Remedios de Ledoux
Wild plants have been used by humans for medicinal purposes since prehistoric times. In the past two thousand years volumes of books have been written, by herbalists from around the world, to document the preparation and use of medicinal herbs and how to identify them. Scientists today are able to analyze the compounds found in wild plants and herbs, discovering the many healthful benefits they hold. They find that not all traditional remedies have value, on the other hand many, many, other remedies are tried and true.
Over the years it has been a favorite past time for myself and others to harvest medicinal herbs at the Lower Farm. To wander the fields with sack or satchel plucking the freshest of leaves and most luxurious of blooms in the early morning throughout the seasons was a wonderful and memorable experience. At times it became a daily meditation to walk in nature and collect only the finest it had to offer that day.
For over a decade the southwest has suffered under severe drought conditions. At the Lower Farm there were consequences. After several years of diminished plant growth, seed stock plummeted. The most common of herbs and flowers have managed to persist but in lesser quantities, some varieties once prevalent are not found. Finally this past winter there was a bountiful snowpack in the higher mountains and the watershed has fed plentiful water to the canyons and valleys, resulting in a most favorable condition for wild plants.
On the first day of the second week of July, I set out with the morning dew still glistening on spiky grass to explore my bottom field. I was open to a meditative morning in nature and could focus on and survey where herbs were growing and in what quantities. I could feel my well being improve as I scuffed through young sage and assimilated the aroma.
I didn’t do an exhaustive investigation along the rio where I knew that horsetail and mint once grew but I did find that most of the more common of medicinal herbs found at the Lower Farm are doing well. Quantities are low as expected but seed propagation and the quality should be good this year.
A brief description and photographs of a Medicinal Herb Survey at the Lower Farm follows:
Has long been used as a blood purifier. It has a pleasant flavor and offers many benefits to health as a gentle cleansing tea drunk on occasion for overall salutary purposes. It is high in natural protective antioxidants and anti inflammatory compounds. As a topical aid, red clover is often an ingredient in ointments and balms.
Has a high level of nutrients and is easily absorbed and assimilated by the body. Contains wide variety of minerals including; iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, sulfur, chlorine, sodium, potassium and silicon. Alfalfa is also a good source of Vitamins E, C and K.
Known for its fragrant aroma. Sage is pollinator friendly, has had extensive culinary use, used in ceremonial practice for indigenous people in America and used as a cosmetic. Loaded with calcium and vitamin A, helpful with anti ageing and digestive health.
It’s traditional uses generally have focused on the management of respiratory disorders. Used to treat asthma, coughs, tuberculosis, and related respiratory problems. Preparations of the plant have been ingested, applied topically, and smoked.
Used for fever, common cold, hay fever, absence of menstruation, dysentery, diarrhea, loss of appetite and gastrointestinal tract discomfort.
Boosts immune system, treats degenerative conditions that affect the mind, supports bone health, limits spread and inhibits growth of cancerous cells, improves asthma symptoms, supports weight loss, reduces cholesterol and good for skin health. Most common use is to treat liver problems.
Nectar in flowers provides valuable food for butterflies, bees and other pollinators. Leaves are the ONLY food Monarch caterpillars can eat. There was a 90% decline in Eastern Monarch Butterflies in just a decade. The latex is used as a treatment for warts, ringworm and other skin ailments. Root extracts have been used to treat respiratory disorders and for intestinal parasites.
Rosehips are the fruit of the rose plant. Consider drinking rosehip tea if you suffer from a weak immune system, skin conditions, chronic pain, indigestion, high toxicity levels, arthritis, gout, inflammatory conditions, high cholesterol, and hypertension, or if you are at increased risk of heart disease or cancer.
I have not been drinking as much herbal tea as I once did. Part of that is due to being away from the Lower Farm for over a decade while living in Hawai’i. After taking a survey of some of the herbs growing here I am reminded how beneficial these wild plants are to promote good health and how joyful it is to traipse my own fields gathering flowers and leaves for my well being.
My attempts at preserving the legends of this old homestead include wild crafting for medicinal herbs through the seasons. It’s a way to be directly connected with Mother Earth, have enjoyable exercise in the environment and promote general wellness.
Be well, Dohn