Category Archives: Wildcrafting

How to identify the wild herbs and “weeds” that are of benefit….right from your own yard or by the roadside.

Finding my new favorite herbal tea

This Spring we started free ranging our small herd (20) Angora, and Pygora goats outside the designated fenced pasture area’s of the farm. Goats are browsers and not so much grazers like sheep, cattle and horses. Goats prefer to eat leaves off various trees, bushes and vines according to their preference (including poison Ivy). There is a lot of goat desirable underbrush under some of the big old Pecan and Walnut trees. There are patches of Lespedeza. Honeysuckle vines and Virginia Creeper abound, Wild Roses, etc. We have lots of browse for the goats to enjoy all around the farm.

Angora's in the wild
Yesterday, I was out in the back forty trying to wrangle the goats back home or at least get them closer to the barn and pasture and not so far afield. The goats tend to wander freely and venture toward the deep woods if left unattended for any great period. But they will stay together pretty much as a herd when they are free ranging in the back meadow along the tree line. To get their attention I reached up with my walking stick to pull down some low branches on a big old pine tree. When I rattled the pine bough all the goats came running. Goats (and I) love to munch on pine needles. Pine needles are very tasty, citrusy and loaded with vitamin C and other nutrition. While the goats were busy munching and indulging on their new found oral treasure, I gathered a bandana full of the new growth pine tips for a cup of Pine Needle Tea to be enjoyed later.

Pied Piper of Bellfire
I headed back toward the house with all the goats in tow. On the way back I stopped at one of the many black berry thickets near the barn as the black berries are just coming into season and some were ripe for the picking. I topped off the bandana with fresh black berries. When I got back to the house I put a pot of 1 1/2 quarts of cold water on the stove to heat/ boil. I added the fresh pine needles to make a tea. As the water started to come to a boil I added about 1 – 2 cups of the black berries. I took a wooden spoon and mashed them slightly.

Time for the taste test.

The pine flavor wasn’t coming through enough as I overwhelmed it with the ripe fresh berries. I added about 1 – 2 TBS of lemon grass. I let the mixture steep in the hot water for 20 minutes then strained it through a steel mesh strainer. I like my tea sweet so I sweetened with sugar. The taste was amazing. I think the taste of the Pine Needle/ Black Berry/ Lemon Grass is one of the best brewed natural tea’s I’ve ever tried. The flavor is bold, rich and fruity and it is loaded with Vitamins. The tart citrus of the Pine and Lemon Grass was just enough to offset the sweet ripe berries.

This is nothing like any store bought tea, it is wild and free and the flavor is amazing.

Try it, you’ll like it.

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Evergreens

The medicinal and therapeutic benefits of Evergreens

PinePinus strobus, White Pine

Parts used:

Needles/ leaves, Bark, Cones/ seeds, Pollen

Pine needles re loaded with vitamins  A & C

The story of French explorer, Jacques Cartier (cir 1535), who explored the new world for France in the early 16th century was said to have been forced to winter over in the Great Lakes/ Saint Lawrence seaway when his ships were frozen in winter ice. His crew starving and dying of scurvy were about to be lost to a foot note in history when the indigenous peoples of the America’s came to his aid. the Native Americans showed him how to boil the leaves of the white pine tree to make a tea. this tea is loaded with vitamins  A & C.   This survival tea of pine needles saved their trip and their lives.

Pine needle tea:

Simple as boiling chopped pine needles in a pot/kettle of hot water.   It will taste slightly citrusy.   Sweeten to taste with honey. 

Pine bark:

The inner cambium layer of the bark is a rich source the important anti-oxidant, “Picnogynol’, the same substance that is in Grape Seed extract.  Tinctured White pine bark is a natural Rx for treating ADD/ ADHD. (with Omega 3 EFA).

Pine bark is also edible. In lean times, the inner layer of pine bark is scraped, dried and ground into flour to supplement wheat flour it can be and has been used as animal fodder in winter.

Pine Resin/ Sap:

Can be used as an waterproof adhesive and waterproofing / repairing seams on clothing or a tent.

Pine resin is highly anti-microbial. It may also be used as waterproof wound covering (small cuts, abrasions, blisters).

Pine Tar:

Pine tar has a long history of being a wood preservative (ships, boats), also as a coating on hemp and manila ropes used outdoors or at sea.

My blend of pine tar and Calendula oil is a very effective leather dressing.  I call it “Horn & Hoof”. I use this blend as a protective and anti-septic coating on the horns and hooves on my livestock (Goats).  It’s a very antiseptic preservative and softening agent on my goats hooves, especially after trimming.

To make Horn & Hoof, I blend infused Calendula oil with pine tar. It’s also wonderful as a leather dressing / waterproofing for my boots or leather sheaths for knives and gun holsters.

Rod with his helper Sam_blog

Rod with his helper and taster, Sam

Juniper:  Common, Juniper, Dwarf Juniper, Ground Juniper

Used in small doses in a medicinal tea, Juniper is an effective diuretic, which speeds filtration of the kidneys. It also reduces and prevents kidney stones. Word of caution here in that too high a dose of juniper can cause over stimulation of the kidneys and cause some inflammation (nephritis).

Juniper as tea or tincture helps to lower blood pressure. Used for these purposes, Juniper is best used when tinctured/ extracted with grain alcohol (Brandy) because it is easier to control the dosage. Specific herbal preparations made with Juniper are used by herbalists to internally and topically for the treatment of rheumatism and gout.

Juniper berries are a wonderful flavoring and preservative for wild game meats. (I love to use juniper berries when preparing pork loin or venison loins).

Another caution is juniper is not to be used by diabetics as it tends to spike blood glucose levels

Cedar : Juniperus virginicus, Red Cedar

Parts used: Berries, needles/ leaves, cones

cedar berries 2_blog

Cedar berries

According to master herbalist, John Christopher, Cedar berries can be used to control specifically type 2 diabetes. Cedar berries used as a tincture with other herbs, stimulate the pancreas to produce insulin. The berries also can be used to control sugar/ glucose spikes after meals in diabetic patients.

This is to be used with caution as cedar berries are rich in Thujone oil which in some people may cause stomach irritability and upset with gas, nausea and vomiting.

Not recommended when pregnant

Cedar berries can be used topically to treat Eczema, psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis by making a topical balm. This is done by covering  the berries in a slow cooker (crock pot) with Lard, (Crisco or Olive oil can be substituted) Simmer on low for 24 hours. Strain the oil off and decant in a wide mouth jar and keep refrigerated. This soothing, cooling balm is applied directly to the effected arthritic areas or break outs of eczema, psoriasis.

Fir  Tree: Balsam Fir, Canadian Balsam

Parts used: Bark, Resin, Needles

Medicinal remedies using fir trees have a long history of healing since medieval times (Friars Balsam).  Parts of the fir tree can still be used as an astringent, pain relief, to reduce fevers and as an anti-microbial antiseptic. Teas and aromatic diffusers can be helpful to treat the lungs and respiratory issues, including colds, coughs, asthma.

Herbal preparations made with Fir sap/ resin can be made into a topical wound covering. It can be used to treat headaches, toothaches, abscesses, and to reduce fevers.

Recipe for Balsam Syrup:

2 cups distilled water

approx. 8 ounces of fir needles or tips of branch with new twig shoots

1 cup of raw honey

Make a decoction by slowly bringing to a boil, the twigs and needles in the distilled water. Let simmer for 20 – 30 minutes.

Strain off the liquid ‘Tea”

Add the raw honey and blend/ mix thoroughly

Bottled and stored in refrigerator, it will last for months.

Dose: 1 TBS before meals.  May dilute with warm water.

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Sassafras

Eat the weeds

Green Dean from Eat the Weeds has some you tube video’s on wildcrafting edible wild food.

This one is on Sassafras.

Sassafras is very prevalent in New England and grows well in the deciduous forests there. (Be aware that sassafras is now banned by the FDA and also by the DEA) It is a natural, low glycemic sweetener, perfect for diabetics.  It is much better than aspartame and as good as Stevia.  Last fall I, and a good friend of mine, harvested quite a bit of sassafras bark in one short afternoon, enough for a whole year. Harvesting in the fall as the leaves are just starting to turn, we harvest the twig ends with no buds as this will not harm or damage the tree in anyway. Some use only the root bark but the twig ends also contain the same nutrients.

I use the sassafras tea as a sweetener and as a flavoring when cooking.  I make the tea by boiling the twigs for 20 minutes in 32 oz. distilled water. I then strain off the liquid, return the tea to the heat and reduce the volume by half. I keep sassafras tea for storage by adding 2 TBS honey and 1 oz. of brandy, this will allow me to keep it quite nicely for up to a year without refrigeration.  My friend Lorraine is diabetic and can’t use honey or substitute Molasses so once she makes her tea, she then proceeds to “Can” the tea in Mason jars in a hot water bath for long term storage or for use later in recipes.

Sassafras is used medicinally, usually blended with other herbs and also just as a beverage. For example, take equal parts Sassafras and Burdock root, make into a tea and use as an agent to soothe the endocrine system. This blend is very soothing to balance the Pineal, Pituitary and adrenal glands.

Sassafras is very pleasant to drink.  It was used historically to produce the flavoring in Root Beer.  For centuries, Sassafras has been used in French cooking.
I have used Sassafras mostly as a tea/ decoction. But I also have tried the National Drink from the Azores Islands as an after dinner cordial.  The Sassafras is fermented with Molasses, making it very sweet and very strong (about 100 proof).

Another interesting fun fact about Sassafras is it seems that some biting insects do NOT like the smell of Sassafras (including Mosquitoes, Lice and even Bed Bugs).  It is made into an effective mosquito repellant by bruising a sassafras leaf, rolling it tightly in your hands then leaving it rolled up and tucked behind both ears. Mosquitoes will buzz around but not light on you. Good thing to know if you’re out and about in Mosquito country. It also helps to rub the bruised leaf on all exposed skin and clothing to spread the oil from the leaves onto yourself for further protection.

For more info on Sassafras and recipe’s visit this website:  SouthernAngel

The TinMan



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Wild Yarrow: Achillea Millefolium

aka: Milfoil, Soldiers woundwort, Nose Bleed Weed, Sanguinary, Devil’s Nettle.

Growing Wild Yarrow:  This plant makes a wonderful addendum to a domestic garden in the Spring. Although now highly cultivated and available everywhere in nurseries, there is still a quaint feeling to include a wild species in a domestic garden for a feel of times past.

I have seen red and yellow varieties as ornamentals, but by far the most common is white. I think the colors are hybrids of the wild white species. Some cautions when planting as Yarrow. It will creep through its root system and will drop seeds readily in late summer, thus becoming very prolific with time.  All varieties of Yarrow have similar qualities medicinally. Choice of colors should be preferential.

It is not commonly kept as a ‘Ground Cover’ and if it should get too thick, just thin it out. But Yarrow deserves a special place in everyone’s garden. It’s a very special plant and should be treated like an old friend.

Yarrow is well known for its blood clotting properties (Hemostatic).  It can be used when used fresh/crushed and applied as a direct poultice on a wound or laceration.  It also promotes healing and new tissue growth of the damaged tissues (a Vulnerary).  Yarrow is mildly antiseptic, even somewhat antibiotic by nature and can be applied directly to a wound. Herbalists in history have used yarrow leaf rolled and inserted into the nostrils to stem bleeding from a nosebleed. Another herbalist claims when a rolled leaf of Milfoil (yarrow) is placed in the nose it promotes bleeding to stem a severe headache and lower blood pressure. So it seems it has been used in history for both reasons.

Yarrow is also an alternative blood cleanser, for example, it can be used if the initial wound was contaminated such as puncture wounds or lacerations.  It may, in fact, prevent blood poisoning from a dirty laceration. Yarrow applied this way reduces pain and swelling, because it acts as an anti-inflammatory to the affected area. Yarrow is a good choice for veterinary first aid uses on animal injuries.

Yarrow’s blood clotting ability is legend.  Throughout history Native Americans, warriors and soldiers, dating back to the Greeks, nearly 3000 years ago.  All have used Yarrow to stem blood loss from wounds and injury, hence the name “soldier’s woundwort”.  Crushed leaves in a tea can stop internal bleeding from ulcers, nasal passages, esophageal, bleeding hemorrhoids, etc.  Yarrow also contains a Digestive “Bitters” quality and is very helpful as a digestive aid, promoting bile flow and preventing Gall stones from re-occurring.  It is also very soothing to the pancreas and endocrine system. It is useful in treating the common cold as it induces sweating by opening pores (diaphoresis), cleanses the blood and reduces fevers readily especially when aspirin is contraindicated.

Yarrow is considered a pretty safe plant and reportedly even used as a wild edible (survival food), but like anything else, take care when using it and monitor its results. When taken internally the active ingredient, Thujone Oi,  produces a slight sedating and diuretic effect. Thujone relaxes smooth muscle in the body which helps prevent cramping (Menstrual and abdominal).  It is very healing to an inflamed liver (Hepatitis, Jaundice conditions) and can be used as an adjunct in liver, gall bladder tonics..

Yarrow is a good choice to include in your garden next year. Because of its delicate presence it looks good as a backdrop growing amongst the other domestic low growing flowers. Yarrow is also indispensible as a wilderness first aid plant in the wild.

Know this plant, and know where to find it in the wild.

Thanks,

The TinMan

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