I would like to know more about growing and using medicinal herbs. I know that herbs were used before we had conventional medicines. Anyone have any ideas for this?
Although, I realize rose hips are not necessarily an herb, they contain a lot of vitamin C. Doesn’t just a few equal the vitamin C of an orange? Also doesn’t pine needles have a lot of vitamin C as well?
Then there are herbs like golden seal and others, like Echinacea. Can these and others be grown in a cold climate like Ak?
Linda in Oregon "Becoming intoxicated with a dream gives us the passion to bring it into reality!" --Unknown
My main advice, if you're going to use any wild plants is to be ABSOLUTELY SURE that you KNOW what you are picking. Some things look so much alike, such as Angelica and poison Water Hemlock. That could be a deadly mistake. I closely examine the leaves of each plant before I gather the roots, and then I slice every root of every plant to inspect it. If there's any doubt at all, I toss it and wash my hands very well before picking more.
If you can take a class on herbs and their uses, you would probably love it. You'll be amazed at how much you can learn. There are online classes that sound very good, but hands on with someone experienced is great. Also, when you purchase herbs and herbal remedies, make sure you are getting them from a very high quality manufacturer. I've posted before about the poor quality control of some companies. Problems can be anything from simply diluted capsules, teas, etc, that won't help much, to improper identification and labeling that could be fatal. We've gotten sick from taking an echinacea tincture from a cheaper, less reliable brand. Another herb I purchased caused migraines. I'd taken the herb from a reputable company before, but used a cheaper brand that time. Frontier Herb and Spice, and Eclectic Institute, and a few others, are very good companies.
OK. Enough of my warnings. That's just my cautious nature. Rose hips are great! Just loaded with vitamin C, and I've heard that they're really much healthier than oranges because they grow wild in so many areas. Things that are cultivated are often not as nutritious. Wild mushrooms are also a great source of vitamin C. Also, if you have a garden, you probably have an over abundance of chickweed. Makes a good early salad, and is loaded with vitamin C (and A, I think). I make a wonderful salve from Chickweed that is the best thing we've ever used on burns. With all the vitamin C, you could probably dry it for a tea to boost your immune system and/or help get rid of colds, but I've always had other things handy to use on the rare occasions when one of us gets sick. I may try adding it to them, too. Sometimes combining things really improves the qualities of both. If I eat too much store bought dairy or meat, I sometimes get stomach cramps for a little while. Angelica or wormwood alone (although great for many things) don't help. But together, they work wonders.
Don't know about pine, but spruce has lots of nutrients, including vitamin C. I would think pine would also have lots. Spruce salve made from the pitch is great for anything itchy. I've never had impetigo, but I've heard that the salve is a sure fire cure for that. I recently learned about "old man's beard". It's the "moss", really a lichen, that often grows on spruce and oak (and probably other) trees. Loaded with vitamin C, and is one of the best antimicrobials (because of the usneic acid). There's lots of reliable documentation on it's treatment for TB and many other illnesses. I haven't seen much on the trees around here, but we have lots at home. I think it grows pretty much anyplace.
I've heard Echinacea will grow here, but that in some areas is only an annual. I'm willing to try it.
Oh, just remembered a link I posted awhile back. Look under "Interesting Lynx". I think it's www.botanicals.com. LOTS of great information there. Also, if you can find one at a good price, get the PDR (Physician's Desk Reference) for Herbs. Chuck found it at Costco several years ago and it's been invaluable. We even have a copy of it in the department of the hospital where I work, although I think I'm the only one who ever utilizes it.
I hope more folks will start posting about their herbal remedies and herbs they grow. I'm always finding a new use for something I've used for years, or learning that some abundant wild plant I didn't know anything about before can be very useful.
Jenny I would love to learn more about growing my own herbs. I have grown some but not nearly enough. I was wondering where would you start. I have mint growing, parsley, dill, however I am looking at growing more herbs for medical.. i hate to use anything from the stores however since I do not know enough about this I have to buy most of mine. Can you give us any advice on this area. For example can you grow golden seal? How do you go about it. Do you grow your herbs in pots or do you let them grow wild. What about winter time does it kill the herbs do they come back..
I've mostly been working with wild herbs, but each year I do try to plant at least a few for either cooking or medicinal uses. I like to let things sort of go "wild" on their own if they will. Sure saves work, as well as saving precious space in the garden. Wild plants are supposed to be much more potent than cultivated ones. I don't know how it works for plants from seed that are allowed to go wild. I've tasted wild chives, then come home and tasted my herb garden chives, and there is just no comparison. The wild ones are soooo much better.
I'd heard that chamomile had to be replanted up here in Alaska every year because of the cold winters, so I was planning to grow a little in pots each year. I started the seeds inside one spring, then put them in an outdoor planter box when it was warm enough. I thought it was waaaaayyyy too high for any of our goats to reach, but one of them was determined to get to my herb box. Well, I thought that was the end of that, and the next year we had so many other things to do that I just didn't get around to planting many herbs. But, to my surprise, chamomile patches started popping up all over the place. I've been getting more and more each year. Now that we have three young boys, I think I'll need it
It's hard to say what will grow well for you and what won't. I wouldn't listen to anyone who is too absolute about things. If you really want to grow something, keep trying different things, at least until you're sure that it just can't be done where you live. I never tried oregano or sage because they're supposed to be warm climate things, or so I thought. But, last year a friend grew tons of them very easily. There are some wild plants I've used here in Dillingham that I've never seen around our homestead, but I'm going to get seeds and try to plant them in places that I think they would grow wild if they had been introduced to the area before. I'm getting a late start since it's now almost time to plant seeds and starts outdoors, and we won't get home and get things planted until around the 10th of June. Even if my garden isn't a success this year, I'm still going to try things again. We don't have wild yarrow in our area, but some friends who used to have a cabin nearby planted a few seeds, and now it's scattered all around.
Some plants do well in indoor pots, but our space is so limited that I just haven't tried many that way. That is one of the things I certainly want to do more though. If something doesn't work for you, keep trying. Maybe you just need a different brand of seed, or maybe it was just a bad year. Some seeds can be particular in the way they're started, so do your homework in seed catalogs, and check around with good nurseries. The extension service is usually a great resource. Lots of materials are free, and lots of great ones you can purchase. Some ideas you may try are putting your feelers out with clerks in health food stores or calling naturopathic medical offices to try to get info on growing your own medicinal herbs. More often than not, they probably won't be able to help you, but you may hit on someone who is really into that and more than willing to share information. You may also look online or in the phone book for smaller private nurseries and herb growers. You may find one in your area that will be a big help to you. If you buy some things from them and get to know them a little, they'll probably be more than willing to help. Also, I'd really try to find a good herbalist in your area. Some buy everything they use, but many up here pick lots and lots of things wild, and share their knowledge. Others grow their own and are happy to help. Sometimes our university holds classes in wild medicinal herbs.
We have some books on wild plants that grow in Alaska. We've been able to learn lots about what grows here, best places to look for what we want, how to use the plants, etc. I would think there are lots of books focusing on plants in your neck of the woods too. Since I've gotten into herbs, both wild and in the garden for cooking and medicine, I've found that Alaska, even with it's terribly poor conditions, is an herbalists paradise. The soil is soooo acid and poor, the winters are very cold and very long and very dark, the summers in many places are cool and rainy, and in others warm and dry, and there's so much sun and daylight in the summer. It's amazing to me that anything grows here. I would think that in Alabama, you wouldn't have to really cultivate much at all, or that many things would take off in the wild once you get them started.
If you're wanting to learn about what plants are good for certain problems or to prevent certain things, there are lots of great books and websites. Look at my last post. Also, we have a few really great books, but they're all packed up right now so I can't give you the titles and authors. I'm sure many of you know much more than I do about herbs. It's just something I really enjoy doing, so I read a lot, talk with folks, experiment, and do what I can. I don't know if it's really a necessity, but it's useful and enjoyable.
One thing that saddens me terribly is that most of the "experts" I've run across ---- folks really knowledgeable about plants and their uses ----- are pagan. I've found so many good websites filled with so much information, then find that they are pagan. I've gotten to sort of know people who are into herbs. After a short time, it becomes very clear to me they are pagans. They assume I am too. Once, someone at the place I work who knew I loved to pick wild plants for cooking and medicines said, "Jennifer, I thought you were a Christian!?" She was looking for an herbal treatment for something, but all the sites she found and all the people she spoke to were "weird", as she put it. God has blessed us so greatly, but so many have twisted it to worship the gift instead of the Giver.
If we had stayed here, I was thinking about offering some free classes through our church about herbs. I've found so few Christians here who are confident enough in their knowledge of plants to even get started, so I wanted to encourage them. Maybe sort of a little ministry. I've found that many folks are very interested, but just need a little encouragement and "hands on" with somebody else to get started. God has given us so much and it's just sitting there waiting for us appreciate it. It's relaxing and rewarding, and when I'm working with plants, it's one of the things I do that helps me feel closer to God. I don't pray to the plant or thank the plant for letting me pick it. I use that time (usually alone) to praise God, and listen to God. Some people go for walks or sit in a quiet room. I do that too, sometimes. But sometimes I go work in the garden or pick wild plants.
OK, that's it for my dissertation. I haven't been posting much lately with all that's been going on. Suffering from "Forum Deprivation" I think. Hmmmmm. Maybe a glass of birch sap in the morning will be just what I need ;D