When I move to the country and work for self-sufficiency, I find myself paying even more attention to what comes out of the field. I walk around taking photos of plants on my camera, so I can look them up online to find out what they are and, more importantly, what value they can have, either nutritionally or medicinally – or both. Plants that I’ve always thought were weeds or just wildflowers that have been found to have wonderful medicinal uses since. Sadly, all of this wisdom has been lost over the years because young people become more involved in the current craze on social media than the old folks might teach them. You have not been told what the abundance of nature can do for you and your family because you still have your grandma, who grew up in the mountains and was the local source of home remedies, or your great-grandfather was your tribe’s medicine man.
Years of weed killers had beneficial plants and herbs all but decimated. Society has snubbed the dandelion and the plantain in the search for the ideal lawn, along with chickweed and clover. All four are edible plants. All four plants have medicinal applications. All four plants grow flowers that feed honey bees, a tiny animal on which we are very dependent for life but which is in grave danger of losing for good. And yet, they are known as weeds or plants of nuisance, and must therefore be eliminated. When was it that a good-looking lawn was more important than food and cure?
As an alternative to “modern” medicine, if you’re like me and looking for more natural remedies, you’ve spent a lot of time exploring other alternatives online. You may be one of the few who discovered that there are many beneficial plants that grow wildly. But, you also need to get out on your own yard and see what you have to work with. I noticed that almost everything listed in this article was growing in our place. It’s exciting to know that I have the equipment right outside my door for treating aches and pains, as well as stomach or kidney problems.
I have noticed several plants in my internet perusals which are so similar in looks that they are sometimes mistaken for each other. I figured I’d share some with you in the hopes that we all know what we’ve got and what it can do while giving us something else to hold our eyes out for as we walk the property. This is by no means a full list of such plants’ beneficial aspects. I didn’t have enough space here for that. I really support anyone who may be interested in looking them up. Please check with your doctor if you are on some medication if you want to try them yourself. Mother Nature and modern medicine still don’t get together well.
Mullein and Lambs Ear
Mullein – (Verbascum thapsus) This plant can be found in several places along the road, and has been used for medicinal purposes for hundreds of years. I noticed at least four plants in our neighboring property. It is used to treat respiratory conditions like asthma and tuberculosis. It is a normal expectorant and a suppressant of cough. It can be ingested in teas and tinctures, as well as smoked. It can also be used as a topical remedy for issues like burns, bruises, hemorrhoids, and herpes as it has antiviral and astringent properties, as well as calming effects.
Lambs Ear – (Stachys byzantina) This I once planted in a flowerbed to use as a border plant. I just loved the soft, fuzzy leaves. It had taken over a third of the bed a few years back, and was rising in the yard across the walk. At the time, I had no idea what a wonderful plant it was nor how abundant it was. In battlefield situations, its leaves were used for bandages and dressings. The leaves instantly absorb blood and help with coagulation. They have antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antiseptic properties. That literally is the bandage of nature. There are many more uses to it than I can mention in this article. Look up the internet and get ready to be amazed. If you want to plant some and don’t want the area to be taken over, I’d suggest you place it in a container.
How to tell the difference: Usually Mullein is a single plant with long spiked leaves. Lambs ear are more likely to be in a bed covering the ground. Its leaves are thicker and tensofterderer. Bonus: Use them as an alternative to toilet paper!
Devil’s Walking Stick and Elderberry trees
Devil’s Walking Stick – (Aralia spinosa) We noticed a few of these in the yard. I had thought they were elderberry when I first saw them. The flowers (which the bees love absolutely) and the berries are very identical. The only way I can tell them apart is that this tree have large spines on it. To relieve the toothaches, the roots and berries are most well-known, which has earned it the nickname of the toothache tree. They can alleviate the pain of arthritic joints and rheumatism in a topically applied tincture.
Elderberry – (Sambucus nigra) It’s difficult to find anyone who hasn’t learned about this plant and the wonderful health benefits it offers. A combination of a prescription drug and elderberry syrup seemed to be the best cure for getting well quickly with the recent harsh flu season. It is one of the planet’s main antivirals. It is also among the highest in flavonoids that give it super antioxidant strength. If you start taking it at the onset of symptoms of cold or flu it may reduce the time by half or more, as opposed to someone who did not. It can be used in just about every way you think as far as its use. I keep tinctures on hand all the time.
How to tell the difference:The fruits and blooms are very similar. The only way to tell at a glance is devil’s walking stick has thorns on the tree. Elderberry doesn’t. Make sure which it is as the devil’s walking stick berries are toxic.
Yarrow and Queen Anne’s Lace
Yarrow – (Achillea millefolium) You might have this in your yard and think it’s a weed. Actually, it’s a weed. It can be used for a variety of things including reducing fever in the form of tea; topically for rashes and itching, and when mixed with plantain helps stop bleeding and prevent infections; it can help with menstrual cramps and hormone problems in the form of tinctures. To aid with eczema, it can also be added to lotions and salves.
Queen Anne’s Lace – (Daucus carota) Often known as wild carrot, this little plant has a range of vitamins not least of which including B and C. It includes the essential oils and the flavonoids. It was used for the prevention and removal of kidney stones in tea form. It is used as a contraceptive by some women. The most commonly used methods of application are tea or tincture.
How to tell the difference: The flowers are identical but the yarrow flowers are more clustered than the Queen Anne’s umbel. The yarrow’s leaves are alternating while Queen Anne’s lace leaves are opposite. Also the yarrow’s leaves are more finely divided.
These are only a few examples you might have of plants in your own yard. Surprising, isn’t it? Certainly it made me look in a whole new light at the plants outside my house. Knowing that I can walk out my door and pick leaves from one plant to take the itch out of a bug bite or be able to pick up a leaf from another plant quickly to avoid a bleeding wound. You might also consider planting certain plants you once considered a nuisance explicitly for that purpose in an area of your yard, so you can bypass them with the lawn mower and weed eater.
And, before pulling the weed killer out you take a quick look at what’s developing there. Maybe it’s something you can use to treat yourself or your family. That could be the only thing you have in an emergency situation. Make sure you know the plant and its application, as well as how the plant parts are properly applied. There are also excellent books on the identification and uses of plants, including recipes on how to make tinctures and tonics. I strongly encourage you to buy a few to have on hand.
This article is not intended to guide you away from the prescription medications you might be taking at present. Always test the potential adverse effects or complications with your current prescription with your doctor or pharmacist. It is intended to educate you about natural alternatives that are available, so you can make informed decisions about yours and your loved ones’ health and well-being.