Nature Wisdom

with Pat Tuholske, Naturalist

The Power of Ozark Native Plants

Medicinal wild plants growing in our native environment can be the key to staying strong and healthy. With them we share the wind, sun, seasonal changes and earth energy. We are of the same place… the same ecological niche. In our global society, we often turn to Chinese herbs or East Indian herbs growing on the other side of the planet. I believe in the power of our Ozark native plants. The wild weed growing at your door may be a remarkable herbal remedy.

The decades-long revival of “Essiac” is proof of the medicine in native weeds. Essiac is a blend of burdock root, sheep sorrel, slippery elm bark, and rhubarb root. The formula was given to a Canadian nurse in 1920 by a Chippewa medicine man. The nurse’s name was Rene Caisse. (Essiac is her last name spelled backwards.) Rene helped hundreds of cancer patients with these humble plants. The Essiac herbs grow wild in our own Missouri Ozark fields and forests.

The herbs of Essiac are a powerful combination. In the thirty years I have provided it, I’ve seen it help cancer, diabetes, glaucoma, arthritis, bacterial and viral infections in addition to numerous other conditions. This powerful herbal blend builds the immune system, removes toxins and strengthens the body to heal itself.

Herbs maintain the balance of body, mind, heart and spirit. Using herbs over a period of time brings health and wellness. Be committed and consistent, taking the appropriate herb one month for every year the condition has been present. Herbs support the body to heal itself deeply and at its own pace.

Educate yourself to the proper dosage and the right plant remedy. Each of us is unique and an herb that helps one may not help the other. Know your body and which herbs are your allies.

Buy herbs from a store that circulates the herbs quickly. Medicinal herb tea diminishes in potency after one year. Buy only organic or ethically wildcrafted plants. Imported herbs are fumigated at the shipping docks as they enter the country. The pesticides that have been banned here in the US are shipped to other countries and they come right back at us on our food, herbs and coffees. Never consume an herb that has been gathered from a roadside or near a railroad track. These areas have a high concentration of chemical pollution. Know where your herbs come from.

Best yet… grow or gather your own.

Many local herbs have been over gathered by enthusiastic wildcrafters. There are plant hunters who are in it only for the buck and sell to the buyer at the local feed store. Echinacea, St. John’s Wort and Sheep Sorrel are stolen from roadsides. Ginseng, Skullcap and Goldenseal are poached from woodlands. Plants are harvested at the wrong time of year, reducing medicinal potency. Every plant is removed, leaving none to reseed the plant community. An ethical wildcrafter takes only what is needed at the proper time of year and leaves the patch to recover. I always leave an offering of thanks and never harvest the oldest plants.

There are hundreds of wild native medicinal herbs and it can seem overwhelming. Start your quest with just a few…five or so. Learn the medicinal properties, the botanical names, how they look and smell, where they grow, which part is used (leaf, flower, bark, root), the time of year they should be harvested and how your body responds. You will find yourself developing an intuitive relationship with your plant allies and healing through the power of Ozark native plants.

Check out Pat’s journal “Nature as Healer” for musings on the Human-Nature relationship. Go to pattuholske.com. See her wild wreaths and remedies crafted from Ozark native plants at willowrainherbalgoods.com.