Did you know that Jewel Weed is a wonderful first aid plant to treat skin irritations (including poison ivy) or that Aloe Vera can be applied to minor burns? Yarrow is a meadow plant that the native peoples used to treat arthritis and to staunch bleeding, among other things. Bee Balm (Monarda fistulosa) can be used to reduce swelling and can be applied to bee stings. Plantain is a favorite plant, even though it is not native, as it can used to extract the stinger from a bee sting. Elderberries can be used to strengthen the immune system, but they have to be cooked.
This week, Barbara Huey joins the podcast, Nature Calls:Conversations from the Hudson Valley. Barbara is from Land Stewardship Design and her topic is native Medicinal Plants.Her parents influenced her love of nature and her time at Sage Mountain cultivated her interest in medicinal plants. She focuses mostly on plants that can be applied externally, typically for first aid, but cautions that they don’t replace the need to see health care workers.
It is important to note that while medicinal plants aren’t cure-alls and they aren’t perfect, many herbs and teas offer harmless subtle ways to improve your health. However, many carry the same risks and side effects as manufactured medicines. Many of them are sold with unfounded promises. Pay attention to what the evidence says about each herb’s effectiveness as well as potential interactions or safety issues. Avoid using herbs for infants and children and for those who are pregnant and breastfeeding. Note that most herbs haven’t been tested for safety for those who are vulnerable, and trying herbs isn’t worth the risk .
The USDA Plant ID database is the ‘go to’ resource Barbara Huey uses to identify native plants in New York and the northeast. Medicinal properties are considered secondary properties of these plants that can be bred out with newer cultivars, so the native species are always preferred. But bear in mind that more is not necessarily better when using plants for first aid.
Medicinal plants provide considerable value to pollinators within the landscape. Learning about these plants can also help to increase awareness of the importance of native plants.
Listen in to learn how these plants can be used and what to watch out for when considering their use for medicinal purposes.
Hosts: Tim Kennelty and Jean Thomas
Guest: Barbara Huey
Photo By: Teresa Golden
Production Support: Linda Aydlett, Teresa Golden and Annie Scibienski
Last updated August 17, 2023