In wilderness and urban survival situations, resources will be scarce. Whether you’ve simply gotten lost or something more widespread has happened, like a major earthquake or other disaster, critical supplies may be cut off.
That’s one reason why it’s important to learn herbal medicine if you’re interested in survival.
Of course, there are other benefits as well. Herbal medicine is fun, rewarding, and effective. Some varieties of herbal medicines have minor or non-existent side effects compared to their pharmaceutical cousins (although this isn’t true across the board).
How Does Herbal Medicine Work?
Herbal medicine is a process of the plant. There are many explanations for this. In some folk traditions, plants have different personalities and characteristics, and if proper thanks and respect is given the plants will provide healing in return.
Modern science teaches that herbal medicine works because plants are able to produce a huge variety of organic compounds in their bodies. These chemicals are used by the plant for various purposes (reproduction, growth, self-defense, and so on) and have various effects on human beings and other animals.
Plants are known to produce hundreds of thousands of different chemicals. Modern scientists have only investigated and identified a small fraction of these. Most plant compounds are still unnamed. That’s because the organic chemistry at work in plants allows for millions of variations that lead to different effects.
Plant-based medicines are complex and multi-faceted—no less so than modern drugs. Experts in herbal medicine must take many years to practice and refine their arts.
However, like modern medicine, anyone can learn the basics. A poultice of Yarrow will stop bleeding. Plantain is good for bruising and internal injuries. Nettle makes a tea or can be added to soups or other meals for vitamins and minerals. Willow can be used to lower fevers (be careful with this one). Aloe can soothe sunburn. Echinacea boosts the immune system. Honey prevents infection.
Herbal medicine can even be helpful for the more stubborn internal issues. Mullein, for example, can be made into a tea that is an expectorant, promoting productive coughs and clearing the lungs and respiratory system. Cranberries can help clear up urinary tract infections.
Can Herbal Medicines be Dangerous?
Yes. Just like other substances, plants can be harmful. Some herbal medicines shouldn’t be used by pregnant women or people with heart conditions. Others need to have their dosage measured carefully. Some have poisonous look-alikes.
For these reasons, it is critical that you carefully identify each plant you intend to use and administer. However, you should also be aware that there are plenty of plants around—like Nettle—that are widespread, easy to identify, and have few (if any) contraindications. Stick with these when you’re first learning.
How Do You Prepare Herbal Medicines?
The simplest form of herbal medicine is to eat a plant directly. Other preparations call for the plant to be crushed and applied to the skin, or brewed into a tea and drunk. Infusions involve soaking an herb (or multiple herbs) in water or vinegar for an extended period. Tinctures are similar, but use alcohol.
Different preparation methods will lead to different effects, depending on the plant being used, and some methods will yield stronger results than others.
This is just the beginning of herbal medicine, which is a lifelong passion and pursuit for many people. Being able to heal people based on what the land naturally provides is an incredible skill.
To get started, we recommend choosing one or two local plants and learning to identify them, use them, and understand contraindications properly. Get a local plant guide and study it closely. Build from there. Professional training in herbal medicine is available. Try to learn from established experts where possible, and above all—stay safe!
Author: This article is written by Daniel a freelance writer based in the U.S.A, Chief Editor for one of the most popular trusted Survivalist blogs. Check out the Ultimate Survival Kit List