I’ve recently made up a packet of information on many of the local and native Ozark medicinal herbs that I use in my healing work. Since I’ve been working so hard on this project, I thought that I might as well include this information in a few of my Folk Magic 365 posts. Enjoy!
NOTE: Caution should always be taken when looking for medicinal plants out in the wild. Do not consume or use any plant that you are unsure about. The internet is a wonderful resource for plant identification. Look up photos and identification information for plants from reputable sources before collecting any plant out in the wild. NOTE also that many Ozark medicinal plants are endangered and should not be harvested out in the wild.
When wild-harvesting take only what you need at that time. DO NOT STOCKPILE! Chances are the plants will go bad before you can use them. A good rule of thumb for any plant is to count three plants then take one, that way there are plants left behind to go to seed. Leave the roots intact unless the root is being harvested, then try and leave a piece of the root or any seeds/berries behind in the soil.
Responsible harvesting means these medicinal plants will be around for many more generations.
Black-Eyed Susan, Rudbeckia hirta: Flowers, roots:
Root infusion used for dermatological needs. Used to wash snakebites. Decoction of whole plant taken to aid with heart disease. Decoction of root taken for colds and chills. Cold infusion of flowers taken for headache and as a febrifuge. Similar properties to other coneflowers (Purple coneflower, Missouri coneflower, etc.) Some say the active compounds are not water soluble. Better used as a tincture or extract.
Butterfly Weed, Pleurisy Root, Asclepias tuberosa: Root:
As an antispasmodic and expectorant the root is great for helping to clear chest congestion, hence the name “pleurisy root”. Also good for stomach issues and in remedying diarrhea. It’s sometimes combined with other diaphoretics like sassafras or dittany to reduce fevers. Caution should be taken with this plant as high doses can act as an emetic and purgative. Also, the plant should be harvested responsibly. Since you’re taking the root, only what is needed should be gathered and the rest left to go to seed.
Cinquefoil, Five Finger Grass, Potentilla simplex: Leaves, root:
Leaves taken for colds and as a febrifuge. Root astringent, infusion taken for dysentery, diarrhea, and as a mouthwash for sores and thrush.
Cleavers, Galium aparine: Leaves:
Strong infusion as laxative. Externally as a dermatological aid. Has been linked to aiding with lowering blood pressure.
Comfrey, Symphytum officinale or Wild Comfrey, Cynoglossum virginianum: Leaves, roots, flowers:
Whole plant used in salves for wounds, sores, rashes, and other dermatological needs. Analgesic. Leaves taken internally as a laxative. Weak infusion used for heart and bowel health.
Common Dittany, Cunila origanoides: Leaves, stems, flowers:
Related to Oregano and Marjoram and can be used in similar ways. As an infusion it’s good for colds and to help open up the sinuses. Boiled strong it helps the body sweat and can aid in lowering fevers. Infusion used to help aid a painful birth. Used as a stimulant and tonic. Contains trace amounts of thujone, an active chemical also found in wormwood, mugwort, and yarrow, and may cause drowsiness or headaches. Use only in small amounts and with caution.
Dogwood, Cornus florida: Bark, roots:
Roots and bark astringent, used for diarrhea and dermatological needs. Analgesic, chewed for headache, decoction rubbed on skin to relieve aches and pains. Root decoction is a febrifuge. Flowers taken for stomach complaints and colic. Infusion of inner bark used for a “lost voice” and sore throats. Root bark is a stimulant and tonic.
Elderberry, Sambucus nigra or Sambucus canadensis: Berries, flowers, leaves, bark:
Berries used in formulas against chills and cold. Helps support the immune system. Infusion of berry used internally for rheumatism. Flower infusion used as a febrifuge and to sweat out a cold. Leaf infusion used to wash sores and prevent infection. Bark poultice used on sores, wounds, rashes, and other dermatological needs. CAUTION berries toxic when unripe!
Goldenrod, Solidago: Leaves, Flowers:
There are many different varieties of goldenrods, all of which have very similar medicinal uses. Topically the plant has traditionally been used in salves to help with sore muscles and arthritis. Internally it has traditionally been used as a diuretic to help bladder and kidney issues and to help break up “stones”. It is also a good diaphoretic that can help reduce a fever, and an astringent that can aid in remedying diarrhea. The flowers also make a wonderful yellow dye.