Elder is becoming more mainstream as a safe and very effective remedy for colds and the flu. The elder bush is easiest to identify in June, when it is loaded with beautiful, large white floral umbrels. Those flowers become dark berries by August. Both the flowers and the berries are full of immune boosting properties.
Mullein, an easy to identify common roadside weed, is full of healing medicine from its roots, leaves, and flowers. This plant grows up to 7 foot high and is used primarily for respiratory issues, but contains remedies for issues that include muscle aches, skin issues, allergies, and incontinence. It is used as a tea, poultice, infused oil, and even smoked.
Comfrey is considered by some to be the best herb for healing external wounds and broken bones. It heals the body’s connective tissue, skin and bones, by increasing cell growth and supporting the healing actions of the body. Its main chemical constituent is allantoin, which promotes healing of wounds and infections. Internal use of this plant is not recommended without considering the potential adverse affect on liver function.
Plantain is a versatile medicinal plant. Plantain cools, soothes, and heals. It can be used internally for inflammation of the respiratory and digestive systems and externally for bug bites and stings and other skin irritations. The plant is readily available outdoors, either as a broad-leaf or narrow-leaf variety, but always with five parallel veins radiating out from a smooth purple stem that arises directly from the earth.
Yarrow is one of the most versatile and healing plants that flowers in the spring and grows wild in a wide variety of conditions. Its medicinal properties are most abundant when its white flowers appear in the spring. This plant is a popular “go-to” remedy included in most first aid kits. With its antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and astringent properties, yarrow is very effective for healing wounds, bruises, and sprains. Yarrow is easy to identify with is distinctive aroma, and bitter taste.
Dandelion is a completely edible plant, with herbal benefits in the flower, leaves and roots. Greens can be harvested throughout the season, with younger greens tasting fresher and less bitter. Roots can be harvested in late fall, but try to get them before they become more bitter and woody.
Cinnamon is a plant with delicious flavor and powerful medical benefits. A warm, stimulating herb, cinnamon warms up the digestive system, fights diabetes, fights infections and viruses, and protects dental health.
Turmeric, a warming herb, has been called a medicine cabinet in a curry bowl. Another culinary herb, turmeric is readily available in many forms, and is very effective in smaller doses, especially when taken with black pepper, which improves the bioavailability of turmeric. Primarily known for its anti-inflammatory properties, it is can also help with digestion, heart health, immune support, pain relief, and skin healing.
Garlic, one of the oldest herbal remedies, stimulates the immune system. It also helps to maintain healthy blood cholesterol levels and to lower blood pressure. It is called the poor man’s penicillin because of its potent internal and external antiseptic property.
Goldenrod grows profusely in Kansas, and is ready for harvesting in the fall. I use a goldenrod tincture for allergies, using just the flowers. Or, you can make a goldenrod oil to use topically to relieve aches and pains. This herb is most commonly used to tone and tighten tissues of the urinary system.
Sage is another kitchen herb that has a lot of overlooked medicinal applications. With varied uses for digestive, reproductive, circulatory, lymphatic and nervous systems, you may move this herb to the front of the herbal shelf in your kitchen.
Sage is easy to grow in a Kansas garden. It can be harvested throughout the summer to use for skin and hair health, and tinctured for use throughout the winter to fight symptoms of colds and flu.