Wildcrafting: Medicinal Wild Plants

How to take advantage of wild plants medicinal benefits.

| March/April 2002

Wildcrafting Sidebars:
• 12 Step Medicinal Plant Gathering Guide
• 16 Edible Wild Greens Recipes 

Some of us think of medicinal wild plants as weeds—unappealing plants that grow where they’re unwanted. But shift your perspective—and possibly your taste buds—in a different direction for just a moment.

Weeds grow without our help; they’re usually native or naturalized to their home environment. They thrive without fertilizer and usually without supplemental watering. Best of all, many common “weeds” are actually therapeutic, nutritious, or both. And usually, they’re yours for the taking, although you may have to ask a landowner’s permission or be careful to avoid roadsides and sprayed areas.

Harvesting medicinal wild plants is known as wildcrafting; it’s a tradition with a rich history both in Europe and the United States. Unfortunately, as the market for herbal products has heated up, some species of less common herbs have been overharvested in the wild. Arnica (Arnica spp.) and goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) are two examples.

But harvesting the more common plants, ones that grow in untended abundance, to eat or use in easy, healing recipes, can be a wonderful way to reunite with the outdoors, and an excellent introduction to using medicinal herbs. Here are eight to try.

(Taraxacum officinale)

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