in the proper identification of wild herbs and healing plants that reside in your area.
Best 10 healing plants to grow
An easy plant to grow at home, many housewives keep aloe vera nearby the kitchen for the treatment of burns. The gel inside the succulent leaf provides a cooling, medicinal salve. Great for sunburned noses, cuts, and minor burns. Some physicians have prescribed aloe vera for nuclear and other radiation burns.
This versatile healing plant that can be used for both externally and internally treating a person. Externally, it can be used to helps soothe the damaged skin. The juice from aloe vera can be used to help soothe the pain of all types of skin conditions such as bug bites or dry skin caused by eczema.
Used internally, the Aloe Vera juice can help treat a variety of digestive problems, constipation, and colitis. Even more, consuming the juice will help develop an appetite, which is critical when food fatigue settles in. It will greatly help those in recuperation who have a poor appetite.
Related article: The Anatomy Of Burn Injuries And Their Medical Treatment
This plant is native to Europe and North Asia, and it was introduced to the Americas with the coming of the first settlers. It is now widespread across the country, and it is seen mostly as an invasive weed. However, in Europe was extensively used as a food source, but also as a healing plant.
The root, herb, and seeds can be all used if you learn when to harvest them. Dig the rots in July since they are hard to miss due to their length of 12 inches and 1-inch thickness.
You can also collect the leaves in July, but you need to wait for the fall to collect the seeds. In general, young burdock roots, flower stems, and even very young leaves are eaten eagerly in many parts of Asia and Europe. However, there’s a trick to consume the roots due to their bitter taste. Slice them thinly and soak them in water for water for a few hours before eating them.
When it comes to its medicinal properties, the root is principally used, but the leaves and seeds are equally valuable and should not be ignored. You can make a decoction using both root and seeds. Its anti-scorbutic properties will help heal boils, scurvy, and rheumatic affections.
An infusion of the leaves can be used to impart strength and tone to the stomach and ease some forms of long-standing indigestion. Make a poultice and apply it externally to ease tumors and gouty swellings. I’ve used it successfully to relieve bruises and inflamed surfaces.
Grow this one in your garden and use it as a tea for stomach upsets and indigestion. An infusion of chamomile is well-known as an herbal rinse for the hair. It can also be used as a mouthwash and for a soothing eyebath.
It is well-known that chamomile is one of the healing plants that have a mild sedative effect. In general, it is used to help those suffering from sleeping disorders. All over Europe, people are using Chamomile in warm compresses to treat ear and eye infections.
Brew into tea, chamomile will help with indigestion and morning sickness. It can also be applied topically to help calm the inflammation associated with hemorrhoids. Chamomile has anti-inflammatory effects and is often used to create all sorts of homemade cosmetics. Chamomile also contains flavonoids and coumarins, which are considered muscle relaxants.
This is one of the healing plants that is seen as a colorful garden weed, and for many, it is just that, a weed. However, this “weed” is one of the oldest mentioned healing plants in our history (was first mentioned by Arabian physicians in the 10th century), and Native Americans used it both as food and medicine.
Even more, the first settlers used to grow it in their gardens due to its medicinal properties, and they used to dig up the roots and roast them to consume in tea or as a whole. The leaves are also a great addition to salads or other dishes requiring greens.
You can eat dandelion flowers raw, cooked, or, my favorite, made into wine. The leaves act as a diuretic, and they increase the amount of urine your body makes. Use the leaves to also stimulate the appetite and help digestion.
The flowers have antioxidant properties and overall, and they are said to improve the immune system. Most herbalists use dandelion roots to detoxify the liver and gallbladder, and the leaves to help kidney function.
Garlic is one of nature’s wonders that can be found all over the world. Garlic has been used for thousands of years as a healing plant and natural remedy. It has antibacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral properties. The ancient Chinese were the first to discover that it also works as an immune stimulant and a powerful antioxidant.
This healing plant can be grown in a wide sphere of climates and landscape, and it makes it an excellent garden choice for beginner gardeners. It is one of the plants that grow easily and requires minimum maintenance. It is one of the oldest cultivated plants and originated in Siberia or Central Asia more than five thousand years ago. After its discovery, its popularity of garlic quickly spread to different lands and cultures.
When the bulbs are ground, the sulfur-containing amino acid alliin comes in contact with the enzyme allinase, which converts to allicin, a potent antibacterial agent. The consumption of garlic has been shown to help protect against atherosclerosis. It can also be used as a great insect and people repellent.
This plant can help with Asthma, Athlete’s foot, bronchitis, candida, gout, and it can help reduce blood pressure, heals ringworm, and many more. Check out here how garlic was used in traditional medicine.
Peppermint is a great digestive aid and has various healing benefits. Peppermint leaves can be made into teas, or they can be added to meals raw. This is a plant that can be grown in your garden with ease and requires little maintenance in the long run. You can use it to alleviate muscle spasms and cramps after a long day of hiking. I’ve also used it on various occasions to get rid of nasty headaches. If you use it in compresses, it will help to relieve pain and clear sinus infections.
Add peppermint leaves to fruit juices, fruit salads, and iced teas. Try a chopped leaf in a cup of hot chocolate and make hot peppermint tea for indigestion. It is supposed to improve appetite.
Stinging nettles are known to treat: allergies, anemia, arthritis, burns and scalds, bronchitis, fatigue, internal bleeding, kidney stones, poor circulation, pre-menstrual syndrome, parasites, urinary tract infections, and more. Because of its high nutrients content, stinging nettle is traditionally used as a spring tonic.
This plant can gently cleanse the body of metabolic wastes and is often used as a diuretic to increase the secretion and flow of urine. This makes it helpful in cases of fluid retention and bladder infections.
The plant is also anti-lithic, and it was proven to be able and break down stones in the kidneys and gravel in the bladder. It is one of the most common healing plants in Europe, and it stands out due to its many uses.
Stinging nettle is a good edible, but 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, fishing nets, sacking, and cordage. If you would like to use nettles for food or tea, you have to harvest the plants before they flower. Otherwise, you can harvest stinging nettles from the time the new leaves emerge until late fall when the flowers have gone to seed.
Rosemary is a plant with a significant role in the history of the Mediterranean people. The plant was used both as a cooking ingredient and a healing herb. It can be used as tonic, astringent, diaphoretic, and stimulant.
You can find rosemary in most hair lotion, and rosemary essential oil is great for cleaning dirty hair and stimulate hair-bulbs to prevent premature baldness. Taken as a warm tea, it is a good remedy for removing headaches, colic, colds, and nervous diseases.
In fact, rosemary tea was used in French hospitals to treat depression and other emotional-related illnesses. Rosemary bushes were even burned to disinfect the air inside hospitals. The plant can also be used to repel insects and poisonous animals. If you want to protect your clothes from moths and other insects, hand a few branches of rosemary in your wardrobe.
Read next: Rosemary Growing And Its Benefits
This is another garden weed that has great potential, and few people actually know what treasure is growing in their gardens. One of the most versatile plants I have the pleasure of using, Plantain, still doesn’t get the recognition it deserves.
There are about 200 species of Plantain that often grow underfoot in many habitats. The leaves of this small plant can be narrow or broad, depending on the species. It is a plant that can be found all over the world, including most of the US. The historical use of Plantain has even been referenced in both Chaucer’s and Shakespeare’s works.
Plantain was used extensively by the first pioneers due to the plant’s natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It was of great use(and it still is) when it comes to the speeding recovery of wounds. It works great also for itching or pain associated with skin problems.
A tea made from the leaves can be sprayed on mosquito bites and will successfully ease the itch.
Most often, Plantain is used externally, for insect and snake bites, and as a remedy for rashes and cuts. I use it to make a poultice that can be used as a natural antibiotic ointment on cuts and bruises.
Although difficult to do so, the seeds can be harvested, and it’s worth it since they can reduce blood cholesterol levels and work great as a natural laxative.
More on Plantain here.
Another one of the wild healing plants used by the Native American tribes, Yarrow it is valued for its highly antimicrobial and anti-infectious properties. Ancient history records date Yarrow uses by ancient Greeks over 3,000 years ago. It was extensively used for treating battle wounds and also to slow down the bleeding.
The flowers and leaves of the plant were eaten and also made into a tea-like drink, and in general, you can use the leaves raw or cooked. Although you may notice they have a bitter taste, you can still mix them in salads. I recommend using young leaves since they are not as bitter as well-formed leaves.
The entire Yarrow plant can be used, both dried and fresh, and I recommended gathering it while in flower. Use the fresh leaves to treat gastrointestinal problems, fight fevers, to improve circulation and to lessen menstrual bleeding. When dealing with rashes or broken skin, make a poultice to treat these topical conditions.
Before actually brewing up a cup of herbal tea from plants you have foraged or consume the said healing plants as is, make sure you have properly identified each plant. Many companies stock herb books that you will find useful for identifying and cultivating these aromatic and useful plants.
Also, with a large amount of information available online, you can make your own foraging book with plants that can be found in your living area.
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