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Some Medicinal Plants that will Work in a Desert Forest Garden

 
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These are the medicinal plants that I have or natives ones that grow here.  I have tried to include some links and information about the medicinal values.  Some were used as folk medicine.

Some Medicinal Plants that will Work in a Desert Forest Garden

My blackberries do well once they are established.  I don't remember the variety we bought other than they are thornless.

The leaf, root, and fruit (berry) are used to make medicine. Blackberry is used for treating diarrhea, fluid retention, diabetes, gout, and pain and swelling (inflammation); and for preventing cancer and heart disease. It is also used as a mouth rinse for mild mouth and throat irritation.



https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-1076/blackberry


Agarita, Mahonia trifoliolata does well also.  Mine are all native and came with the property.  I have read that the red berries make very good jelly.

Native Americans of the Apache, Chiricahua, and Mescalero tribes used the fresh and preserved fruit for food, and the wood shavings as a traditional eye medicine and a yellow dye for hides





https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahonia_trifoliolata

https://permies.com/t/91532/Wild-harvesting-guide-Central-Texas#749370


Prickly Pear

or also known as nopal, opuntia and other names — is promoted for treating diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity and hangovers. It's also touted for its antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties.



https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/expert-answers/prickly-pear-cactus/faq-20057771

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opuntia



https://permies.com/t/49834/Prickly-Pear-perfect-permaculture-plant


Rosemary

Antioxidants and anti-inflammatory; Improving digestion; Enhancing memory and concentration; Neurological protection; Prevent brain aging; Cancer.; Protection against macular degeneration.



https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/266370

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosemary




Prickly Ash, Zanthoxylum americanum aka Tooth-ache Tree

https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-73/northern-prickly-ash

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zanthoxylum_americanum

Fruits can be used as a Sichuan pepper substitute; leaves and bark chewed as a toothache or mouth pain remedy





https://permies.com/t/91532/Wild-harvesting-guide-Central-Texas#751903


I know there are many other medicinal plants that will grow in the desert or drought prone areas. Maybe some of our Desert permies will include medicinal plants that work for them.
 
author
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Hey Anne,
These look to be really useful plants!
Prickly ash (Zanthoxylum americanum) is one that we grow at Holt Wood, it seems to cope surprisingly well with the wetter climate here in UK  - it is rich in amines (this may be what causes numbing in mouth), good for stimulating the immune system, and it is an excellent circulatory stimulant. We harvest the young leafy twigs and/or the berries - then dry them for powdering, this can be used in powdered form in capsules or as a tincture. It is especially useful in cramping due to poor blood supply - such as Raynaud's (white fingers), restless legs, intermittent claudication (leg cramps). It is somewhat similar to ginger as a circulatory stimulant for the smaller blood vessels.

Blackberries (Rubus fruticosus) is our most invasive plant and fruits are excellent as a functional food promoting immunity and supporting circulation, very nice as sieved puree then dried to fruit leather which keeps well. The leaves are richin tannins and strongly astringent so can be dried for use throughout the year, for example use in a hot infusion as a tea (combines well with other herbs) for stomach upsets, and after cooling as a gargle for sore throat.

Barberry (Mahonia trifoliata) is bitter and laxative, and a good source of berberine which is antiseptic, the berberine can probably be seen in the roots especially due to the yellow colouring. The roots of this and other barberries (including Oregon grape) can be made into a tincture for uses in treating skin and digestive complaints. A jelly of barberries was traditionally made in Europe to accompany meats.

As for prickly pear - that is a new one on me, so it is good to learn about that!
 
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Thanks for the great info!
We are starting a homestead NW of Helena MT and it is considered High Desert here.
Finishing the home first and then will concentrate on garden.
 
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thank you, really great information. i learned alot hete
 
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I live at 7000ft in the high desert as well, very short growing season, 13” of rain a year, cold nights (all of which as important factors to what grows) and am growing the following medicinals in my forest garden:
Comfrey
Nettles in the perfect little spot with irrigation,
St. John’s wort
Oregano
Thyme
Sage- cooking
Artemisia
Lemon balm
Bee balm (as an annual)
Motherwort
Yarrow (grows soo well)
Lavender
Goji
Sea berry
Autumn olive (last three medicinal in the super food way)
Dandelion
Grindelia
Blue vervain
Malva
Clover
Mint
Alfalfa
Chamomile
Hyssop
Rose
Burdock
California Poppy
Hops
Hmmm I bet there’s a few more I’m forgetting.
These are all at least partly supplemented with irrigation while establishing.
 
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Kirsten Nelson wrote:I live at 7000ft in the high desert as well, very short growing season, 13” of rain a year, cold nights (all of which as important factors to what grows)


Sounds a lot like how I describe where I live in western NM except I don't call it high desert.  Actually, I don't know what to call it.  It's where grasslands meets pinon/juniper woodlands, and 13" of rain would be a lovely wet year but we haven't seen that much in a decade.  Cold nights & short growing season?  You bet.  Last night 31°.  

I used to be a great gardener, took it for granted.  In the last couple of decades I've been taught not to take such things for granted at all.
 
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Lif Strand wrote:

Kirsten Nelson wrote:I live at 7000ft in the high desert as well, very short growing season, 13” of rain a year, cold nights (all of which as important factors to what grows)


Sounds a lot like how I describe where I live in western NM except I don't call it high desert.  Actually, I don't know what to call it.  It's where grasslands meets pinon/juniper woodlands, and 13" of rain would be a lovely wet year but we haven't seen that much in a decade.  Cold nights & short growing season?  You bet.  Last night 31°.  

I used to be a great gardener, took it for granted.  In the last couple of decades I've been taught not to take such things for granted at all.



Yes it’s a strange area. High desert meets alpine here I’d say. And that p/j piñon juniper is the transition zone between the two. Pretty amazing climates and zones...all very challenging for growing! I miss growing in the Midwest where you throw something in the ground, weed it once or twice and eat massive harvest.
 
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This is great stuff, thanks Anne, Anne, Kirsten, etc.! I must find some of this prickly ash...

Here are some other great medicinal plants that grow wild where we are, are introduced and are working, or look like they will work (seedlings surviving so far) here:

  • mesquite (leaves and gum are medicinal, pods are edible, deadwood is great fuel or to carve)
  • desert willow (leaves and twigs are antifungal, flowers make good tea)
  • Mexican elder (berries and flowers as medicine and food)
  • oak (leaves and bark as medicine, acorns for food, galls for dyeing, etc.)
  • black locust
  • peach (leaf tea as medicine)
  • black or Arizona walnut (I make a digestif liqueur from the green nuts)
  • Lyceum spp./wolfberries/Goji (leaves of some species for medicine, berries as superfood)
  • creosote (the desert's drugstore)
  • hibiscus (calyces for tea)
  • prickly pears (the inside of the pads can be used just like aloe, and both pads and fruits are very cooling, too much so if eaten in excess)
  • yucca (root as medicine, blossoms of some and fruit of others edible)
  • Passiflora incarnata (flowers and leaves for medicine)
  • horseradish (roots as food and medicine)
  • chiltepines and any other chiles (let thy food be thy medicine)
  • rosemary
  • lavender
  • calendula
  • cilantro
  • sage
  • oregano
  • thyme
  • peppermint
  • bee balm/Monarda
  • lemon balm
  • anise hyssop
  • chia
  • horehound
  • comfrey
  • California poppy
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    Kirsten Nelson
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    Beth Wilder wrote:This is great stuff, thanks Anne, Anne, Kirsten, etc.! I must find some of this prickly ash...

    Here are some other great medicinal plants that grow wild where we are, are introduced and are working, or look like they will work (seedlings surviving so far) here:

  • mesquite (leaves and gum are medicinal, pods are edible, deadwood is great fuel or to carve)
  • desert willow (leaves and twigs are antifungal, flowers make good tea)
  • Mexican elder (berries and flowers as medicine and food)
  • oak (leaves and bark as medicine, acorns for food, galls for dyeing, etc.)
  • black locust
  • peach (leaf tea as medicine)
  • black or Arizona walnut (I make a digestif liqueur from the green nuts)
  • Lyceum spp./wolfberries/Goji (leaves of some species for medicine, berries as superfood)
  • creosote (the desert's drugstore)
  • hibiscus (calyces for tea)
  • prickly pears (the inside of the pads can be used just like aloe, and both pads and fruits are very cooling, too much so if eaten in excess)
  • yucca (root as medicine, blossoms of some and fruit of others edible)
  • Passiflora incarnata (flowers and leaves for medicine)
  • horseradish (roots as food and medicine)
  • chiltepines and any other chiles (let thy food be thy medicine)
  • rosemary
  • lavender
  • calendula
  • cilantro
  • sage
  • oregano
  • thyme
  • peppermint
  • bee balm/Monarda
  • lemon balm
  • anise hyssop
  • chia
  • horehound
  • comfrey
  • California poppy


  • Yes great! You named some I forgot. Good list.
     
    Beth Wilder
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    I forgot to add -- in addition to Delena Tull's great Edible and Useful Plants of the Southwest that Tyler recommended in Anne's other thread -- these great resources for what medicinal plants grow well in different zones of our southwest deserts:

  • Charles Kane's Medicinal Plants of the American Southwest,
  • John Slattery's Southwest Medicinal Plants: Identify, Harvest, and Use 112 Wild Herbs for Health (just came out this year and I don't have it yet, but it's on my wish list -- his Southwest Foraging: 117 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Barrel Cactus to Wild Hops is great),
  • and of course Michael Moore's Medicinal Plants of the Desert and Canyon West (also on my wish list, but I used to borrow it from the library frequently before the pandemic).

  • Any other Michael Moore books are great, too, like Los Remedios: Traditional Herbal Remedies of the Southwest, which I do have.
     
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    Chayote (Mirlitons) have been used medicinally for centuries and rich  antioxidants. They can be grown in the desert if you find a variety grown in Sonora or Sinaloa and have adequate water.  See mirliton growing techniques at www.Mirliton.Org
     
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