As we enter the colder months, keeping our immune systems strong becomes of utmost importance. If you’re like us at the nursery, your family has probably already experienced a round or two of the sniffles, or worse, this season. With Covid, RSV, and the Flu all making their rounds, it may be wise to use this quieter and slower time of the year to reflect on what wellness means to you. For us, we look to the Earth for cues. Take the time to pause and rest, prepare simple home-cooked meals, spend time with loved ones - these are foundational pathways to wellness. In addition, however, we also love the extra support of our medicinal plant friends! And what is a better way to combine all this but to spend a weekend day making your own herbal cough syrups or tinctures or teas? And while you do, you can make plans to actually grow the medicine in your own backyard!
Below is more information about our top medicinal native plants. They’re on sale for the next week! _________________
First let's kick it off with Elderberries, one of our personal favorites to wildcraft and make a syrup with. Kids also love the syrup which is a bonus because it's pack full of health benefits! Your own tree can be supporting wellness for generations to come! At the nursery, we sell Blue Elderberries and Black Elderberries. Both have been have been an important native food and medicine source for thousands of years around the globe - especially for restoring health during the Winter. The berries have a pleasing sweet-tart flavor and should be cooked before eating or making medicine (except in small quantities). Both fruit and flowers are very nutritious and medicinal - they contain high levels of healthy polyphenols, antioxidants, vitamin C, and vitamin A. The flowers in particular contain flavonoids and rutin, which are known to improve immune function. Consider making or acquiring Elderberry Syrup (it’s a little late to harvest) to your winter wellness plan!
Next, the Balsamroots - a beautiful, yellow-flowering plant native to Western hillsides and prairies. All parts of the plant are edible or medicinal. We carry two species, both Arrowleaf and Deltoid Balsamroot. The roots of Balsamroot have many medicinal uses and have antibacterial properties. The resins of the roots are supportive for the respiratory system, and act as a stimulating expectorant and are useful for colds, flus, and cases of respiratory distress. Poultices of leaves and roots have been used to relieve blisters, sores, insect bites, burns and other wounds. Infusions and decoctions of the roots have been used for fevers, headaches, stomach aches and more. Native people have refined the art of using smoke from the roots of Balsamroot to relieve body aches and pains. Consider making a balsamroot cough syrup or tincture this winter with friends. Or if you know your wild patch, it’s a fine time to harvest. Check out this recipe for cough syrup here!
Next, the Biscuitroots, or using the Latin for their genus, the Lomatiums. Lomatiums are used as a panacea for a wide variety of ailments, from respiratory infections to skin complaints to digestion issues to arthritis. The volatile oils in the roots, which give the spicy flavor, are what is behind much of the medicinal action Lomatiums have on the respiratory system. These volatile oils are antiviral and antibiotic, as well as antibacterial and antifungal. The Fernleaf Biscuitroot, in particular, stops the growth of invading viruses, bacteria and funguses, without harming good bacteria. This makes Lomatium a powerful ally to have in your garden or your medicine cabinet for when colds, flus, and respiratory illnesses come around. Consider making a medicinal meal, a tincture, or a tea from this native medicinal this winter. If you know your wild patch, you can still dig some roots, as well. Or purchase a Biscuitroot from us in the next week, and we’ll give you a tincture for free! ***Fernleaf Biscuitroot can resemble Poison Hemlock in the wild. Confirm identification before any wild harvest.*** ***Some people with underlying health conditions can experience a serious detox rash from ingesting Fernleaf Biscuitroot. It is not harmful to the body, but very uncomfortable. Use at your own risk.***’
Last on our short list is the beloved Saskatoon Serviceberry. It is difficult to find a book about plants native to our bioregion that does not offer effusive praise for the Saskatoon Serviceberry. Its fruits have and continue to be valued by Native American peoples, wild foragers, and sustainable gardeners as medicinal food with a wide range of uses. Serviceberry is another great example of food as medicine. Most of its medicinal value arises from its nutritional profile with a wide range of essential vitamins and minerals. In particular, the blue fruit is rich in antioxidants, flavonoids, and polyphenols - putting them in the same category as other superfoods, and other native plants like huckleberries. Antioxidants help fight free radicals in the body, which are linked to many different ailments, including cancers and heart disease. Having a regular dose of vitamins/minerals and antioxidants is a must for long term health. Consider using serviceberries in any recipe you might use berries or fruits in, such as jams, compote, pie, dried like raisins, raw in salads, fermented into wines, beers, and ciders - use your imagination!