Ten Useful Plants You Can Wild Harvest in Victoria, BC

  1. Blackberry
  2. California Poppy
  3. Dandelion
  4. Hawthorn
  5. Herb Robert
  6. Lemon Balm
  7. Plantain
  8. Stinging Nettle
  9. Yarrow
  10. Yellow Dock

Each of these plants grow commonly in this area and are in no way endangered. They are free for the taking (my favorite price), but do take care to avoid areas that have been sprayed. Always be sure that you have identified a plant correctly before taking it internally. To prepare, a simple tea is made with leaves, while roots and berries need to be simmered for a few minutes first. There is much more that can be known about these plants than I am highlighting here.

  1. Blackberry needs no introduction as a delicious and nutritious food, I don’t understand why more people don’t fill their freezers with this free for-the-taking wonder berry. Medicinally speaking though, it is the leaves and roots we are interested in. This plant, a member of the rose family, is very high in tannins. Tannins are very effective at stopping bleeding, reducing inflammation, and drawing the sting out of bites.

2. California Poppy is that beautiful orange flower you see growing along the roadways and in disused areas. Although it doesn’t contain any of the opiates that the family is famous for, it does have a marked calming and pain reliving effect on the body. It has been used for such things as: insomnia, migraine, stress, nervous bowel (IBS), anxiety, depression, menstrual cramps, colic, and gastric pains. It is suitable for children as well. The any or all parts of the entire plant may be used, from the root on up.

3. Dandelion is another that needs no introduction. Considered a weed by many, herbalists regard it as a boon! Actually two herbs in one, the leaves aid kidney function, while the root is used to support the liver. It is a delicious green vegetable in the salad or the pot; the small leaves have the least amount of bitterness but remember that the bitter taste gets your digestive juices going and will help your body digest heavy meals.

4. Hawthorn is a very common tree around these parts. A smallish tree, it has loads of white or pink blossoms in the spring and beautiful red berries in the fall. Another member of the rose family, it’s leaves may be used in the same way as blackberry leaves to staunch bleeding, reduce inflammation, and draw out sting and itch. You can eat the berries or make jelly with them, but the real claim to fame for this plant is it’s ability to safely improve heart and circulation function. It supports the heart without making it work harder as well as tones the blood vessels. Because it doesn’t work along the same pathways as prescription heart medications, it may safely be used along side of them with the guidance of a qualified herbalist. Athletes enjoy the extra endurance they get when using this plant. The berries and leaves may be used separately or in combination.

5. Herb Robert is a low growing member of the geranium family, found growing in waste areas. Like all members of the rose family it is high in tannins so will stop bleeding, draw out sting and itch, and reduce inflammation. It is a really great wound herb to disinfect and heal quickly! It is rich in vitamins, minerals and components that are highly antioxidant and cellular protective.

6. Lemon Balm is often smelt before it is seen. It has an unmistakable pleasant lemon smell. This is a wonderful plant for the nervous system and if used for anxiety, insomnia, stress, nervous stomach, depressed mood. Applied to cold sore outbreaks it can reduce severity and duration.

7. Plantain is a very good plant to keep in mind as it is a delicious green vegetable and handy first aid plant. When adding to salads or cooking, be sure to chop the leaves crosswise to make it easier to eat. It has fibrous spines much like celery. For first aid it makes a great poultice to treat all sorts of bites, stings, rashes, scratches, and minor wounds. It will reduce swelling, disinfect, and reduce the itch and sting.

8. Stinging Nettle is jam packed with nutrition and can be eaten cooked anywhere you might use spinach or even raw in a smoothie or pesto. Once cooked, blended, or dried, the sting is gone. Although best harvested for food in the spring when it is young and tender, for medicinal use it can be harvested any time. Although you should avoid the leaves after flowering if you have kidney stones. Medicinally it can treat anemia, high blood pressure, hyperglycemia, and hay fever. The root has been shown to reduce enlarged prostate size.

9. Yarrow is good to keep in mind in the case of any kind of bleeding, especially nose bleed. It saved many a soldiers life in the days before medics. It is a complex and versatile plant that can treat upset stomach, insomnia, anxiety, even menstrual cramps.

note: photo is of broad leaved dock, which is nearly identical in appearance and use (yellow dock has narrower, curly edged leaves)

10. Yellow Dock is another unsung hero of the plant world. The young tightly curled greens may be used as spinach but be sure to use sparingly as it can cause diarrhea. The root is the real medicinal champ as it works to remove toxins from your body via the bowel, lymph, and liver. A great herb to treat chronic skin conditions from acne to psoriasis.

If gathering wild plants is not your thing, or you don’t have the time, then you can come down to Stillwater Centre for herbs that have been ethically harvested at the peak of health, and then carefully dried and stored. Plants are harvested locally whenever possible.

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