(Adapted from the U.S. Army Survival Manual)
Plants for Medicine
In a survival situation you will have to use what is available.
In using plants and other natural remedies, positive identification
of the plants involved is as critical as in using them for food.
Proper use of these plants is equally important.
Terms and Definitions
The following terms, and their definitions, are associated
with medicinal plant use:
Poultice. The name given to crushed leaves or other
plant parts, possibly heated, that you apply to a wound or sore
either directly or wrapped in cloth or paper.
Infusion or tisane or tea. The preparation of medicinal
herbs for internal or external application. You place a small
quantity of a herb in a container, pour hot water over it, and
let it steep (covered or uncovered) before use.
Decoction. The extract of a boiled down or simmered
herb leaf or root. You add herb leaf or root to water. You bring
them to a sustained boil or simmer to draw their chemicals into
the water. The average ratio is about 28 to 56 grams (1 to 2
ounces) of herb to 0.5 liter of water.
Expressed juice. Liquids or saps squeezed from plant
material and either applied to the wound or made into another
Many natural remedies work slower than the medicines you know.
Therefore, start with smaller doses and allow more time for them
to take effect. Naturally, some will act more rapidly than others.
The following remedies are for use only in a survival situation,
not for routine use:
Diarrhea. Drink tea made from the roots of blackberries
and their relatives to stop diarrhea. White oak
bark and other barks containing tannin are also effective. However,
use them with caution when nothing else is available because
of possible negative effects on the kidneys. You can also stop
diarrhea by eating white clay or campfire ashes. Tea made from
crowberry or cranberry
or hazel leaves works too.
Antihemorrhagics. Make medications to stop bleeding
from a poultice of the puffball mushroom, from plantain leaves,
or most effectively from the leaves of the common yarrow or woundwort
Antiseptics. Use to cleanse wounds, sores, or rashes.
You can make them from the expressed juice from wild
onion or garlic, or expressed juice from chickweed leaves
or the crushed leaves of dock. You can also make antiseptics
from a decoction of burdock root,
mallow leaves or roots, or white oak bark. All these medications
are for external use only.
Fevers. Treat a fever with a tea made from willow
bark, an infusion of elder flowers or fruit, linden flower
tea, or elm bark decoction.
Colds and sore throats. Treat these illnesses with
a decoction made from either plantain
leaves or willow bark. You can also use a tea made from burdock
roots, mallow or mullein flowers or roots, or mint leaves.
Aches, pains, and sprains. Treat with externally applied
poultices of dock, plantain, chickweed,
willow bark, garlic, or sorrel. You can also use salves made
by mixing the expressed juices of these plants in animal fat
or vegetable oils.
Itching. Relieve the itch from insect bites, sunburn,
or plant poisoning rashes by applying a poultice of jewelweed
(Impatiens biflora) or witch hazel leaves (Hamamelis virginiana).
The jewelweed juice will help when applied to poison ivy rashes
or insect stings. It works on sunburn as well as aloe vera.
Sedatives. Get help in falling asleep by brewing a
tea made from mint leaves or passionflower leaves.
Hemorrhoids. Treat them with external washes from elm
bark or oak bark tea, from the expressed juice of plantain leaves,
or from a Solomons seal root decoction.
Constipation. Relieve constipation by drinking decoctions
from dandelion leaves, rose
hips, or walnut bark. Eating
raw day lily flowers will also help.
Worms or intestinal parasites. Using moderation, treat
with tea made from tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) or from wild carrot
Gas and cramps. Use a tea made from carrot seeds as
an antiflatulent; use tea made from mint leaves to settle the
Antifungal washes. Make a decoction of walnut leaves
or oak bark or acorns to treat ringworm and athletes foot.
Apply frequently to the site, alternating with exposure to direct
Steve's Notes: There are hundreds of medicine plants
you could use, but if you only have time to learn a few, concentrate
on those that relieve pain or are antiseptics. Willow bark, and
possibly the buds from some poplars have salicylic acid, the
pre-cursor to aspirin, and will relieve pain. Sap from "blisters"
on balsam firs, and crushed leaves of St. Johns Wort can be used
Continue with Miscellaneous Plant
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