Yep, it's both. When done sustainably (not harvesting something that is endangered and only taking part of what you find, asking permission of the plant first, etc.) and with intention it is called wildcrafting --harvesting something that was not cultivated -- wherever that may be.
Right now in Issaquah, WA the nettle, and dandelion flowers are divine. Earlier (before blooming) the dandelion leaves aren't as bitter and are great for salads and stir frys.
Also great now are oxeye daisy leaves, chickweed, plantain, Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquafolium) flowers and salmonberry petals are VERY ready for salads!
I'm sure there are a lot more!
~ Spiralmama Herbal Magick ~
Supporting vibrant health in my community by providing education, nutrition, herbal connection and ritual through grateful interaction with Gaia.
Location: W. Seattle, WA - planning to be rural soon.....
What does the average person do with medicinals, anyway? I've heard
about lots and lots of wild plants with medicinal uses (Tom Ward), but
I'm mostly healthy and don't feel particularly in need of medicinals; and
for general health, I'd first just eat more garlic
Last year I learned that dock (basicaly sorrel) was allelopathic and
started pulling it out aggressively. This year I learned that it's edible
and not bad, and now I feel much more kindly to it. Still worried about
oxalic acid and calcium if I eat much - and we have an abundance, when
those guys go to seed they don't mess around.
We are blessed to know plants in our community and they need us as well. In my wise womyn way of healing I basically see plants as serving MANY functions yet medicinally they can be nutritive, tonifying, stimulating or sedating or combinations of this.
Each person needs to listen to her/his body to determine what we need. For me, my food is my medicine (nettle, dandelion, burdock, chickweed). In the case of yarrow and plantain (usually), I gather them for more first-aid-type situations (topical use). Many plants cross over and can share their gifts both internally (food medicine) and externally. Other allies are helpful to have around when needed (curly dock- rumex crispus) for iron supplementation via tincture, etc.
i want to get into hunting for ginseng and other plants , i live in indiana . if anyone knows a good website that has a list of plants that you can find and sell to dealers and has a price list on it , i would greatly appreciate it . i have only had a computer for about 2 weeks and im not very good with it yet thank you
One thing to consider is collecting ethically and with plants like ginseng and goldenseal, these are huge issues. I believe in one of the first few Foxfire books there is an interview with a Ginseng harvester. It was eyeopening for me to read when I found that book in the late 1980's....if he collected from a ginseng plant, it had to be a certain age which he could tell from its form...number of branched leaves, I believe. And he would replant fruit from the plant in the same spot. And he was VERY concerned about keeping his activities secret and protecting these plants for the future, not just for his own use. Sure there is money to be made by selling them and collecting large amounts...until you tap out the resource, and then the plant and the world suffers.
There is such a huge mystique surrounding certain plants, they can be driven to extinction if we are not careful. Instead a good thing to do is learn what medicinal plants have synonomous chemicals and uses. If a more common plant that can regenerate quickly has the same qualities you desire in Goldenseal, switch to help reduce that huge pressure and market that exists presently for Goldenseal. In the lowest form, I have seen Ginkgo trees vandalized because someone knew they had medicinal value, so they just ripped a branch off the tree to take with them. This was a tree at the Washington Park Arboretum, not one they planted and owned. I would hope someone would not do that to a tree they owned regardless.
To me this is analogous to the use of animal parts in asian medicine. Yes, there are many traditional uses for parts of tigers, rhinos, etc etc etc. But ethically, is it worth it? Well, this is an issue with plants. Learn about your plant, rather than just saying since it is wild, I can harvest it at will. Plus learn local regulations and how exactly how rare it is in your region.
Lisa A wrote: What does the average person do with medicinals, anyway?
I don't know if I'm 'average,' because I think the 'average' person pulls them out as weeds.
But as to my own interest, I've been exploring, very slowly.
Many wild edibles also have medicinal qualities - like the antioxidants in blueberries and other dark fruits, for example. So I eat those, a taste one season, a mouthful the next encounter, until I'm harvesting the amounts that are practical and healthy for me and my region.
Too much of one 'medicine' (say, a 'digestive tonic' like Oregon grape berries, or an abundant edible flower you eat too much of at once) ...can leave you experiencing 'unusual digestive sensations' (e.g., the runs), ... ...and then it's nice to know about another 'medicine plant' as a gentle antidote (strawberry leaf tea, or raspberry /blackberry bud tea, are mild astringents and the strawberry is gentle enough to have a reputation as a kids' anti-diarrhoea medicine). Experienced healers and herbalists can balance these effects, for example putting two herbs in a tea so that the side effects of one are counteracted by the other. I'm not that sophisticated yet, but I like learning about it.
I boost my iron when I'm bleeding, with things like nettle tea, or any dark green leafies; and I've learned that taking vitamin C (rose hips, spruce tips, or almost any fruit) will help my body absorb that iron better. And black tea or coffee, or even calcium, can slow the absorbtion of iron from those same veggies. My husband has chronic anemia due to the loss of some of his bone marrow in an accident. So I use these techniques cooking, sometimes, including tomatoes or lemon joice with dark greens in a meal, and I like to think that it helps him stay healthy without needing to eat red meat quite as often. (He doesn't usually object to Hollandaise sauce, even if it's over broccoli!)
I manage my blood sugar too, by eating more complex carbs instead of simple sugars - mueslix or oatmeal for breakfast instead of white toast; maybe some roasted chestnuts as a snack. Whole-grain anything helps me. A variety of root veggies instead of simple starches helps too. (My blood sugar is more susceptible to dropping out from underneath me than most people; it's called hypoglycemia. Being disciplined about it and knowing what foods to eat makes a huge difference in my daily well-being. I still indulge from time to time - but I'm careful: rich desserts like cheesecake or dark chocolate are better for me than cotton candy; and a meal or protein will buffer the shock of the sugar. Don't know if you'd call it natural medicine, or just eating right. It's a form of personal care and awareness. My fatty desserts might be just the wrong option for someone whose condition was different.)
My most 'extreme' wild medicinal experience so far: One time I had a bug-bite almost bad enough to go to the doctor, but we were at a remote primitive site. (And being uninsured, I was a bit worried about the money too, but I felt silly making a fuss about a bug bite, but also felt silly for thinking money mattered more than the doctor - it was a rare set of worries I worked myself into, I can tell you!)
A friend showed me that plantain is not just a decent "band-aid," the fresh leaves as a poultice help with all kinds of nasty stings and bites. I'd leave some on the bite until it dried and absorbed some of the heat (and presumably some of the venom) out of the bite, then wash it off, and apply fresh. We used some powdered bentonite clay, too, just to dry it out. It got better before I got back home, so that turned out OK. If it had happened anywhere else, I'd probably go with antibiotic cream, followed by a doctor visit if needed.
I wouldn't necessarily recommend that level of self-treatment unless you're really stuck without an option; "the doctor who treats himself has a fool for a patient."
But I did enjoy the smell of the plantain leaves, a little like vanilla and nutmeg and wheatgrass juice. It seemed a very friendly plant, willing to help, and I used it on a yellowjacket sting another time where a doctor visit would have been overkill. (Older leaves, or stressed ones, seem to lack this smell - or maybe I found a different variety of plantain.)
I use echinacea tea from the store, but I'd like to grow it in my garden. I find herbal remedies comforting, when refined drugs are just a bit too much. Eucalyptus in the bubble bath, or wasabi, sometimes clear the sinuses enough to make me forget I was thinking about taking a decongestant. Tea-tree oil can be added to my favorite shampoo, and I don't feel obliged to stick to the dandruff care shelf. Cinnnamon, Cayenne, or lavendar oil help deter the sugar-ants in Grandma's kitchen. They may not be 100% effective, but they sure feel safer than watching her spray pesticides all over and then unload the dishwasher onto the still-damp countertop.
Mint for alertness, when I don't need the jolt of caffeine. Cacao for pleasure, when I don't need the sugar-buzz of a whole dessert. Chamomile or lavender for calm: I don't need Valium, but a cup of tea sounds nice. If I'm already slightly 'down,' I might go with an "upper" like chai tea instead. Ginger soothes the stomach; ginger ale or ginger tea were some of my mother's favorites for keeping us hydrated when sick.
The more I know, the more options I have - both for gentle self-care, and for emergencies in the woods.
Mostly, I find the medicine plants fascinating. It gives me a great deal of pleasure to recognize them in the woods or among the weeds; any excuse not to hate a weed, makes my day brighter. I also like knowing about basketry, or dyes, or building uses of local plants, even if I don't always use those things myself. Gives me some sense of what to protect, and cherish, and how to relate to the landscape and my cultural roots.
I laughed at learning about 'tonic rinses' made with invasive native plants, like bedstraw for hair rinse, or... what was it, horsetails maybe? for strength for canoe-racers. I wouldn't be surprised if they work ... but doesn't it sound like a great job of cultural propaganda, to convert youthful sex drive into useful work pulling up those noxious weeds?
I think a lot of these medicines were practiced in times when the number of people on the land was simply tiny compared to now. When it wouldn't have been possible for one person to exhaust the supply. Or, when people were hungry enough that they wouldn't waste time harvesting more than they needed of an obscure medicinal plant, when they should be harvesting more plentiful staples. When you needed the medicine plant, it was for real, not just a matter of curiosity or preference. And even then, I'm sure smart 'medicine men' and wise women cultivated the rarer herbs they used, encouraging the future supply to provide for their peoples' needs, and to maintain their own position of effectiveness and power. And stupid ones did more harm than good, and their people suffered.
People are people.
p.s. It pays to get familiar with your own body's reactions to any forms of medicine: if you are sensitive to a plant or plant family, or have allergies to any pharmaceuticals, it could be a safety issue to know which natural and synthetic medicines are related to your bane.
My grandmother was very sensitive to many, many medicines, including caffeine and vitamin C. She just got in the habit of starting with a quarter of the dose of anything prescribed, until she learned how it affected her. Seemed to serve her well for the most part. She did it with her doctor's consent, and once she'd worked up to the regular dose, she'd follow his prescriptions.
My husband is allergic to the family that includes Poison Oak, " Ivy, " Sumac, mangos, cashews, betel-nuts, and goji berries. Go figure. Pays to know that before you take someone out on a date for Indian food.