With the arrival of summer, you have the perfect opportunity to harvest and store medicinal herbs for use throughout the rest of the year. It’s a great time to look beyond your own herb bed and see what you can find when out foraging. Here are the top 8 medicinal herbs you really need to be watching for.
This thick leafed plant is common throughout North America, but it causes liver damage if ingested. Use it only externally. The leaves were traditionally used to treat broken bones and sprains and ease the pain. However, you can also use the roots.
Comfrey leaves are best used fresh or in an ointment. You can crush the fresh leaves and apply to aches and pains, as well as burns and bruises.
The roots may be dried for later use, but can also be used fresh. In either case, use 3.5 oz. of root in 2 cups of water. Simmer for 15 minutes and drain. Mash the roots and apply cooled to the area that hurts.
You probably already look for these prickly bushes, hoping for some tasty fruit, but did you know the leaves are medicinal? Blackberry roots are useful, too. You can use the leaves and the roots work to prevent diarrhea and as an anti-inflammatory.
Pick fresh leaves and dry immediately until dry enough to crumble.
To prepare, you can use about 2.5 oz. of leaves or washed roots steeped for 5-10 minutes in one cup of very hot water. If you’re using dried, use half the amount. Cool and use orally to prevent stomach upsets, or use as a mouthwash to help heal cuts in the mouth. You can also crush the fresh leaves and apply directly to a cut to help reduce inflammation.
Found around the world, this plant is pretty and a favorite fodder for animals. It also has some pretty impressive healing properties for humans. The most common use is to ease coughing, but many people swear by red clover as a detoxifier, too. For those with asthma or bronchitis, it can be a life saver.
You should pick the flowers of the clover early in the morning and dry immediately. Once dry, the heads may be crumbled and saved in a cool, dark place. To prepare, add 3 teaspoons of dried red clover to each cup of hot water. Don’t boil the water. You should steep the tea for longer than most herbs, at least 15 minutes, before drinking.
A known anti-inflammatory, feverfew can be used to treat headaches, including migraines. It’s also used to help reduce anxiety. In all cases, it’s best taken on a daily basis if you want the full effect.
You can harvest the leaves and flowers, just as the flowers start to appear. This is when the plant is most potent. Harvest once the dew has evaporated and tie the stalks together. Hang upside down in a dry place to preserve. After a week, the dried herb is ready to use. Crumble the leaves and flowers into a jar and throw away the stalks.
To prepare, use 2 tablespoons of dried leaves and flower (or a quarter cup, if you’re using fresh) in a cup of boiling water. Steep 5 minutes before straining and drinking. Alternatively, you can grind the herb and use in capsules, taking two daily to prevent migraines.
Note: It’s important that pregnant women and those allergic to ragweed avoid using feverfew.
Most people are aware that dandelion leaves are edible, but the root is excellent for stimulating the appetite and cleansing the gallbladder and liver. It does work as a diuretic, so be aware of this if taking the root.
You can dig up the roots in the spring, before the flowers bloom. Clean and dry, then use in an alcohol tincture. You can take half a teaspoon in water twice a day to help keep your digestive system functioning well, or increase to a full teaspoon if you have stomach issues or need to eliminate edema.
The leaves may be picked at any time and dried, then crushed and used to make tea. Add 1 tablespoon to a cup of boiling water and steep for 5 minutes. Alternatively, you can use a handful of fresh leaves with the same effect.
Chances are, you’ve seen this little plant growing in the cracks of sidewalks and in your lawn, but you may not have realized just how useful it is. If you’re bitten or stung by an insect, plantain is the plant you want to have on hand.
To use this helpful herb, you can either mix it into an ointment, or you can grind the fresh leaves into a paste. Apply the paste to the sting or bite and you’ll feel how quickly it starts to work.
If you want to increase the strength of your immune system, elderberry plants are just what you should be looking for. Both the berries and the flowers are useful, but you should avoid the raw berries. It’s also important to skip using this herb if you are using any chemotherapy, diuretix, diabetic medications, laxatives, or other types of drugs that may interact with it.
Berries reduce inflammation in the mucous membranes and help boost the immune system. They can be prepared as jam or syrup and taken by the spoonful as needed. The flowers may be dried and a tablespoon added to hot water for 5 minutes. Sip the tea to relieve respiratory inflammation and flu symptoms. You can also apply the tea directly to wounds.
A common weed that many people try to eliminate, burdock roots are ideal for helping with acne and other skin problems. You simply need to harvest the roots in late summer or early fall, once the leaves are large and green on top. Dry the roots, then create a tincture from this with alcohol. The tincture can be taken internally to help purify the skin. The proper dose is 10-20 drops in water per day.
If you prefer to use the fresh leaves, you can boil a handful in water. Discard the water and eat the boiled leaves. The water is too bitter to use internally, but you may wish to use it as a rinse on affected areas of skin.
While your herb garden is a wonderful place to cultivate your favorite herbs, you can also find medicinal herbs outside of your cultivated herbs. The world is full of wonderful medicines, you just need to put them to use.
You may also like: