There are at least 28,187 plants which are recognized as medicinal according to the State of the Worlds Plants Study 2017. We only use a small percentage of those species, however. Additionally, a lot more medicinal plants are probably unknown at present. We have lost a lot of the ancient medicinal plant knowledge. One of my life’s goals is to log some of those herbs and get the word out about how to use them.
In every state in the United States, medicinal plants are rising and it is difficult for me to mention all of them here. One problem that I often encounter is that plants in different areas of the country often have different names. To stretch your knowledge, I list some of the most popular wild medicinal herbs and some less known species. I divided them into the states they grew up in. Check out the plants in your state which grow.
Plants Growing in the Northern US States
Many great medicinal plants are found in the northernmost states of the US. These states include Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, New Jersey, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.
Some plants mentioned here are also growing further south into the central US.
Are delicious and medicinal. The leaves, stems, and roots constitute an excellent remedy for dysentery, diarrhea, and as a poultice for cuts and wound care. They are astringent and anti-inflammatory.
Blackberries are native to the US’s temperate northern areas, and common in the eastern states and on the Pacific coast.
Wild Licorice (Glycyrrhiza lepidota), which is native to much of the northern and central United States, grows from southern Central Canada to California, Texas, and Virginia.
The plant treats a host of diseases ranging from coughs, vomiting, chest pain, fevers and digestive problems.
This improves placenta delivery at birth, and as a poultice on swollen tissues and sores. When chewed, this soothes toothache and sore throats.
Arctium minus, or cocklebur, is a herb of irritating medicinal interest. This is particularly effective in treating ivy poison, oak poison and other irritations to the skin.
For skin issues, it’s my go-to vine. This detoxifies the blood, strengthens the liver, cuts down inflammation, and stimulates digestion. It is common to the United States in the northeast and northwest.
These medicinal plants are common across the Northeastern United States:
- American Basswood
- American Holly
- Ashleaf Maple
- Black Birch
- Black-eyed Susan
- Black Raspberry
- Black Walnut
- Broadleaf Plantain
- Colt’s foot
- Eastern Redcedar
- English Yew
- Ginkgo biloba
- Indian Pipe
- Oak, Red, and White
- Rattlesnake Root
- Spotted Tough-me-not, Impatiens capensis
- John’s Wort
- Staghorn Sumac
- Stinging Nettle
- Stink Tree
- Sweet Birch
- Tree of Heaven
Medicinal Plants of the Central US
The Central American states, which are the states in the center of the country, are home to most of the plants growing in the north, plus many more. These states sometimes are further divided into the east of the United States and the west of the United States. Plants growing in the east often vary from those in the west, so I have separately divided these two regions out. North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Wisconsin and Illinois are among the core states of the US. Also called core states are the eastern states of Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, Mississippi and Alabama. In these states, watch for:
- Acorus calamus
- Aloe vera
- Artemisia campestris
- Artemisia cana
- Artemisia tridentate
- Ambrosia artemisifolia
- Ambrosia trifida
- Asclepias incarnata
- Asclepias speciosa
- Asclepias stenophylla
- Asclepias viridiflora
- Asclepias verticillata
- Antennaria parvifolia
- Echinacea angustifolia
- Fraxinus americana
- Fritillaria atropurpurea
- Gutierrezia sarothrae
- Hymenopappus tenuifolius
- Impatiens pallida
- Liatris punctata
- Lygodesmia juncea
- Sagittaria latifolia
- White Willow
- Wild Licorice
- Yucca glauca (Soapweed)
Medicinal Plants of the Eastern US
The eastern US includes states on the east coast and the Appalachian states. Southern New York, Pennsylvania, North Carolina , South Carolina, West Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky, Ohio, Maryland, Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and occasionally Texas are among those states. You will find many of the Central American plants, as well as many others:
Also known as common plantain, Plantago major, is great for use as a poultice to treat skin problems, avoid bleeding and heal wounds.
It is used for the treatment of gastritis, ulcers, IBS, diarrhea, bronchitis , asthma, hay fever, and so on. Plantain is growing in the states of East and Central America.
The plant is frequently found growing in sidewalk cracks and any abandoned soil layer.
Aristolochia serpentaria, is native to Appalachia and the eastern US from Connecticut to southern Michigan, and south to Texas and Florida.
The plant is known for its snakebite use, but it also acts against stomach pains, nausea, high blood pressure, and other medical problems.
Acer spicatum Lam, is common to the Appalachian states at higher elevations from southern New York to northern Georgia and Alabama, including Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Carolina, Mississippi, West Virginia, Tennessee, Texas, Kentucky, and Virginia. This is used to treat cuts, skin infections and for treating eye infections as a poultice or infusion. Alternatively, an infusion is used to treat internal bleeding.
Southern maidenhair fern
The capillus-veneris addiantum. This edible and medicinal herb is u sed to treat coughs, sore throats, and bronchitis.
Applied externally, it treats snake bites, bites of insects, headaches and chest pains. Southern maidenhair firm is based in southeastern United States.
Unicorn root (Aletris farinosa)
Often known as star grass, colic root, true unicorn root, and ague root.
The plant is well known for treating frequent miscarriages, infertility, female complaints, anemia, digestive problems and seizures.
Wild Quinine or American feverfew
Parthenium integrifolium is a powerful herb that stimulates the immune system, treats breathing infections, gastrointestinal diseases, venereal disease, and kidney problems, including dissolving kidney stones.
To treat burns and skin problems, use this as a poultice. Wild quinine is native to the eastern states, from Maryland to Minnesota and Georgia, to Wisconsin and Arkansas in the west.
Jack-in-the-pulpit, bog onion, Indian turnip, or brown dragon (Arisaema triphyllum)
Is useful when partly dried as a contraceptive.
A decoction is useful for sore eyes, and the root used as a poultice is beneficial for the treatment of pain from headaches, sores, boils, ring worms and rheumatism.
You’ll also find:
- Black-Eyed Susan
- Diervilla lonicera
- Echinacea purpurea
- Equisetum arvense
- Euonymus atropurpureus
- Eupatorium perfoliatum
- Impatiens Pallida
- Lycopus Virginicus
- Magnolia grandiflora
- Malus fusca
- Papaya (Florida)
The Southern US Medicinal Plants
The plants of the southern US vary greatly from east to west, so I have broken them down by region. Look for these plants in your home state:
Southwestern United States — Medicinal Plants of the Desert States
Daytime temperatures approaching 120 F in the summer and extremely cold nights in the winter can be unforgiving to desert states.
Complicating these temperatures with dry air and very low rainfall means maintaining only the harshest plants. And so, an abundance of medicinal plants abides in the desert.
Pleurisy-root or Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa)
Grows in the mountains of the US Southwest. It has beneficial actions on the lungs, as its name implies, particularly in reducing inflammation, and acting as a mild tonic.
It soothes the difficulty of breathing in pleurisy and consumption. Often used for the treatment of vomiting, dysentery, rheumatism and eczema.
Mormon Tea (Ephedra Viridis)
Still used for treating urinary tract infections, respiratory problems, colds, and congestion in the southwestern United States.
It grows at altitudes of 3,000 feet to 7,500 feet in the Southwest.
Prickly Pear Cactus
It is an excellent anti-inflammatory drug and has many medical applications. It decreases “poor” levels of cholesterol, reduces the insulin demand in certain diabetics, stabilizes blood sugar and has other beneficial components including high fiber.
Prickly pear cactus is native to desert states, but it can be grown throughout the south in dry areas.
The cactus known for their medicinal use and production of alcohol is agave. The plant has the properties of antibiotics, antivirals and fungicides.
The mesquite tree sap, when boiled and diluted with water, makes an antiseptic or eyewash. Sunburns and chaffed skin are also treated in the decoction.
Also, look for:
- Chia sage
- Anemone tuberosa (Desert anemone)
- Aloe vera
- Horsetail or Scouring Rush
- Pectis angustifolia
- Delphinium scopulorum
- Sambucus canadensis
The Southwestern Pacific Coast
The Pacific coast of California, Oregon, and Washington are fertile areas with good growing conditions. These states are rich with medicinal plants, including:
Eschscholzia californica, is the official state flower of California, but it is also native to Oregon, Washington State, Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico.
This opioid plant relieves anxiety and relieves pain.
Related: 16 Free Alternative Pain Meds
Salix alba is well known for their use in pain relief and inflammation reduction. The white willow tree bark is the primary source of salicylic acid which is also known as aspirin.
White willow trees are growing in zones 3 to 8 in the southern and central US states, and in the western US.
Also, look for:
- Wild Licorice
- Black Cohosh
- Black Sage
- Broadleaf Plantain
- California Bay
- Matilija poppy
The Western Mountain States – Rocky Mountains
At lower elevations, you’ll find many of the plants common to the Central or Western United States. You’ll also find these plants at higher elevations.
Rocky Mountain Maple
Acer glabrum Torr. grows in the Rocky Mountain states between 5,000- and 12,000-feet elevation. It is used by the Navajo to treat swelling and rheumatism.
Also, look for:
- Valeriana edulis (Western valerian)
- Fumaria officinalis (Fumitory)
- Selenicereus grandiflorus (Night-blooming cereus)
Plants Found Throughout the US
Achillea millefolium L., is well known for the treatment of wounds, digestive disorders, infections and inflammation.
Its use as a sedative was researched and reported for treating asthma and high blood pressure.
Yarrow is present in every US and Canadian environment. Yarrow is called plumajillo in New Mexico, and southern Colorado.
Mint is a safe medicinal weed, besides pennyroyal.
It grows in different varieties throughout the United States.
Mint helps to soothe headaches, treat nausea, reduce tiredness and anxiety. Its antiviral properties make it useful in the treatment of flu and colds.
Is an effective treatment for morning sickness medication, diarrhea, kidney pain, and kidney stones. This is a stimulant and a diuretic. It also cuts down on cholesterol.
You can eat the leaves directly from the field but the supermarket alfalfa sprouts do the job as well. You can find them in most US states.
Related: 5 Home Remedies for Diarrhea
Your cat is going crazy about catnip, but did you know it is also useful to you? Use it to relieve cold symptoms, break a fever, and apply it to stop excessive bleeding and swelling as a poultice.
Catnip also treats gas, upset stomachs and migraines. It may stimulate uterine contractions so if you are pregnant, do not consume it. Catnip is growing in all of the US.
It is widely seen as one of the healthiest foods in the world. This is antimicrobial, anti-oxidant, and antifungal.
It functions medicinally to relieve cramping, stomach ailments, nausea, battling colds, relieving heavy phlegm and mucus.
Using it as a poultice to minimize swelling and inflammation, treat cuts and burns and kill bacteria. Sage grows best in zones 3 to 8 but it can be found throughout the United States.
Many more medicinal herbs are to be found in your local area. Learn about the herbs that grow in your area and where to find them, or start your own herbal garden. Research your herbs and know their uses and limitations, but without the side effects found in many modern medicines, most herbal remedies used correctly are effective.
Were you aware of the neighborhood and state medicinal herbs?
Tell us about your experience growing a medicinal herb garden or with local medicinal herbs. You can support and encourage others by sharing their stories in the comments below.