Healing Peppermint Lavender Headache Salve Recipe While the smell of peppermint fits right into the holiday season so too do throbbing headaches. No matter how simple a life we try to live there is something about the holiday season that tenses up the neck. If you are part of a big family the stress can …
It grows between four and 12 inches long and produces small, yellow and green leaves. Small white flowers also develop on the plant.
One of the most common uses is on the skin. If you have a minor burn, you can help heal it with a chickweed salve. Chickweed also is a great addition to homemade lotions.
You even can use the juice from the plant to draw out splinters! If you spend any time working in the garden or around wood, you need chickweed.
Those are just two of the medicinal properties of chickweed. Here are a few more:
- It soothes itchy and sore skin conditions.
- It acts as a diuretic for those who suffer from congestive heart failure or obesity.
- It is used it some parts of Asia to help regulate a woman’s menstrual cycle.
- It can be used to help increase a mother’s milk flow after birth.
- It relieves constipation.
- It is used in an infusion or herbal tea to soothe coughs and hoarseness.
- It treats asthma and bronchitis.
- It treats rheumatic pains and wounds.
Of course, Chickweed has non-medicinal uses, too. Believe it or not, chickweed during the Victorian era was once planted in gardens to add to salads and sandwiches. Chickweed is rich in Vitamin C and potassium, as well as Vitamin B complex, so feel free to add it to dishes!
If you are a poultry owner, chickweed is a favorite among birds. In the spring, it is a nutritious weed for poultry to eat, refreshing them after a long winter. It is one of the first plants that grow
How to Reap the Benefits of Chickweed
Most herbalists create tinctures from chickweed. It transfers its properties into vodka, brandy and other alcohol well. Another great choice is to make a heat-infused herbal oil. Doing so allows you to create salves, lotions and ointments featuring chickweed.
Chickweed is truly a versatile and beneficial herbal weed to harvest in your backyard. Don’t let it go to waste!
How do you use chickweed? Share your tips in the section below:
Our ancient ancestors developed remarkable medicinal solutions from nature. One of those was herbal teas.
Herbal teas involve an infusion of certain leaves, roots or bark in hot water to leach out certain chemicals and nutrients that have curative or medicinal value.
The symptoms and benefits we’ll address include:
- Immune support
An infusion is simply a combination of hot water with a source material like dried leaves or stems. The boiling temperature for water is 212 degrees Fahrenheit. An infusion starts at 211 degrees. Typically, a blend of crushed leaves or greens are soaked for three to five minutes to create the tea or infusion. Anything can be added to this infusion, from honey to sugar to salt. It’s up to you.
Many infusions require you to dry the leaves or stems. This can be done in the sun or with a food dehydrator. This will give you a combination that looks like tea leaves.
With the exception of natural pain relievers like infused willow bark, most natural remedies take some time to show benefits. This is also true for many manufactured pharmaceuticals. The key is to stay the course and don’t expect that one cup is going to make everything alright. Healing takes time, regardless of the medicine; be patient and vigilant.
It’s difficult to know the exact amounts of source material to add to the water. That’s because the concentration of natural compounds in any wild herb or plant varies depending on moisture, temperature and soil. It’s best to start with a weaker solution and increase concentrations as symptoms appear to be relieved.
Here are some popular backyard plants that can be infused:
1. Hyssop or wild mint. This is an anti-viral decoction that is more of a preventative measure, but it can help if you have a cold or flu. Once again, this is not a cure, but it can help with symptoms and offset the advance of an illness.
2. Wild sage (purple sage). This plant covers the prairies across North America. It is a proven anti-inflammatory when infused into a tea. Dry the leaves and crush and soak in the infusion.
3. Willow bark. All willow trees contain a chemical element called “salicin.” It’s the active ingredient in aspirin. The white willow has the highest concentrations in the inner bark. When infused into a tea, this makes for a potent pain reliever. Use in moderation as you learn about the proper dosages.
4. Red clover. This one is easy to spot, and its signature three-leaves and the clover flowers are quite common. As an infused tea, this is a great treatment for coughs and colds. A little honey, maple syrup or sugar tops it off as a natural cough medicine.
5. Sweet violet. They come in colors ranging from white to purple, and the flowers are not only edible but make a great tea when dried in the sun or a food dehydrator. The tea has a natural sweetness and often was used by Native Americans as a treatment for headaches and muscle pain. A little bit of honey helps, but the sweetness of the flowers can suffice.
6. Burdock. The roots of the burdock plant are used to make an infusion when dried. The leaves and stems also can be used, but the roots have the highest concentration of elements that function as a diuretic and blood cleanser.
What plants would you add to our list? Share your thoughts in the section below:
Wild Edibles Wednesday: Broadleaf Plantain Peek out your window right now. Look at the grass or undisturbed areas in your yard. You will see the broadleaf plantain. Its everywhere. Don’t confuse this wild edible for the banana looking plantain of South American cookery. This wild edible is actually much more effective a plant. This article …
There are many herbs in the world that can be useful when used appropriately. Misuse however, can lead to illness and even death. Arnica is such a plant.
When used appropriately, arnica can be a powerful medicinal. However, it also can cause severe liver damage if used under the wrong circumstances. For example, arnica should not be used internally. Ingestion can lead to gastroenteritis or cardiac arrest due to helanin poisoning. When it comes to wild harvesting and the preparation of medicinal plants, it is always a good idea to bring along a high quality guide book for identification and to work under the supervision of a more seasoned guide and mentor.
Now that we discussed that little piece of wisdom, I think it’s safe to move our conversation into all the ways that arnica is special.
Arnica is a perennial aster that is part of the sunflower family. There are more than 30 species of arnica. Of these 30 known species, two are most commonly discussed for medicinal use — one that is endemic to Europe and another that makes its home along the mountainous regions of the United States and Canada.
The European arnica is known as Arnica montana, and the North American counterpart is Arnica chamissonis. Arnica cardifolia (heart leaf arnica), another sub-species of North America, can be found as far east as Ontario and Michigan. They are all fairly similar in appearance. Other than its value for medicinal purposes, arnica is also an exceptionally beautiful wildflower. Even if you never use it as a remedy, it is still worth admiring for its brilliant golden hue, delicate bright green leaves and its ability to spread into dense clusters within the dappled sun of a western confer forest.
Arnica’s Uses Throughout History
Arnica has been used as a medicinal herb in Europe and North America for hundreds of years. Several Native American tribes used the roots to prepare a tea that would aid in the alleviation of back pain. Some of the first recorded European folk remedies date back to the early 16th century. Arnica was used as a preparation for black eyes, sprains and minor contusions. Although ingestion has been shown to cause severe liver damage, topical applications have proven to be effective at aiding the healing process for strained muscles and minor injuries. When used as a tincture or as a compress, arnica is known for its ability to stimulate blood flow. This helps to reduce pain, alleviate swelling and it aids in the healing of bruises and hematomas. Arnica also increases the rate of tissue regeneration.
The most commonly collected parts of the arnica plant are the flowers. Arnica typically blooms between June and August, depending on the altitude and availability of water. Blossoms should be gathered when fully open and can be used immediately for fresh use or dried for later use. The best temperature for drying arnica blossoms is between 70 and 95 degree Fahrenheit. Once dried, blossoms should be stored in a clean glass container away from direct sunlight. It is best to use the blossoms within 12-18 months of harvest.
Arnica blossoms can be used in the preparation of salves and tinctures. Ingestion of arnica can be fatal, and the overuse of concentrated essential oils is to be avoided. Some homeopathic preparations have been approved for internal use but should not be attempted without proper guidance.
Arnica cannot tolerate trampling or excessive foot traffic. For this reason, it is advised that wild crafters should be mindful of the delicate nature of arnica and not over-harvest it. The good news is that Arnica is relatively easy to propagate.
Arnica thrives in soils with an acidity of 6-7 pH and can tolerate full sun to partial shade. If enough water is available, it also can thrive in poor soils with high acidity. For these reasons, it can be an ideal plant to work into a home garden. The easiest way to propagate arnica is by collecting seed or by dividing the roots. The best time for division is during early spring. Seeds can be started indoors and transplanted out at any time. Some species of arnica are hardy to cold weather, while others are better suited to a milder zone 6 climate. The best place to plant arnica is in your herb garden, but it also can be used as a seasonal bedding plant (although its bloom time is relatively short-lived).
In closing, if you are not familiar with arnica, it is definitely a plant of value worth knowing. By protecting the wild and scenic places in this world, we also protect one of our greatest aesthetic and medicinal resources — our native herbs and flowers.
*This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or cure any particular health condition. Please consult with a qualified health professional first.
Have you ever planted and used arnica? Share your tips in the section below:
An old Croatian proverb went like this: “All mushrooms are edible, some only once.” The meaning: Yes, many mushrooms are delicious and nutritious, but many also are quite poisonous.
If you are not an experienced and competent collector and cannot positively identify look-alike species, I strongly suggest purchasing a field guide that will help you with this, and consider asking a veteran mushroom hunter to help.
Still, the world has 38,000 different species of mushrooms that hold medicinal qualities.
Researchers have found their compounds potentially effective against all sorts of maladies — from chronic fatigue syndrome to cancer. In the environmental arena, researchers are studying them for their ability to absorb toxic substances.
Many mushrooms also happen to be really delicious.
Here are just three that you are likely to find on your property and some of the information you can use to determine their use in your personal life.
1. Hiratake (Oyster Mushroom)
Where it is grown: Grows wildly in temperate and sub-tropical forests and is responsible for the decomposition of deciduous trees like the beech.
Medicinal properties: The Hiratake mushroom contains statins that are known to lower the bad type of cholesterol, LDL. The statin compounds are present in the fruited body as well as the mycelium network of the mushroom.
Cultivating: Can be done simply and inexpensively by inoculating a medium of brown rice and then harvesting the fruit bodies or mycelium. Asian countries cultivate it primarily by putting layers of hay into plastic bags, the mushroom spores being placed in between the layers.
Table fare: The oyster mushroom is a common companion in Asian and Indian dishes and makes a good addition to various soups and stews.
Weird but true: Aside from being able to decompose trees, this particular species of mushroom can purportedly decompose disposable diapers and absorb petrochemicals and PCBs.
Its usefulness in waste and toxin remediation is currently being researched by several organizations. Dried, it also makes a high R-value insulator for the homestead.
2. Chestnut Mushroom (Poplar Mushroom)
Where it is grown: This mushroom grows naturally all over the world wherever deciduous trees are found. It is particularly fond of Poplars, where it causes holes in the tree, hence the name “Poplar mushroom.”
Medicinal properties: The mushroom contains compounds that are scavengers of free radicals. There also have been studies linking the mushroom’s active compounds to a slowing down of osteoporosis advancement.
Cultivating: Inoculating hardwood chips, sawdust or hardwood logs with the spores. It is known to be one of the easiest mushrooms to cultivate commercially.
Table fare: This mushroom is both meaty and delicious — raw or cooked. But as part of a genus that contains more than 100 different species, some quite poisonous, it is best left to an experienced collector who can differentiate it from its more unpleasant relatives. Having said that, it has a strong, earthy flavor and makes a tremendous contribution to the flavor of sauces, stews and casseroles.
Weird but true: The ancient Greeks collected these mushrooms and believed that they “popped” out as a result of lightning strikes. Many morel hunters hold this very same superstition.
3. Morel Mushroom
Where it is grown: It is commonly found in the temperate Northern Hemisphere, including North America, Pakistan and China.
Medicinal properties: Particularly high in iron and B-complex vitamins, it is a wonderful addition to the medicine cabinet. This mushroom is also known for its immune-boosting properties.
Cultivating: Although several attempts have been made to commercially grown these ghosts of the woods, none has been successful. Best case is to scatter the trimmings from wild harvested mushrooms in your nearby wooded area and hope for some volunteers. This is usually quite sporadic and takes years to establish.
Table fare: The morel is the most highly prized of all mushrooms for its deeply earthy, meaty flavor. The French cherish its flavors and feature it in many highly refined dishes. For the rest of the world, they are delicious cut in half, dredged in flour, and sautéed in butter until crispy. Delicious!
Weird but true: The morel took center stage for many mushroom conspiracy theorists. An entrepreneur and mycologist was once purported to have found a way to commercially cultivate the mushroom in large scale. Just as he was about to sell his method to a popular pizza chain (of all things), he mysteriously died, prompting many to believe that he was murdered in an attempt to keep his secret from becoming public.
What is your favorite mushroom to forage for and eat? Share your tips in the section below:
The tamarack tree is an oddity. It is the duck-billed platypus of the tree world, refusing to be solidly classified into any one category. Part softwood, part hardwood, and completely unique, the tamarack is a distinctive component of the northern forest.
It’s useful for everyone from off-gridders to pharmaceutical companies and – not surprisingly – Native Americans made use of it, too.
Tamaracks are native to North America, primarily in Canada and in the United States, from the northern Great Lakes region to the Northeast. It has more than one name, often even within in the same region. Its Latin nomenclature is Larix laricina, and it is also known as a larch — eastern, black, red or American — or a hackmatack.
The word “tamarack” is said to be derived from a Native American word, but there are several theories as to the meaning, ranging from an Algonkian word meaning “snowshoe wood” to an Ojibwa word meaning “swamp tree.” Whichever origin is correct, both meanings are accurately descriptive of the tamarack tree.
Tamaracks do tend to prefer cool swamps, but are not exclusive to wet areas. They do not like shade, which can keep them from taking off in dense forests, but grow very quickly in the right conditions. Excellent for reforestation and erosion prevention, stands of tamaracks are often planted in areas that have been heavily logged.
The wood of tamarack trees is strong yet supple, which probably made it an excellent candidate for Native American crafts such as snowshoes. Harder and heavier than most softwood trees and even some hardwoods, the coarse-grained tamarack can be milled into lumber, planking, poles, and posts. Its rot-resistant quality made it a common choice in shipbuilding, particularly the “knees,” which are large root formations that render an L-shaped piece of wood.
Tamaracks have enough similarities to other softwoods — such as bearing cones and needles — that they are classified as such. They are medium-sized trees, averaging around 50 feet tall, with a slender profile. Their branches are short, stiff and horizontal. Tamaracks bear small round seed cones in spring which open in fall and remain on the tree until the following year.
However, there are many distinct differences between tamaracks and typical softwoods. Before explaining how they are unlike others in the group, it might be useful to mention the basic differences between softwoods and hardwoods. Softwoods, also known as conifers or evergreens, are a classification of trees that includes species such as pine, spruce, fir, cedar and hemlock. They are differentiated from hardwoods, or deciduous trees, by their generally softer wood, their cones, and the fact that they retain their leaves — called “needles” because of their shape and texture — all year-round.
A Softwood Tree … For Firewood?
Tamaracks do not fit neatly into the softwood description. Not only are they hard enough to be used for lumber and building, but they are one of the few softwood species that are considered to be efficient as firewood. According to the heat classifications from online sources, tamarack is of moderate heat value, matching red maples and surpassing aspens.
The most notable difference between tamaracks and other softwoods, however, is the fact that they lose their needles in the fall. They are the only native North American softwood to do so, making them a truly unique tree. Their inch-long needles grow in clusters like pine needles and look almost like tiny dust brushes. They turn from green to yellow in fall, often much later than the leaves of true deciduous trees so that they offer a last blast of lovely autumn color.
But the tamarack is not just another pretty face. In addition to its uses for lumber, pulp, and firewood, tamarack is useful in traditional medicines, as an emergency edible, and as a source for resin. It also contains a chemical used in modern pharmaceuticals and an additive to foods.
The spring leaf shoots of tamarack trees can be cooked and eaten. Tea made from ground-up dried bark can be used to cure a variety of ills, from headache to dysentery to common colds and skin ailments. Resin can be chewed like gum or used in crafts., 
One of the lesser-known but important modern uses of tamarack trees is for the extraction of the chemical arabinogalactan. This substance, sometimes called AG by the industries that use it, serves as a stabilizer, binder, sweetener and a source of fiber in foods. According to WebMD, it is used to treat “the common cold, flu, H1N1 (swine) flu, ear infections in children, and HIV/AIDS.” It’s even used to treat liver cancer and is used “to provide dietary fiber, lower cholesterol, and to boost the immune system.” 
Arabinogalactan is also used in veterinary medicine, cosmetics and commercial printing. It is extracted from tamarack trees using a water process, from byproducts of the lumber industry. 
Truly like no other, the tamarack tree is multifaceted and useful. Industries from wood to chemicals, as well as homesteaders, backwoodsmen and practitioners of traditional arts all can gain something useful from the North American tamarack tree.
Do you have a tamarack tree on your plot? How do you use it? Share your tips in the section below:
It’s related to and often confused for blueberries, and has a time-honored role in both folk and herbal medicine.
It is the bilberry, a delicious blue fruit that can be distinguished from blueberries by looking at the flesh. The flesh of the bilberry is dark and juicy, while the flesh of the blueberry is white or pale green.
The pigment throughout the berry is what makes the medicinal qualities in the bilberry more potent than that of the blueberry. These plants are difficult to cultivate and are most often hunted and wild-harvested in the forests of Europe, northern Asia and North America.
Scientifically known as Vaccinium myrtillus, the bilberry is also commonly called a “huckleberry” or a “whortleberry.” Its most popular name, “bilberry,” comes from the Danish word bollebar, which means “dark berry.” The wild plants are so common in Europe that much of the world’s supply is gathered in the mountains from Scandinavia to the Balkans. It is harvested in midsummer and found in woodlands and meadows. The berry is common in European cuisine — made into syrups, jams and desserts.
History of its Use
Native Americans traditionally ate the fruit of the “big huckleberry,” and used its roots as a treatment for heart ailments and arthritis. In Europe, the bilberry has been used medically for nearly 1,000 years to prevent scurvy due to its high vitamin C content.  However, it was German physician H. Bock who first described bilberry’s medical properties, in 1539. The berry continued to gain popularity and by the 17th century a mixture of honey and bilberries, called “rob,” was being prescribed in England to treat diarrhea.
During World War II, pilots for the British Royal Air Force found — rather accidentally — that eating bilberry jam before a night mission improved their night vision. The practice became standard for both British and American pilots flying at night for the rest of the war. According to Nutritional Herbology, taking bilberry to improve night vision “…is so effective that a single dose is said to improve one’s night vision within hours.”
Medicinal Properties & Uses
Since the night vision claims by the RAF pilots, extensive research in Europe has discovered that the fruit is high in bitter compounds, called flavonoids. These flavonoids or anthocyanosides are contained in the pigment of the bilberry’s skin and flesh and are responsible for the berry’s high antioxidant properties. It’s these flavonoids that are believed to help promote healthy brain and eye function. They also protect against heart disease, free radicals and inflammation. The bitter compounds inhibit collagen destruction and are a standard ingredient in anti-aging remedies.
Bilberry is known to affect the structural and circulatory systems. Its tannins and flavonoids are responsible for its anti-inflammatory, antithrombotic and antispasmodic properties. Consuming the berry also helps decrease capillary permeability. This makes the berry a common choice among the sufferers of varicose veins, poor circulation, macular degeneration and glaucoma. It works so well and has so many uses that bilberry is among the most popular non-prescription “drugs” in Europe.
The berry is sweet and tastes similar to a blueberry and is high in zinc, Vitamins C and A, phosphorus, manganese and iron.
The fruit is usually consumed encapsulated or added, as a powder, to smoothies. The dried berries can be made into a tea and administered as a treatment for diarrhea.
Have you ever eaten bilberry? Share your thoughts in the section below:
 Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs (pg. 16)
 21st Century Herbal by Michael J. Balick (pg. 296)
 Guide to Medicinal herbs by Johnson, Foster, Low Dog & Kiefer (pg. 103)
 Nutritional Herbology by Mark Pedersen (pg. 46)
 Guide to Medicinal herbs by Johnson, Foster, Low Dog & Kiefer (pg. 105)
 Nutritional Herbology by Mark Pedersen (pg. 46)
Herbal Cold and Congestion Remedies The time to prepare your herbal remedies is not in the depths of the winter. Depending on what remedies you are looking to use in the fall and winter season. Spring is really the best time to consider your remedies preparations. If you are truly looking for a sustainable process …
Spring is here, which means homeowners and homesteaders across the country are checking the blades and changing the oil on their mowers.
But before you cut the grass for the first time, make sure you aren’t mowing over beneficial weeds – that is, plants you can eat and even use for medicine.
That’s the subject of this week’s edition of Off The Grid Radio, as we talk to Mark “Merriwether” Vorderbruggen, a foraging expert and the author of Idiot’s Guide: Foraging.
He shares with us 12 weeds we never should kill.
He also tells us:
- The nine most common weeds that are edible.
- The three well-known weeds that can be used as medicine.
- The one non-edible weed you always want to destroy.
Finally, Merriwether gives us tips on how to find the weeds, and he shares precautions to ensure we don’t eat the wrong plant. He even tells us a few recipes! If you’re a resourceful homesteader or off-gridder who is ready for spring, then this is one show you don’t want to miss!
10 Ways to Use Castor Oil When you think of castor oil, you probably think about the vile tasting liquid your grandma used to insist that you take. But in reality, the external uses of castor oil are extremely impressive. Did you know that many modern medications have castor oil as an ingredient? It is …
25 Reasons To Go & Pick Dandelions Right Now Dandelion, officially classed as a weed, is also a fantastically useful herbal remedy that contains a wide number of pharmacologically active compounds. Dandelion can treat infections, bile and liver problems and acts as a diuretic – which is probably where the popular myth that dandelion causes …
Evergreens are also known as conifers. They make up the bulk of a group of plants called gymnosperms. In my home area we have one conifer that is not evergreen: Larch or Tamarack (Larix). You can also find the deciduous Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum) under cultivation. The broadleaf gymnosperm Ginkgo biloba is often planted, but this article will stick to the conifers (Pinophyta). “Gymnosperm” means “naked-seed,” which means that the female part is exposed so that it can be directly pollinated by the male pollen that blows to it on the wind. The angiosperms that are responsible for all the beautiful flowers like Tulips and Roses have female parts that are enclosed and must be reached by the male pollen through the complexity of the flower.
By Nathaniel Whitmore a Contributing Author to SHTFBlog and SurvivalCache
Recognizing a gymnosperm is relatively easy. Look for the “Pine Trees” (or, more properly, the conifers). But take note that while many refer to any conifer, or evergreen, as a Pine Tree there are really three botanical families represented in our area: the Pine, Cypress, and Yew families. So, “Pine” means “Pinus” and “Pine family” means “Pinaceae.” As this is my first SurvivalCache article on the subject, I am focusing on the area I know best- the Northeast (particularly that which is centralized in the New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania tri-state area, or the Delaware River valley) to discuss some species and introduce some basic botany and survival considerations. For future posts I will discuss other regions of the country.
The Pine family contains several genera. Pinus (Pine), Picea (Spruce), Abies (Fir), Tsuga (Hemlock), and Larix (Larch) are found in our area. Pseudotsuga menziesii (Douglas-fir) and some others (including non-indigenous Pine) can be found in cultivation. I regularly use White Pine, which is partially due to it being more common in my area than the other Pines. I also commonly make use of Hemlock, which is a primary tree of certain forests and the host of one of my favorite medicinal mushrooms, Ganoderma tsugae (Reishi). This is a very useful plant family for the survivalist to get to know.
The Cypress family has Taxodium (Bald Cypress), Thuja (Arbor-vitae), Chamaecyparis (Atlantic White-cedar), and Juniperus (Juniper and Red Cedar). There are many medicinal uses of species in Cupressaseae, but it should be regarded as less edible in general than the Pine family. Thuja essential oil, for instance, is considered quite toxic.
Read Also: Natural Headache Remedies
The Yew family is mostly found in landscapes as our native Taxus (Yew) is over-browsed by deer. English and Japanese domestic varieties are quite common under cultivation and sometimes naturalize (spread into the wild from cultivation). Yews are toxic. So, to avoid poisoning, the beginner should quickly learn the difference between Yews and the others, especially the Hemlock and Fir that superficially resemble Taxus because of the leaf (needle) arrangement. The red “berry” of Taxus is edible, but not the seed (which is actually visible, indicating it is a gymnosperm, in the cup-shaped “berry”). It is very common for poisonous plants to concentrate toxins in the seeds while producing an innocuous fruit.
The Pines and Yews have needles while the Cypress family has scale-like leaves. (One exception to this generalization is Bald Cypress, which has needle-like leaves that alternate on deciduous terminal twigs.) They are all needle-like in a way, but you will notice the scale quality in the Cypress family, such as with Juniperus or Thuja. If you then learn to recognize the Yew needles (which are rare in the wild anyway), the remainder varieties of needles can be known as belonging to members of the Pine family.
Pinaceae – Pine Family
Pinaceae is the representative family of the gymnosperms, as the group consists of the most quintessential evergreen trees. They tend to be pitchy (they have thick, sticky, aromatic sap), with a piney or citrus-like scent. Their leaves are needles. And they have the most quintessential cones (often called “pine cones” no matter what genus they occur on, even if the genus is of another family), compared to the berry-like cones of Juniperus and Taxus (Yew), for instance. The cones have spirally arranged scales and the seeds have wings.
One of the easiest ways to get to know this family of trees is to get to know the individual genera: Pinus, Tsuga, Picea, Larix, and Abies of our area. Cedrus and Pseudotsuga are native to other parts of the country. Cathaya, Pseudolarix, Keteleeria, and Nothotsuga are native to China.
Pinus sylvestris (Scotch Pine or Scot’s Pine) is the most widely distributed Pine. It was brought here from Europe and can normally be found along driveways and cultivated lands. It can be easily distinguished from the other common species by its orange-shaded upper bark and the light blue-green of its needles. It has been used extensively in traditional European medicine and has also been used for pharmaceutical preparations.
The Ojibwa used Jack Pine (Pinus banksiana) to to revive consciousness. Arthritis, muscle pains, sores, wounds, and pains associated with colds and febrile illnesses have all been treated with various Pinaceae species. Our most common native species, White Pine (Pinus strobus) and Pitch Pine (P. rigida) have been used extensively as wild food and medicine. Pines were a primary dietary supplement for winter as a source of vitamin C and to treat coughs, colds, and fevers.
Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) has horizontally arranged needles with white stripes (giving a pale appearance on the underside) that are dark green above and have been important for survival in the Northeast similar to Pinus. Hemlock is a common tree of stream gorges. It hosts a species of Reishi (Ganoderma tsugae) and is being attacked by a devastating insect, the Wooly Adelgid. The cones are quite small and persist so that they are often found dried but still on the tree. The genus name is from Japanese. The common name is shared with Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum), which causes a deal of confusion in some circumstances. Poison Hemlock, being in the Carrot Family (Apiaceae) is not very closely related at all.
Balsam Fir (Abies ballsamea) is used for coughs, colds, cuts, and sores. Its taste and aroma is quite pleasant. I would use Fir species much more commonly, except they are not abundant locally. Those in the Western states might readily fine useful and interesting Abies species nearby.
Tamarack (Larix laricina) is used for stomach, colds, coughs, fatigue, sores, soreness, and infections; and as a tonic for general health, laxative, and diuretic. Chippewa used infusion of bark for anemic conditions and poultice of inner bark for burns.
The various species of Spruce (Picea) have been used like others from the Pine Family for colds and other general uses. The pitch in particular is favored as fire-starting material and for topical medicinal application, such as in the case of boils, infections, and cuts.
Cupressaceae – Cypress Family
Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana) This is by far the most common representative of this family and genus in our area. Common Juniper (J. communis) can also be found, but is not so common (despite its name) due to habitat loss and deer browse and is easily differentiated from Red Cedar in that it is a low-growing, spreading shrub. Red Cedar is much more tree-like, though it can’t compete in our peak forests. Sometimes you will find significant numbers dying in the shade of taller trees. Healthy stands are found in old fields and similar locations. They have dark blue berry-like cones.
A Red Cedar sapling that died after getting shaded out by taller-growing trees. The small, dead twigs are easy to remove to turn the tree into a staff , handle, or utility pole.
TAXACEAE – Yew Family
Taxaceae includes only three genera worldwide, only one of which, Taxus, which occurs in this country. Of the nine (estimated) species of Taxus in the world, three can be found wild in the region- one of which is native: T. canadensis. It is the only species found wild in the immediate area, but is suffering from deer overbrowse. The most common place to find Yew is in hedgerows where it is commonly planted. A friend cut down a hedge in Hawley, PA. A slice of one trunk that I have here on the table has 47 growth rings and is only four finger-widths thick (see image below). Particularly in the Northwest, Yew is a favorite wood for bows.
It is easy to recognize Yew by the bright red berries (arils), which (as it is a gymnosperm) are open on the end, exposing the seed. The flesh of the fruit is the only edible part of the plant, but the seeds are highly toxic. T. canadensis and Pacific Yew (T. brevifolia) are used to make a pharmaceutical drug Taxol that is used to treat cancer. Natives used Yew to treat numbness in the fingers. Yew species can be recognized by their lack of aromatic properties that are present in Pinaceae and Cupressaceae.
Passion flower was discovered in 1569 in Peru by Spanish explorers, who prepared teas from the leaves of the plant and soon realized its relaxing and sedative properties. The word spread of this incredible plant, and it soon became popular throughout the world.
Today, passion flower is grown and harvested in most countries for its medicinal remedies. It is useful for treating sleeping problems, nervousness and anxiety, as well as for relieving symptoms of menopause.
How To Grow Passion Flower Indoors
There are several varieties of passion flower, but we recommend Passiflora incarnata, which is a hearty climber with large, purple flowers.
- Obtain fresh passion flower seeds and scuff them lightly on one side with sandpaper. Doing this will aid in their germination.
- Place the seeds in a container and cover with warm water.
- Place the container on a heat source, such as a heating pad. You want to ensure that the water maintains a lukewarm temperature.
- Let the seeds soak for about two days.
- Several of the seeds will begin to float. These seeds are no good, and you can remove and discard them.
- Remove the good seeds and place them on a surface where they can air dry.
- Passion flower grows well in a poor, but moist soil, so many cultivators use loam, which is a mixture of sand, silt and clay. Learn how to create loamy soil here. If you can’t use loamy soil, any soil will do; just make sure that it is consistently moist and irrigated.
- Start with several six-inch pots. Fill the pots with your soil, leaving one inch of space at the top.
- Place three seeds in the center of the pot, leaving one-fourth of an inch of space, separating each seed from the others.
- Press the seeds one-half an inch into the soil, but don’t cover them.
- Cover the pots with plastic wrap or a see-through bag and place them back onto the heating pad – at a low temperature.
- The seeds could take anywhere from two weeks to two months to sprout. Have patience!
- Keep the soil moist throughout this process.
- After the seeds sprout, you can remove the pots from the heating pad. Now, place them in a window with full sunlight.
- In the summer, irrigate the soil as needed, keeping it moist.
- In the winter, allow the top of the soil to dry between waterings slightly.
- Transplant the plants to larger pots as needed.
How to Care for Indoor Passion Flower
Passion flower is a rambunctious climber, and its tendrils will wrap around anything that they touch. Therefore, you want to provide an indoor tressel or climbing source.
Keep the plant trimmed, and guide the vine to grow around your climbing structure to keep it from getting out of control. Remove any dried leaves or flowers.
You will know fruit is ripe when it is soft and ready to fall off of the vine.
Keep the vine in full sunlight, if possible. However, if the sunlight is too hot so that it is drying out the plant, passion flower will tolerate partial sunlight.
How to Harvest Passion Flower
- Take the leaves (and stems if you want to use them) from the plant and dry them in a single layer.
- You can dry them on a drying screen or in a dehydrator.
- Put the dried leaves and stems into an airtight container.
- Store them in a dry, dark and cool location.
How to Use Passion Flower Medicinally
Passion Flower Tea Recipe
As a relaxing tea, passion flower can be brewed alone, or it blends well with chamomile, St. John’s wort, lemon balm and valerian. The color of the tea will be a light, pale green. It is good as a hot or iced tea.
- One tbsp. dried leaves and stems. (Some people use the dried flower, as well.)
- One cup of boiling water.
- Pour the boiling water onto the passion flower stems and leaves, as well as any other herbs you plan on using, and let it steep for about 10 minutes.
- If you desire a sweet taste, add natural honey.
Passion Flower Salad
The flowers are edible and can be a great, tasty addition to any salad. The flowers also have a calming effect, and eating a daily salad with passion flowers can help to reduce anxiety.
Passion Flower Tincture or Extract:
If you don’t like to drink tea, passion flower can be made into a tincture to add to water or juice.
You can sip on it throughout the day to help relieve anxiety or take 30-44 drops at bedtime to help aid with sleep.
- Fill up a clear jar with chopped-up, dried stems and leaves.
- Pour in 100 proof vodka, making sure the herb is completely saturated.
- Shake the jar daily.
- Let it sit for two weeks, and then strain out the leaves and stems.
- Keep the batch in a dark colored jar, in a dark place.
- Keep some in a dropper bottle so that you can easily measure out the drops.
- Add 30-44 drops into a water bottle or to the juice of your choice, up to three times a day. Sip on this to reduce daily anxiety.
- Directly ingest 30-44 drops at bedtime for a stronger effect.
Passion Fruit Jam
If your indoor vine grows fruit, you can make homemade passion fruit jam!
- Six passion fruits
- Two cups of water and one-fourth cup of water
- Two and one-third cups of sugar
- Half a lime
- First, cut each passion fruit in half.
- Cut out the pulp and seeds. (You will need about one and one-third cup of pulp.)
- Cover the pulp and put it in the refrigerator.
- Take half of the skins, and add to a bowl with the two cups of water.
- Let the skins soak for 24 hours in the refrigerator.
- The next day, boil the skin/water mix that is still in the bowl.
- Boil for 12 minutes or until all the water is absorbed.
- Peel the outer skin off of the shells.
- Mash the softened, skinless shells into a pulp and add the one-fourth cup of water and blend.
- Add the shell pulp, the saved pulp from the day before and the sugar into a stainless steel pot. Squeeze in the juice from half of a fresh lime.
- Boil the mix for about 15 minutes.
- Let it cool off a little and transfer the mix to clear jars. Let it cool completely before sealing.
- Enjoy! This is a nice and thick jam, having the texture close to a marmalade.
Passion flower is a delightful herb plant to grow indoors. And unlike other herbal plants, passion flower really puts on a show with its large, beautiful blooms.
What advice would you add on growing and using passion flower? Share your tips in the section below:
Preserve your medicinal herbs the right way! Cat Ellis “Herbal Prepper Live” Learn how to properly preserve your medicinal herbs on this week’s episode of Herbal Prepper Live. Just like food storage, your herbs can be preserved and stored for later use. But, if you don’t choose the right preservation method for the right herb … Continue reading Preserve your medicinal herbs the right way!
Growing herbs for use in the kitchen allows you to add a freshness to the table that store-bought herbs can never produce. Whether grown in a small plot designed especially for a kitchen herb garden, in containers along the patio or as companion plants in the family garden, herbs are an excellent addition to your homestead.
Although herbs add much to our culinary endeavors, they are also useful in many other ways. Many common herbs have great medicinal qualities, are helpful in caring for livestock, and some have the ability to control unwanted pests around the homestead. For the cost of a few seeds, or potted plants, and a bit of time for researching your options, you can grow a natural medicine chest in your backyard.
Below is a brief overview of 10 common plants that can be used to treat a wide variety of ailments. Some can be taken internally as an herbal tea, while some should only be used as an infused oil or as part of a poultice. Still others are best suited for pest management on the homestead.
1. Sweet basil
Sweet Basil is not only versatile in the kitchen, but also works as a repellent for flying insects such as flies and mosquitos. Basil reduces inflammation and has been shown to be effective as an antibacterial agent.
Not to be confused with marigolds, which are toxic, calendula has many healing properties. It is best used as a salve in treating skin irritations, including rashes, bruising, cuts and scrapes. It is safe to use for everyone on the homestead, including livestock.
Comfrey contains allantoin, which aids cell formation, giving comfrey wonderful healing properties. Used to treat wounds, burns, skin irritations, sprains and even broken bones, comfrey can be used as a raw leaf, in a salve or more often as a poultice.
Please note that comfrey should not be taken internally, as it disrupts liver function.
We all know that garlic has health benefits when added to our meals, but it is also helpful as a repellent for pesky mosquitos. A garlic poultice can be used to treat ringworm and other skin irritations. Painful ear infections can be eased by the application of warm, mashed garlic cloves.
Even in ancient times, lavender was added to bath water to restore calm. Today, we recognize that it is helpful not only for relieving anxiety but it has beneficial properties that can be utilized to treat burns, cuts and insect bites.
6. Marsh mallow
Marsh mallow is a versatile healing plant. It can be used as a salve for insect bites, bruises and other types of skin inflammation. It works well as a poultice for chest congestion and can also be made into a syrup to further alleviate congested airways. An herbal tea, made from the root of the mallow plant, has been known to help multiple ailments, including excessive stomach acid and even the passage of kidney stones.
7. Painted daisies
Painted daisies, as well as other daisy relatives, contain pyrethrum, a natural insecticide. Whether it is used as a companion plant in the garden or planted around an outdoor living space, this plant is a colorful natural alternative to toxic insecticides.
Aside from garnishing your dinner plate, parsley aids in digestion, promotes optimal liver function and combats bad breath. It can be used as poultice to reduce swelling and bruising. Additionally, adding parsley when juicing other fruits and vegetables also helps to eliminate water retention.
A common addition to savory foods, sage, used as an herbal tea or as a syrup, is helpful in reducing fevers, easing headaches, and clearing sinuses. Relieve skin irritations, such as itchy rashes, with sage leaves.
Thyme is a multipurpose plant, offering many medicinal uses, as well as being helpful for pest management. Adding thyme to your garden will draw bees for pollination. However, if you add thyme to a campfire, it will repel unwanted insects. Medicinally, thyme can be used a number of ways. As a poultice, thyme acts as an anti-inflammatory agent and is also antifungal. As a weak tea, it can be used as a mouthwash and gargle to relieve sores in the mouth and general sore throats. It works as an expectorant, helpful in relieving painful coughs.
Which herbs would you add to the list? Share your advice in the section below:
Bottles of wine, beer, vodka and rum aren’t exactly what first comes to mind when preparing for emergencies, but there are several reasons preppers should consider having a stash of alcohol on hand, even if you don’t drink.
For those who do drink, that purpose is obvious. Yet, alcohol also has value and uses that go beyond personal enjoyment. Here are nine reasons why every Survival Mom should consider having a stash of alcohol.
1. Disinfectants in your stash of alcohol
Alcohol that is higher than 35 percent ABV (alcohol by volume), or 70 proof, can disinfect, but not sterilize, wounds and tools. Disinfecting an item eliminates many or all pathogenic microorganisms, except bacterial spores. Sterilization eliminates all forms of microbial life. To disinfect, you’ll have to look at having vodka, brandy, rum, gin or pure vanilla extract on hand. However, if a wound is disinfected with alcohol, it can also kill the good tissue around the wound, so it should be used as a last resort. You could also use this kind of alcohol to wash your hands to disinfect them, and in the absence of other cleaners, you could use them to clean surfaces, cooking tools and dishes. Surgery and childbirth are two scenarios in which medical tools need to be as disinfected as the situation will allow. In a pinch, alcohol could be the best way to minimize the possibility of infections.
2. Medicinal uses
In addition to the medical uses mentioned above, tinctures are created using an alcohol base. Tinctures are herbal remedies where herbs are concentrated in an alcohol and water mixture. For example, a cough suppressant can be made using whiskey, honey and lemon.
Alcohol does not help with hypothermia. You often see in movies and on TV a person who has come in from the cold get offered a stiff drink to help warm them up. They may feel warmer afterward, but ultimately, that drink will serve to lower the person’s core temperature because alcohol causes blood vessels to dilate.
Alcohol can also help calm an upset stomach, temporarily help with tooth pain, and help calm an anxious person. A little bit can help a person fall asleep faster. Poison ivy and bug bites can also be relieved by rubbing some alcohol on the affected area. Alcohol can be a muscle relaxant, too.
Some people value alcohol more than others and it will fly off the shelves in several emergency scenarios (riots, power outages, impending snowstorms or hurricanes). Having some on hand might give you the upper hand when trading for food or household supplies. Consider stocking up on both large bottles as well as the tiny “airplane” sizes.
INTERESTED IN BARTERING? Barter may not be the simple transaction many preppers envision. Here’s what you need to know about bartering before planning on it becoming your survival solution.
Bottles of highly prized brands of alcohol have also come in handy as bribes. Not recommending this. Just making note of it!
Despite the situation or emergency, life will continue – babies will be born, people will marry and funerals will take place. Many of these occasions bring people together to celebrate or remember. Wine or champagne can add to the celebration and help give people a sense of “normalcy,” which can be a powerful element in who thrives during difficult circumstances and who doesn’t.
Some religions use alcohol as part of a religious ceremony or rite. Continuing these traditions can mean a lot to people of those faiths. During Prohibition, one of the only ways for a winery to stay in business was to make wine for religious reasons.
6. Fire and defense
As with wound care, alcohol is not the first choice in sustaining a fire, but it does work if needed. Much care should be used if using alcohol around any kind of fire. Do not pour alcohol on an active fire, but soak something and put it in the kindling/coals before setting the fire.
If you find yourself in a situation where your home or family needs to be defended, you could create a fire bomb using alcohol. Extreme care needs to be taken if alcohol is used in this manner and in no way are we recommending this!
LEARN MORE WITH THIS DIY PROJECT: Make a mini-stove with Altoids in alcohol.
There are plenty of recipes that call for wine and other forms of alcohol, but one of the best reasons to have alcohol around is to preserve items from the garden. Soaking herbs or plants in vodka makes extracts, like vanilla, peppermint, and lemon. Fruit can be preserved in alcohol for long-term storage. Ginger and turmeric can be preserved in alcohol, too.
8. Stress relief
Alcohol can help a person relax a bit or “take the edge off.” There will be a lot of stress in most survival situations and having a small vice is one way humans deal with stress. The social aspect of having a drink at the end of a long day is often what helps people deal with stress the most.
9. Everyday emergencies (cooking/gifts)
Sometimes the emergency isn’t dire but is still stressful. Having a few bottles of wine on hand for recipes or for a hostess gift when you’re invited to a dinner party is a good idea. Even if the hosts are non-drinkers, they can still put the bottle to good use.
Tips for storage
Alcohol needs to be stored in a cool, dark place. As a liquid, it can evaporate if the bottle has been opened. The shelf life varies depending on the type of alcohol. Beer and wine will generally last about six months to two years depending on the way it was made. Liquors vary widely, but also tend to break down by the two-year mark. Spirits and moonshines do not expire due to their high alcohol content.
Learn To Make Your Own Prepper Stash of Alcohol
Another option to having alcohol on hand is learning to make your own. Home beer brewing and winemaking are becoming the new fad hobbies with supply stores showing up in many cities, as well as online. Many of these stores offer classes and will help you on your brewing journey. You can also use a still to make distilled water, spirits and alcohol that can be used for fuel. State laws vary on home brewing and distilling so make sure to check what is allowed where you live.
MAKING HOMEMADE WINE: This is a handy skill and not as difficult as you might think. Your final product may not win the blue ribbon in a wine competition but can still be enjoyed for what it is — a DIY project you can drink!
Preppers with a stash of alcohol can only benefit in the long run. If you’re not sure about how much and exactly what you want to have on hand, start with a variety of small bottles. Make sure to keep them out of the reach of children or possibly hidden or locked up if you have teenagers. It’s an item that can have a multitude of uses and doesn’t cost a whole lot of money.
STOCKING UP TIP: You’ll often see grocery carts filled with bottles of alcohol in the liquor department of your grocery store. Browse through those and, if you aren’t sure where to start, pick up vodka, rum, gin, or whisky, as they have many multiple uses and longer shelf lives.
Want to learn more about prepping?
- 52 Prepper Projects by Dave Nash
- Bushcraft 101 by Dave Canterbury
- Buy Gold and Silver Safely by Doug Eberhardt
- Countdown to Preparedness by Jim Cobb
- Emergency Evacuations: Get out fast when it matters most by Lisa Bedford
- Food Storage for Self-Sufficiency and Survival by Angela Paskett
- The Pantry Primer: How to build a one year food supply in three months by Daisy Luther
- Prepper’s Natural Medicine by Cat Ellis
- The Preppers Blueprint by Tess Pennington
- The Prepper’s Pocket Guide by Bernie Carr
- The Prepper’s Water Survival Guide by Daisy Luther
- SAS Survival Handbook by John ‘Lofty’ Wiseman
- Survival Mom: How to Prepare Your Family for Everyday Disasters and Worst Case Scenarios by Lisa Bedford
Garlic for Post-Disaster Medicine
Cat Ellis “Herbal Prepper Live”
This week’s show is dedicated to the pungent, spicy, and strong-flavored herb, garlic. The culinary and medicinal applications of garlic should warrant it a major place in any home garden. For the prepper/survivalist making plans for healthcare when our medical system may not be available, garlic could well save your life.
Think this is an exaggeration? It’s antibiotic, antidiabetic, antifungal, antiparasitical, antirheumatic, antispasmodic, diaphoretic, expectorant, and hypotensive. Preparations including garlic, can cover a wide range of serious conditions, keeping your disaster health care prep relatively simple.
Garlic is a vulnerary, as it has a well-established history of wound care. Effective against staphylococcus and streptococcus bacteria, bringing garlic in contact with infected tissue has prevented an untold number of wounds from turning into sepsis. Garlic helps the respiratory system expel thick mucus and ease asthma symptoms. There is some evidence to suggest that it also helps to regenerate the beta cells in the pancreas, which would be critical to helping anyone with diabetes survive a disaster with no medical care.
What would you do if you were suddenly without either blood pressure medication? What if there were no more refills on Lipitor available from the pharmacy because there isn’t a pharmacy anymore? No one wants a heart attack or stroke. Ever. You especially do not want to have a heart attack or stroke when there is no doctor available. The cardiovascular benefits cannot be understated. Garlic is also a vasodilator, helping to lower blood pressure. Plus, this hot herb can help achieve a healthy cholesterol level.
Garlic is also a time-tested favorite remedy during the cold and flu season. Add it to decoctions, syrups, ferment garlic cloves in vinegar or in honey. It chases away the aches and pains of the flu, and does wonders for throat and ear infections.
There is still so much more to say about how garlic can help you stay healthy after a disaster. Do not wait until after SHTF to learn how to use garlic as medicine. As we all know, the time to learn a skill is before you actually need it. Start right now by listening to this episode of Herbal Prepper Live, to learn all about how to make garlic remedies.
Herbal Prepper Website: http://www.herbalprepper.com/
Listen to this broadcast “Garlic, Post-Disaster Medicine in player below!
Download this show HERE!
Get the 24/7 player app for your smart phone HERE!
Put the 24/7 player on your web site Go Here and get yours!
Listen to archived shows of all our hosts . Go to schedules tabs at top of page!
This article first appeared at The Prepper Project I was out in the yard one beautiful May afternoon when I made an exciting discovery. It was a tall, scraggly plant towering a good foot and a half above the other weeds scattering our overgrown yard. I crouched down to get a closer look and immediately … Continue reading Stop Bleeding Fast With This Weed