In our neck of the woods, South Bohemia, treasure lies all around us. Here are the top eight medicinal herbs found on any walk around most areas where I live. I use these herbs in my daily life at home with my family, in making remedies for my friends and clients and they are the ones that are most pointed out when I do nature walks with fellow seekers.
Red Clover (Trifolium pratense) Jetel luční
Red clover can be found from mid to late summer in almost any empty field here in S. Bohemia. Pick from the center of an unsprayed field, not by edges of a field where cars or pets could have been. The flower heads and top leaves should be harvested when the flowers are a vibrant purple with no brown spots. Dry the flowers in a dehydrator or on trays in a warm dry area. Discard any brown flower heads and store the dried flowers in airtight jars or boxes.
Red Clover is an excellent addition to teas and can also be used in tinctures and salves.
Medicinal Actions: blood purifier, antitussive, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, affinity for cleansing metabolic waste, affinity for disorders of the skin, eases symptoms during menopause.
Plantain (Plantago major, Plantago lanceolata) Jitrocel
Considered an invasive weed, Plantain is a mainstay in my herbal repertoire. You literally cannot go 5 feet in our area without seeing a patch of plantain. It thrives on bad soil and cramped quarters. Poking out of stone pathways and asphalt, plantain is OK with neglect. I harvest plantain in the forest where big patches of gorgeous green leaves grow. I prefer this plantain as it hasn’t been mussed by car exhaust and pets.
Plantain is excellent chewed up and used as a poultice on a fresh bee sting or mosquito bite. It is great famine food if you are on a hike and super hungry. Its seeds are the producers of psyllium, for when you are a bit blocked up.
Harvest plantain when you can, dry it and use it throughout the year in teas, as poultices and in salves or oils.
Medicinal Actions: antitoxin, draws out toxins from the body, demulcent, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, affinity for easing itchiness, rich in tannins (helps draw tissues together to stop bleeding) and allantoin (a compound that promotes healing of injured skin cells)
Comfrey (Symphytum) Kostival
Comfrey has been used for centuries as a powerful vulnerary. Its use as a healing plant has been written about since 50 AD. In folk medicine it is referred to as knitbone as it has a special affinity for bones and sinewy structures and is the perfect remedy for sprains, strains, bumps and broken bones. I have saved my stubbed toes so often with Comfrey. Wrapping a sprained ankle in fresh Comfrey leaves overnight will bring about great results the next morning. Comfrey grows all around us in the forest where I live. I grow it in my garden, as well. Near by, there are man-made lakes that seem to attract Comfrey near the banks. I have found two types of Comfrey which are Symphytum officinale and Symphytum tuberosum. S.tuberosum is much smaller with yellow flowers and is documented as a much stronger plant medicinally. This I have begun to cultivate in my garden, but in the forest near my home along the banks of the Vltava River, it grows in abundance in May. I pick it in bushels and dry it, make oils and salves from it and rub it on any wounded person I meet!
Medicinal Actions: speeds healing due to its concentration of allantoin which promotes granulation and cell regeneration, it is high in Vitamin C and Calcium and is anti-inflammatory.
Safety note: due to its high levels of pyrrolizidine it should not be taken internally as it could damage the liver in extreme cases. It should not be put on open and infected wounds as it heals so rapidly that it will close up a wound with the infection still inside.
Burdock grows right next to the Comfrey I find lining the path to the forest. It is a biennial plant that produces leaves and thistle flowers that turn into the coolest sticky burrs you’ll ever see. These burrs were the inspiration for the invention of Velcro due to their hooks. We spend many fall walks throwing them at each other to see how many we can get to stick. The roots are harvested the first year in the fall and the flower heads (fruits) are harvested the following fall.
Burdock root is most useful for urinary tract disorders and for blood and lymph cleansing. It has been used for ages in Asian cuisine and is a delicious and nutritious food. Traditional Chinese Medicine has inspired the use of this herb, and it is now well known in Western Hebalism.
Medicinal Actions: Lowers blood pressure, aids in digestion, promotes hormone balance, detoxifies liver, supports skin health, boosts immune system.
Safety note: there is a rare allergy to Burdock so please consult your doctor before adding Burdock to your wellness regime.