Natural remedies and medicinal herbs are often scoffed at and underrated. Though we all know the benefits of eating organically (vegetables, fruits and spices) we should also know that there are some serious benefits from medicinal plants which have been researched and proven from multiple case studies throughout ancient and present history. Here are some common front yard herbs you should definitely know.
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Before I jump into all the good good, I want to give a brief history on medicinal herbs. Some people believe herbalism is just folklore and that modern medicine is our only option to help with dysfunctions of the body and for curing illnesses. This is not the case.
Natural remedies have been around as long as mankind itself. The first documented account of natural herbs being used for illnesses and sickness was approximately 5000 years ago on a Sumerian clay slab from Nagpur, India:
“It comprised 12 recipes for drug preparation referring to over 250 various plants, some of them alkaloid such as poppy, henbane, and mandrake.”
The Chinese, Japanese, Romans, Greeks, Egyptians, Arabs, Indians, the Mayans and present herbalists all use(d) different species of plants and herbs to create medicine for diseases and illness. It gets pretty fascinating when you research the history and present uses of natural remedies, if you want more detail on that, click here.
Right, let’s get to it! This is just a beginner’s short list for common herbs you can find right in your front yard or close-by. If you want to know more, let me know and I’ll make a more extensive list, also make sure you check out the links in the bottom of this post for herbal guides, kits and more!
History: Plantain has been considered magical in pre-Christian times and have been used by European settlers all around the world. Shakespeare even mentions it twice for its healing characteristics.
You should know: There are different species of plantain. Some species being more effective for certain things. The most common species used are greater plantain, ribwort plantain and hoary plantain, but all plantain is considered good for nettle stings and pain relief.
What it’s good for: (Ribwort) Plantain is a great natural remedy for insect stings, instant relief for bites, cuts and ulcers. (Greater) plantain also works for pain relief, but the leaves are known to be tougher and less juicy. (Hoary) plantain is better for tired feet; put their leaves into your shoes until their dried out, replace them when needed. If you scrape your knees, crush up the leaves, rub it onto the painful area and experience relief at once.
Where to find it: Footpaths, roadsides, waste ground, meadows and lawns. Medicine at the tips of your fingers!
Parts used: Leaves, seeds and sometimes root.
Harvesting: They can be picked and used whenever needed. They stay green throughout the year. Crush or chew, then apply. To dry the leaves, spread them on a drying screen in a warm dry place, turning the leaves daily until crispy. Throw them out if they go black.
Crushed leaf uses: Insect bites and stings, allergic rashes, cuts and wounds, infected cuts, bleeding, mouth ulcers, burns, acne rosacea, shingles.
Plantain tea: Coughs, irritable bowel, hemorrhoids.
Tincture: Coughs, sore throats, mild bronchitis, irritable bowel, stomach ulcers.
Seed: Constipation, irritable bowel.
History: Oak has been sacred and the symbol of Britain’s secure power with many other countries claiming it as well. It has been an economically productive tree for millennia. Unfortunately, it has been “a victim of its own success, with most of its old forests now gone.”
You should know: There are different species of oak that can be used herbally. White oak is the main North American species used medicinally. Many other oak species from around the world are found in British parks and gardens.
What it’s good for: The bark is used as an astringent (substance that contracts body tissues; used to protect the skin and reduce bleeding from minor abrasions) Astringent herbs are also used to help treat conditions like diarrhea, eye, mouth and throat inflammations, as well as bleeding, burns and sores. Astringents are antiseptic/anti-microbial which are great fighters against infections.
Where to find it: Hedgegrows, woods, parkland. English Oak is native to most of Europe; whereas Durmast Oak is common in the west and is planted less.
Parts used: Bark, leaves, acorns, galls.
Harvesting: Select young branches (1-3cm diameter) use a small knife to remove small strips of bark, cutting along the branch’s length. Dry the bark strips in a warm zone.
Oak twig toothbrush: Oak twigs can be used as a natural toothbrush due to it’s antiseptic and anti-inflammatory benefits. Find yourself a small twig, chew the end to fray it, the use it to massage your gums and clean your teeth. (I’ve tried this for a couple weeks; I definitely noticed the difference).
Tooth powder: Oak tooth powder is great for gum disease, weak gums, bleeding gums and mouth ulcers. Get your dried oak bark into small bits, grind finely in a coffee grinder. Remove large pieces. Mix 3 parts oak bark powder, cinnamon powder and some sodium bicarbonate (baking soda). Now watch the magic happen.
Oak bark concoction: Small strips of bark boiled for 10-15 minutes. It’s strong and bitter and is the primary treatment for acute diarrhea, taken in small but plentiful doses.
History: Shepherd’s purse was used in WWI battles to stop bleeding from wounds when ergot (an effective but more dangerous remedy) was not available.
You should know: Shepherd’s purse hinders bleeding of all sorts from nosebleeds to blood in the urine. It can also correct prolapses (a slipping forward or down of one of the parts or organs of the body) moving the organs back into their correct position. There are many herbal doctors, studies and cases that have proven this incredulous feature true.
What it’s good for: Externally, it has been used to alleviate inflammation, aches and pain in the joints and muscles. Internally, it is good for bladder and kidney irritation. It can also be used for high blood pressure, cuts, nosebleeds, bleeding under the skin, heavy periods and wounds.
Where to find it: Popular in the British Isles. Native to Europe and Asia. Naturalized in North America. Growing from cultivated and disturbed ground.
Parts used: Any part of the plant above ground.
Harvesting: Shepherd’s purse grows flowers and seeds all year round. Best picked in the summer. Leaves are tastier before the flowers appear and can be eaten in salads being rich in vitamins A, B and C. Its also considered a vegetable in Japan and used to flavor rice.
Fresh SP plant: Cuts, nosebleeds, rheumatism, bleeding under the skin.
SP tincture: Bleeding, heavy periods, prolapses, blood in urine, wounds, hemorrhoids.
SP mixed with hawthorn and lime blossom: High blood pressure.
How to make SP tincture: Pick SP while it’s flowering in the summer time. Fill a jar with the herb then pour vodka until its covered. Put the jar away in a cool dark area for a month, shaking the jar daily or frequently. Strain off the liquid, pour into bottle, label.
Dose: For bleeding, take half a teaspoon three times a day until the bleeding stops. For prolapse, 5 drops three times a day in some water until everything has moved back into place.
History: Dandelion leaves for salads was a $3m a year industry in 1999 in America. They were once used as a spring tonic in England. European settlers also used them for their benefits, and they’re mostly native in China and most of Asia.
You should know: Dandelions are considered weeds; but not by herbalists. They carry a fair amount of benefits that you should know about before you go yanking them out! They offer tasty fritters, wine, coffee substitute, tea, salad and medicinal benefits.
What it’s good for: Dandelions are high in minerals, potassium and vitamins A,B,C and D. The young leaves eaten or boiled act as detoxifiers, clearing blood and lymph by increasing waste removal in the kidneys and bowels. The dandelion’s natural chemicals cause the gallbladder to contract and releasing bile, stimulating the liver to produce more. They have been known to to help conditions such as jaundice, hepatitis, gallstones, eczema, acne, urinary infections and painful menopause. Eating the dandelion flower straight off the flower can often alleviate headaches too. That’s not all! Dandelions are also a diuretic, making it a nice herb to treat swollen ankles, fluid retention and high blood pressure.
Where to find it: Lawns, field, roadside. Distributed world-wide in temperate zones.
Parts used: Leaves, roots, flowers and sap.
Dandelion sap: Warts, callouses, rough skin.
Dandelion salad: Liver, constipation, urinary problems, fluid retention.
Dandelion tincture: Skin problems, constipation, arthritis, gout, hangovers, chronic illness, fluid retention.
Dandelion infused oil: Muscle tension, muscle aches, stiff necks, arthritis.
(Want to know how to make it? Let me know!)
History: Nettles were used in the medieval times, being drunk as nettle beer to help with inflammation and pain in the joints. There were also used to help milk sour, being a substitute in cheese-making. The Romans and Greeks used nettle as an aphrodisiac.
You should know: Nettles can be used to make rope, nets, linen-like cloth, insect repellant, paper and dye.
What it’s good for: Nettle’s high in vitamin C, it’s fibrous, a great purifier, mineral supplement, and it aids in anaemia, arthritis, asthma, burns, eczema, infections, inflammations, kidney stones. They also have an antihistamine effect, making is good for allergies and hay fever. Nettles are known to enhance immunity, reduce blood sugar levels and stimulate circulation, making it a good supporter for diabetes. An old arthritis recipe is to rub the affected joints with fresh nettles, though this creates a temporary nettle rash, it alleviates pain and stiffness.
Where to find it: Woods, river banks, farms, roadside. Distributed through the British Isles and everywhere else that’s a temperate area.
Parts used: Leaves, tops, seeds, rhizomes and roots.
Harvesting: Nettle root are best dug up in the autumn, but they can be dug up whenever needed. You will need gloves and something to dig, the yellow roots and tangled and bunched. Wash thoroughly, cut into pieces a few cm long. To dry, spread on a screen, put in cupboard until brittle.
Nettle top tea: spring tonic, anaemia, bleeding, diarrhea, gout, fluid retention, low blood pressure, high blood pressure, coughs, allergies, regulates breast milk production, skin problems, high blood sugar, cuts and wounds.
Nettle soup: anaemia, spring tonic
Nettle tops tincture: Stops bleeding, promotes urine flow, burns, skin problems.
And that’s it for my beginner’s shortlist of herbs! There are dozens and dozens more species and recipes, so if you enjoyed this post, let me know and I’ll craft more.
I hope you gathered a little inspiration to go foraging into the woods to make your own medicine, go on, try it out for yourself!
Become your own herbalist
If you’re interested in buying a herbal beginner’s kit, provided by Herbal Academy, click here. The Herbal Starter Kit includes 22 enticing herbal recipes, 14 plant mini-monographs, and up to 18 herbs (and beeswax!) It’s a thorough and honest kit that will ensure amazing natural remedies.
If you wish to have some herbal remedies at the tips of your fingers, click here. Their recipe cards are a sure way to get started on your own natural remedy conquest. The set covers a variety of herbal recipes including tinctures, salves, bath blends, teas, sprays, a bitters recipe, and tasty items such as herbal chocolate truffles and nourishing herbal broths.
Herbal Academy even offers introductory, intermediate, entrepreneur, and advanced courses. I took a course myself at a beginners level. The courses are straight-forward, easy to follow and extremely informative. If you are interested to know more about the plants that surround you, click here.
And to conclude my thoughts, dear friends, I believe it’s extremely important to be aware of the nature that surrounds us in order to properly nurture our own natural bodies. Both forms are so complex, body and land, that until we fully familiarize ourself with their properties, we will never be able to reach our full potential health.
(Research and information came from Herbal Academy and “Hedgrerow Medicine” written by Julie Bruton-Seal and Matthew Seal)