There's a certain kind of magic in using wildcrafted herbs in teas, tinctures and salves, and it's not all a romanticized ideal. Wild plants aren't coddled like their cultivated counterparts, growing under optimal conditions on farms. No, the wild herb must fight to survive, digging her roots deep into the earth to draw up nutrients that tender plants growing under the care of humans just aren't motivated to do. They struggle for sunlight and water, growing hardier, and all that angst and turmoil makes for nutritious food and an amazing medicine!
The very best thing about wildcrafting plants is that it's something that can be done anywhere in the world. Virtually everyone reading this article has an abundant source of vitamins, minerals, and free medicine available to them, and best of all, you're likely one of the only people in your neighborhood interested enough to take advantage of this sustainable resource. I've yet to come across any like-minded foragers in my travels. The important thing to remember is that like endangered animals, there are many plants out there that are in serious danger of being overharvested to the point of extinction. Popular herbs like Echinacea and Goldenseal should be left alone if discovered in the wild and allowed to spread.
Our interest in this post lies with wild common plants, usually known as weeds or pests to gardeners busying themselves with appearances. To you and I, living in line with nature, many of these weeds are truly miraculous healers and nurturers.
It's so easy to find a dandelion, isn't it? I grew up making wishes on the puffy, seeded globes by blowing them into the wind, not even knowing I was helping to propagate one of the best sustainable sources of food and medicine in my area. Despite our childhood efforts, American livers are in a poor state, and yet a major resource for healing is -and has always been- beneath our feet. Dandelion root is a powerful liver tonic, safe and non-toxic, perfect for everyday use. The leaves of the Dandelion plant are sold at health food shops alongside bundles of Kale and Collard Greens, and are a rich source of minerals, including iron, calcium, and also contains over 400% of your daily intake of Vitamin K in just 1 cup of raw greens! Don't throw out those Dandelion plants when you rip them up from your front lawn! Blend the greens in your daily green smoothie (and throw in a few dates, because they are bitter!), and make a fresh decoction of the root or collect enough and make a simple folk tincture. Dandelion tincture is a wonderful way to support your body and is quite safe and extremely beneficial taken daily.
Remember that your city might and probably does spray pesticides along public walkways. In addition, herbs collected too near the side of the road may be poisoned with smog. Try your luck in large unkempt fields, your own backyard, a friend's parent's unmoved lawn, or natural parks with wooded area where chemicals aren't allowed. Generally, if the weeds are left alone to grow to a large enough size for collecting and are abundant, it is probably not sprayed. WASH your findings! Wildcrafting food should always be practiced sustainably, and never take more than a third of the plant life in any area. Leave tiny plants alone, and collect larger growth that is strong enough to grow back. Many weeds even thrive off being harvested and can grow back twice as strong and double in size!
Here is a simple yet powerful salve that I have created using only WILD, locally harvested Plantain!
Combining simple, local healing herbs with oils and butters can yield strong and effective salves that will outperform store bought toxin filled creams. You just have to look at the world in a way that you might never have before :)
*Remember to discuss your herbal supplements with your herbalist or natural health practitioner.