What every prepper should know about common American plants and weeds for TEOTWAWKI survival

This is a guest post by Christine W and entry for our non-fiction writing contest.

blackberriesI once read a very interesting article from a survivor of the Bosnian Collapse in the late 90’s. This was a true end of the world as they knew it event, and it was fascinating and eye opening to read. One of the things the man talked about in his extensive article was the most useful skills to posses. Medical knowledge was the highest on his list. Lacking real world medical training, people with the knowledge of the uses of herbs and plants were able to trade and use that knowledge to survive.

Most people in America can’t identify even 1% of the plants that surround them. They don’t know useful from poisonous or nutritious from useless plants. And yet there are dozens of plants that grow even in urban settings that are not only edible but down right lifesaving if you only can identify them. For 15 years I have been a gardener and outdoorswoman. Much of my knowledge has come from being a curious person interested in the world around me, and also from searching for natural ways to heal common ailments for myself and my children.

I have been amazed at the amount of plants growing near me that can be used for healing, and have compiled a small list of what I consider the important common plants that grow in the USA, things you can find right out your back door. I am sure there are thousands more! Knowledge is power, so I recommend that you should start now when it comes to identifying wild and not so wild food and medicinal sources. Once you can recognize a plant start noting where you see them, what time of year they flower in your area and when they bear fruit. I go out for drives along country roads and memorize where plants, bushes, berries, and helpful trees are growing.

You can also look around your neighborhood. Rose Bushes will provide you with rose hips that are high in vitamin C and can save you from scurvy in the winter. Echinacea also known as Purple Coneflowers are popular in gardens can boost the immune system and also have a host of other uses. Look up color photos of plants on the internet to help you identify them, or join a wild crafting group if one is available. Having a print out of each plant with multiple pictures and uses of them, along with how to use them and dosages, is very important in a SHTF event. There are many books specifying every area of America for finding wild foods and they often have excellent color pictures and identification keys. I keep a few of them in my purse when I go up to the wild and try to identify as many helpful plants as possible. Often these books are inexpensive so picking them up is a good idea.

As a note I say where you can find the below plants. We live in the dry west so most plants only grow near water sources. However I know that in other areas of the country rain is more plentiful so the growing habitat is much different. If you are gathering post or during SHTF remember your personal safety and weigh the possible benefits vs. danger of running into other hungry people. Never go alone even now as accidents happen and wild animals many times enjoy wild foods as much as people do. Meeting a hungry bear while picking berries is a highly unpleasant event! When you head to any wilderness take precautions and let people know where you are going and when you are coming back. Always take a first aid kit, water, a good map, and some food with you.

Caution! As with any wild foraging check and double check your identification before eating anything, do not take another person’s word on the safety of a plant. Some wild foods are debated on their safety as some people will have a reaction where other do not. Also if you have food allergies be wary and careful when trying new things. Remember that when harvesting wild foods make sure they are not sprayed with poisons or chemicals. I am not a doctor and am not giving medical advice. If you want to try natural remedies do your research and also talk to your doctor. Even though these plants are natural they can still be very strong medicines and even interact with other medication you are taking!

Alfalfa – Amazingly enough, this plant, a common feed for animals, is one of the most useful in a TEOTWAWKI collapse, or even just in a financial collapse where you suddenly become dirt poor. Alfalfa is highly nutritious and can be used to treat several conditions. The most important in my mind being bleeding, hemorrhaging, hemorrhaging after birth, and heavy menstrual bleeding. Blood loss is a common problem where medical care is limited and people are exposed to hard physical work or dangerous situations.

Childbirth for women is the most fatal event during life in 3rd world countries, many of the deaths coming from hemorrhaging after birth. Drinking a tea made from alfalfa, or eating alfalfa in the last few weeks of pregnancy can help prevent hemorrhage or excessive bleeding due to several compounds it contains, this includes vitamin K which is essential to blood clotting. I used this supplement under my midwifes supervision during my last two pregnancies.

My first two births went off well except that I hemorrhaged after birth. After my second birth I hemorrhaged so severely that I was only saved by my midwife administering emergency shots of anti hemorrhaging drugs (which will not be available to most women in a SHTF event). For two months after I was weaker than normal and under strict instructions to take it easy. My next two births went well and I barely bled at all, even compared to normal bleeding. Both times I was taking alfalfa at the end of my pregnancy. Pregnant women should not take it until the last three weeks of pregnancy due to the fact that as it has hormone properties that could cause labor and miscarriage.

Once a woman is considered full term at 37 weeks that is not such an issue. Taking too much alfalfa for longer than a month can have the opposite effect and cause bleeding to be worse! Newborns need Vitamin K for proper development and usually receive an injection soon after birth, but during or after a SHTF event those shots may not be available and doctors recommend mothers consume foods with high vitamin K so that it will be passed to the nursing child. Dried or fresh alfalfa can be used in the human diet and also as a compress on wounds to help them stop bleeding. In application to a wound it is essential to boil the water for 10 minutes to kill bacteria and then boil the alfalfa added for a few minutes thus killing any bacteria on the plant leaves. Alfalfa helps people who are nutritionally deficient.

It helps a great deal with vitamin C deficiency when used fresh, for it contains more vitamin C than some citrus fruits. Scurvy is caused by a vitamin C deficiency and is a common problem for people during famines, or when there is a lack of fresh fruits and vegetables. It also has very high B vitamin levels and Vitamin D levels which help with problems such as rickets, a common disease especially effecting children who have poor diets or are not exposed to enough sunlight. This is a common problem when living in a war zone or an area where people must stay inside much of the time due to violence as Vitamin D cannot be manufactured by the body and is mainly created by the skins exposure to the sun.

Alfalfa is also easy to store when dried and is very cheap. It is a good item to keep on hand. Alfalfa is grown everywhere in the USA and can be found along ditch banks and country roads growing wild, in fields as well as in farm yards. It does not need to be reseeded every year so a field that had it last year will have it this year as well.

Raspberry Leaf – Raspberries (also known as redcaps, bramble berries, dewberry, and thimbleberry) grow wild in the USA and are even considered an invasive species. They come in red, black, purple, and golden fruit all of which is essentially the same plant, but these other fruit colors do not generally grow in the wild like the common red does. Obviously the fruit is edible but the leaves and even roots can be used for highly effective remedies. The most well known is for aid to painful menstruation, to regulate and normalize a woman’s cycle, and also to help shorten and lessen the pain of childbirth. I am all for shortening the length of childbirth; having had four children naturally! Caution must be used however as raspberry leaf can cause uterine contractions, so it should only be used once labor has begun or a week before birth is expected. It can be used by non-pregnant women during and right before menstruation. Another equally important use of raspberry leaf is it’s use as a cure for diarrhea. More on that in the Blackberry Section. These plants are found near water, in boggy areas, besides stream banks, in gullies, on ditch banks, or growing anywhere that gets plentiful rainfall.

Blackberry Fruits, Leaves, and Roots – Diarrhea is one of the most common killers in third world countries due to contaminated water supplies and poor water treatment facilities. As a country collapses the infrastructure of water treatment always breaks down, and waterborne illness explodes. Preparation for such disease is essential when we plan for a SHTF event.

Diarrhea is especially fatal to children and the elderly, and is frightening at how fast it kills. Soldiers in battle frequently suffer from dysentery due to bad water as well. For centuries blackberries (and to a lesser extent any of the bramble berry varieties such a red caps, black caps, Marion berries, dewberries, and raspberries) have been used for treating diarrhea, dysentery, food borne illness, and even the more deadly waterborne illnesses. This must be remembered to be a treatment, not a cure as diarrhea is a symptom of an infection in the body which must be treated as well.

Blackberry Root Bark is the most effective remedy for diarrhea, but if you can’t get to the roots the leaves are highly effective as well, even dried ones. Last is the fruit which can be eaten or a syrup or juice made from the fruit. A syrup or juice is especially useful when treating small children. One teaspoon of root or leaves per boiling cup of water, steeped for 20 minutes, then sweetened with honey if possible due to its healing and soothing properties is a good dosage. It is the tannins in the blackberry plant that help with diarrhea . Blackberries are even more invasive than red raspberries and grow profusely throughout the USA. If in a dry region look for them along streams or down in gullies and canyons. The leaves and root bark are easy to dry, and the leaves can be eaten and are high in nutrition.

Elderberries – I grew up eating wild elderberries, these are a round purple-ish blue fruit that grows in clusters on a bushy tree. The bush flowers in late spring depending on your area and the fruits are ripe in early fall. They are very common growing wild and like water so they grow either near bodies of water or in areas that get plenty of water. I often see them growing in old farm yards or homesteads because the pioneers and old farmers used them not only for health but as a much needed fruit. They also can be found in gullies and draws. The fruit has a dusty powder on it, but care should be taken as the red elderberry, the stems of all elderberries that connect to the fruit, and also the unripe fruit, are poisonous.

The fruit and flowers have been proven in clinical trials to help with many ailments, but especially in respiratory infections such as bronchitis and also to help thin mucus. The fruit are very high in vitamin C and are used to treat the flu and to boost the immune system. Elderberries would be good for an insurance against scurvy. Harvesting is easy and making juice, syrups, or tinctures from them is the best way to use them for healing.

The flowers are used to make a tea or tincture for respiratory ailments and compresses for wounds. They also are good in pies, jams, jellies, and to make wine and liquors. There is some evidence that they should be cooked before consuming as uncooked raw fruit can cause stomach upset. Elderberry syrup is safe for children.

Other Berries – Obviously there are many berries growing throughout the United states, many of them not only edible but beneficial as well. Getting a good book on berry identification for your area is an excellent idea.

Rosehips – Wild roses grow all over the USA along roads, up in the mountains, and in forests. They are usually found as just a single flower, meaning they are a single layer of petals in a ring around the central part of the flower, maybe five petals in a ring. Roses are also grown in many yards and gardens, and there are even rose varieties grown specifically for large rosehips. Rosehips are the main and most helpful part of the plant for use. Wild roses have small hips compared to their cultivated cousins, but size doesn’t matter when it comes to food and medicinal value.

They can be eaten raw in a pinch, but the most common way is to chop the hips roughly and pour 1 cup boiling water over two teaspoons of the chopped hips. Allow them to steep for 20 minutes and sweeten with honey, or, if for a child under two years of age, sugar or syrup. Rose hips are higher in vitamin C than citrus fruit and not only prevent, but also treat scurvy.

They are easy to identify and easy to harvest. Rose hips make a tea that is tart and pleasant to drink. They can help treat urinary tract infections and the flu, and rose hips also boost the immune system. When fresh veggies and fruit are unavailable, rosehips can be found even in winter and still be eaten as they do not rot easily and cling to the rosebush. Rosehips are generally a reddish color, and it is wise to look for ones that are still firm, not black or with mold or rot on them. They can be used to make syrup, jelly, jam, wine, and juice. The flowers of roses are also edible but make sure you don’t eat them if they are been sprayed with pesticide.

Bachelor Buttons – Bachelor Buttons, also known as cornflowers, are a flower that grows wild and cultivated across the USA. They are popular in wildflower or cottage gardens and are also drought tolerant and reseed prolifically in the wild. The common color is a cobalt blue, but especially in gardens they come in white, light pink, and purple. The flower is the part used and is most commonly utilized as an eyewash for injured or infected eyes. This is usually done by steeping the flowers in fresh boiled water, cooled, and then applied over the eyes on a moistened rag.

A similar rinse for cuts and sores in the mouth aids healing. In this instance it is best to spit out after swishing around the mouth. Furthermore, they can also be used in the same form to wash cuts, scrapes and bruises. Combine one teaspoon of dried cornflower petals, or five fresh blossoms with one cup of boiling water. Cover and steep for 15-20 minutes; after this you may strain and consume. If taking internally it is best for no longer than two weeks. Cornflower tea has been used to calm diarrhea, treat urinary tract infections, and for anxiety or nervousness. This flower can be found along road sides, in fields, and in clearings. They love full sun and they are very easy to grow. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not use this internally. If you have allergies to daisies or ragweed you should not use this at all.

Lambs Quarters/Wild Spinach – Lambs Quarters, also known as wild spinach, goosefoot, pigweed, good king henry, and fat hen, is considered by most gardeners as a weed, but is in fact is a highly nutritious and delicious plant that grows everywhere and is easy to identify. It is nicer than common spinach because it is slow to bolt in the heat of summer, and because while tasting like spinach, it is even more nutritious. It can be cooked or eaten raw and the stems leaves and seeds are all edible. It can also be frozen, canned or dried for later eating. Lamb’s Quarters is a good survival food and can be found in yards, abandoned lots, fields, gardens, and along roads. You can cut it off almost to the root, yet it comes up and starts leafing out again.

Dandelion – Dandelion is another common yard weed that grows almost everywhere, including in the mountains. I never dig up the dandelions in my yard but use them and also feed them to our rabbits. We do not treat our yard with chemicals. It is highly nutritious, and all parts are edible- including the roots which can be dried and used as a coffee substitute. It has been used as a diuretic and to cleanse the blood of toxins. The milk that comes when you cut the plant can be used on wounds and is highly effective to use on warts. I have used the milk on three of my children’s warts and all three times it made them disappear naturally without pain or scarring. It must be applied every day for a good month to the warts. A tea made from all parts of the dandelion is absurdly rich in nutrients and would be well utilized by those suffering from malnutrition.

Wild Onions – Wild onions are easy to identify because they smell like onions! They are considered a weed in many parts of the country, and they can be eaten like regular onions while being a healthy addition to the diet and are easy to dry for future use. They can be in yards or near places that have a constant water supply or good rain.

Pine Trees/Spruce Trees – Pine trees are common all across the USA and several parts of the tree can be used both medicinally and nutritionally. The needles themselves are rich in vitamin C and can be steeped in boiling water to create a tea to fight scurvy (vitamin C deficiency), and they are also high in vitamin A and beta carotene. Spruce tip tea or pine needle tea is useful to treat sore throat, cough, colds, and chest congestion. This is a very important survival food as it is so readily available and easy to find. The best tasting needles are young tender ones, but older needles work just the same nutritionally. Pine nuts that are found in pine cones are rich in calories, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals and are high in vitamin K which helps stop bleeding. The inner bark of pine trees is even edible but should only be used in an emergency because to get at it you kill the tree.

Pine Sap has many uses and is highly effective for use on wounds when mixed as a salve to prevent and treat infection. It is also used as a flu and cold treatment when mixed with honey or made into a tincture. It not only fights the infection inside but also soothes sore throats.

Chopped pine needles added to a hot bath can help with skin problems since they contain natural sulfur, they also sooth sore muscles and joints. Pine oil can be used by adding a few drops to boiling water and then breathing in the steam; there is evidence that it helps cure sinus infections, bronchitis, and breaks up mucus. Pine oil kills germs and can be used to clean surfaces during illnesses, although, it must always be diluted and never applied straight to skin.

However, pine oil is a distilled product and must go through special processing and may not be easy to replicate after SHTF (although what a skill to have!) Use roughly chopped pine needles, with boiling water poured over, then cover your head with a towel over the bowl and breath deeply. Pine needles are also a natural flea and bug repellent and can be used to stuff beds and cushions to deter them. The scent of pine is generally very calming. Caution – Pregnant women should not use pine needle tea as there is fear it could cause miscarriage. There are three varieties of toxic pine, and it is highly recommended to learn how to identify and avoid them. They are Norfolk Island Pine, Yew, and Ponderosa Pine.

Crabapples – These are a variety of apple that are often overlooked as an edible fruit because they are unpleasant for fresh eating. They are very good for cooking and if sweetened can be made into pies, jams, jellies, syrup, wine, pickled, and when mixed with other fruits dried in fruit leather. They were mainly used by our forefathers as an addition to cider making as they added depth of flavor and a bit of tartness to the finished product. There are many varieties of crabapple tree and the fruit can be quite large as they are grown for their pretty look. They are grown in many yards and businesses as a decorative tree and the fruit is most often left to rot. Most people I have asked are eager to let me pick off their trees since otherwise they eventually fall and have to be raked up. They also can be found growing wild and in old orchards or farms. Crabapples are high in vitamin C and make a pleasant tea when sweetened. They have been used to treat urinary infections and can also be juiced to make cider vinegar which is one of the most healthy things you can make. For the best flavor harvest after they have been frosted on.

Wild Plums – These are native to the USA and grow in all parts. They are small and are usually a yellowish red color. Wild Plums are a tasty fruit for fresh eating and are useful in making jam, jelly, syrup, pies, and pickles. They are very high in vitamin C and Iron. Dried or fresh they are a good laxative and treat anemia.

Cattails – A well known wild food that grows in marshy or wet areas these are easy to identify. All parts of the plant are edible in different seasons and have good food value. The root can be pounded and applied to cuts and scrapes as a poultice. As these always grown near or in water be careful of pollution.

Rhubarb – This is not necessarily a wild food but it is so common that noting where it grows is a good idea. This plant comes back year after year for practically ever and you see it often in abandoned lots, old farmsteads, abandoned homes, or in peoples gardens. Most people never use it and are happy to give away to those who will. Harvesting in the spring is best when it is tender. Rhubarb can be made into jam, sauce, syrup, put into pies, cakes, and breads and canned. Rhubarb is rich in B- complex vitamins such as folates, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B-6, thiamin, and pantothenic acid and good levels of vitamin K. It has been used to treat stomach problems. The leaves are poisonous, only the stalks should be eaten.

Daylilies – These grow all over the US and in many places they grow wild or have taken over lots of land and gardens as they are hardy and invasive. They are edible. The shoots when young in spring can be cooked like asparagus or eaten raw, the flowers should be harvested in summer and can be fried like squash flowers, chopped and added to salads, and immature buds cooked like green beans. The tubers can be gathered year round and cooked like corn. They have been used to treat arsenic poisoning.

Nuts – There are so many trees that produce edible nuts that all I can recommend is that you get a good identification book and start looking around you. Nuts are high in nutrition, healthy fats, and calories so they make an excellent survival food. A couple of varieties that are overlooked by people are acorns and pine nuts found in pine cones. Acorns have good food value but are bitter so most people avoid them, meaning that you will have more opportunity to gather them. Learn how to process them to get out the bitterness.

Wild Strawberries – Also known as Alpine strawberry, Common Strawberry, Mountain Strawberry, Pineapple Strawberry, Wild Strawberries, Wood Strawberry, Woodland strawberry. These grow prolifically all over the USA and although the fruit is very nice to eat (but tiny) the leaves have great food value and have been used to treat diarrhea when made into a tea. The leaves contain beneficial minerals and vitamins. The root is also used to treat diarrhea. These like shady places but also can grow in sunny clearings and fields..

Wild Violets – The leaves and the flowers are edible and can be found growing in many yards and gardens where they are considered a weed. They are purple-ish blue or white and can be found in the shade of forests or moist clearings. They can be added to salads or cooked. The medicinal uses are many and they make a lovely salve for irritated skin and rashes and also a tea can be made from the leaves and flowers to ease the pain of headaches and arthritis as well as to treat diarrhea. They appear early in spring and grow all summer long in the shade. They are loaded with vitamin A and C which makes them a good remedy for colds and flu. The flowers can be added to jellies during the cooking stage and turn the liquid a lovely violet color.

Ferns – Several fern varieties are edible and are often called fiddleheads, however care must be taken as there are also several non edible varieties that can cause mild to severe illness. Invest in a good identification book or print many pictures out of edible varieties off the internet for better identification. These must be harvested in early to late spring. They are fried, steamed sautéed, boiled, and pickled and are rich in vitamin A and C.

Wild Greens – There are so many kinds that it would take a good sized book to describe them all and I highly recommend buying a field guide and searching them out. Some that are common and worth investigating are mustard, watercress, stinging nettle, miners lettuce, sorrel, red clover, and sweet coltsfoot. Most greens are best harvested in the spring and early summer when they are tender and young.

Willow Tree – The willow tree has been used for thousands of years to treat pain. It grows in yards and woods across the United States. The bark of the tree, especially that of the White Willow tree is what as used and has the same actions of aspirin for treating pain and fever Use 1 to 2 teaspoons of willow bark to 8 oz of boiling water and boil for 5 to 10 minutes. Then turn off heat and allow to steep for 20 to 30 minutes more. Drinking 3 to 4 cups throughout the day is recommended to be effective. Gathering and drying the bark in spring summer and fall would be a good idea to have a store through winter. This is a real medication similar in its side effects to aspirin, it interacts with several drugs and can cause the same stomach problems as aspirin so research it well before use. Pregnant and nursing women, and children under two should never use willow bark.

Mints – Mints are not a really wild species but are so highly invasive once planted in a garden that they quickly spread and can take over vast tracts of land. There are many varieties and just as many uses both as a food as well as medicinally. Mints are high in vitamin A and spearmint in particular is high in minerals. It is often used internally to treat stomach upset, headaches, body aches, reduce fever, for sore throats and cough, anti flatulence, and diarrhea. Externally mint is an excellent insect repellent and can be use to treat lice, muscle aches, soothe insect bites, hair care, and vaginitis. A simple tea is used internally and is quite pleasant, externally a similar tea can be made and cooled before application.

Mushrooms – Wild mushrooms can be very helpful both medicinally and nutritionally but great care must be taken as so many varieties are deadly. I won’t go into them here but invest in a good full color photographic field guide, and even then be carefull! The only mushroom I feel very safe harvesting is morels because they are so distinctive and only have one similar species to contend with. As my father said they look like a brain!

Tree Saps – There are several trees that produce edible saps that can be boiled down into sweet syrups. Most commonly we think of the maple tree, and all maples produce sap although the sugar maple is the most well known and produces the highest volume per tree. There are however several other trees that produce good sap for human use. Pine trees are one but the sap is more for medicinal use than for pleasurable eating. Birch, Walnut, and Sycamore all produce an edible sap for syrup making. Obviously these are high in sugar content which equals calories. As a caution only stick to the above or other documented non poisonous trees for sap. Tree sap syrup has many vitamins and minerals making them a good survival food.

Wild Leeks Or Ramps – These are a leek or onion like bulb that are common throughout the United States in forested areas and grow often near streams or on hills. The leaves when torn or bruised smell of onion or garlic so they are easy to identify. The plant resembles lily of the valley. These are found and harvested in the spring. When harvesting only take half of what you find so they can continue to propagate.

Supplies For Harvesting – A good pair of boots and weather specific clothing, good identification books or literature, a small hand shovel, a good sturdy bucket/basket with a handle/or canvas bags, a knife for cutting, gardening gloves, a sidearm for meetings with predators of the four legged to two legged kind.

M.D. Creekmore recommends you get a copy of The Forager’s Harvest: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants.

Prizes for this round in our non fiction writing contest include…

  1. First place winner will receive – A $150 gift certificate for Hornady Ammo  courtesy of LuckyGunner, a Wonder Junior Deluxe grain mill courtesy of Kitchen Neads, a one year subscription to the Personal VPN service courtesy of unspyable and 1 Case of Survival Cave Food Chicken with 12 14.5 oz. Cans courtesy of LPC Survival.
  2. Second place winner will receive – $100 off of your next order of Fish Antibiotics courtesy of Campingsurvival.com, a Survival Puck  courtesy of SurvivalPuck.com and a SurvivalistBlog.net Coffee Mug courtesy of Horton Design.
  3. Third place winner will receive – a copy of my book ”31 Days to Survival: A Complete Plan for Emergency Preparedness“ and “Dirt Cheap Survival Retreat” courtesy of TheSurvivalistBlog.net and a copy of “The Survival Medicine Handbook” courtesy ofwww.doomandbloom.net.

Be sure to read the rules before entering… This contest will end on March 17 2014


  1. Tactical G-Ma says:

    Christine W,
    I love, love, love this article. This is something I always relied on my mother for and now she’s gone. Between finding edible plants and medicinal plants, I have my summer planned.
    Thank you for reminding me of the natural bounty!

  2. Nice article! Thanks! This one got printed and put in the book!

  3. Excellent article Christine, good job.

    It’s funny that I use wild foods but never thought to do an article about it – but I’ll leave that to you, as I usually tend to focus on the medicinal side of them. Although, I’ve heard that the Chinese words for food and medicine are the same word – so they eat their medicine. Since I do not speak Chinese, I’m taking that on faith.

    A couple notes I’d like to add. There is another mushroom you can eat with certainty if they grow in your area and that is called either chicken of the woods or sulpher shelf PROVIDED IT IS GROWING ON A HARDWOOD TREE, and not on a eucalyptus, pine, fir or cedar tree. It looks more like a fungus to me, it is orange on the top and yellowish underneath has no ‘gills’ and grows out of the tree in layers, a bit like shelves. You will find them in the summer and fall usually. There are no poisonous look alikes – unless they are growing out of conifer trees.

    Speaking of conifer trees, all pines are poisonous in large quantities. It is OK to eat some, and use some for teas, but eating large amounts of the needles can be poisonous from any pine. Ponderosa pine will also cause abortions and death to cattle!

    Any bark that is used for food or medicinal purposes should be taken from the branches – as close to the ends as possible, instead of the main tree trunk, as stripping away the bark from the main trunk will kill the tree as you pointed out.

    I’d like to know where you got your information about Raspberry leaf in pregnancy. Raspberry leaf is used as a uterine tonic, and I used it my entire pregnancies. It would be interesting to see where you got your info, and if there are new studies out there about it during pregnancy. But I gotta tell you, except for my last child, who came on the date I knew was his due date (I knew the exact date I got pregnant) the others were hanging on for dear life and I thought I might be pregnant forever. Apparently, mine need a while longer to ‘cook’.

    Eating FRESH elderberries should be done in moderation, as too many can give you a tummy ache. Elderberries are best cooked, except when added to alcohol for tincture.

    Blackberry roots as a tea are so mild on the body when used for diarrhea, that it can safely be given to infants. They can also be made into a tincture for the same purpose, and while we don’t normally think of giving babies alcohol, blackberry root tincture is given in such small doses 3-30 drops (depending on the weight – use your best judgment) up to six times daily, and much better for them than dehydration and death. You can also use the leaves, or even blackberry jam to help as well.

    • PreppingMomma5 says:

      I’ve eaten it. It’s actually quite good fried in butter! (But then, what isn’t when cooked that way?!)

  4. Hunker-Down says:

    A good addition to our survival manuals.
    Thank you!


    Informative and inspires me to learn more.


  6. Good one ! Another of my favorites is Plantain . No not the short banana looking thing the green plant that’s veins run strat up the leaves. It’s a great pain relever .

  7. Great article. well done.
    Many will find these very helpfull, I have 2 packs in my bugout bags.


  8. I’m very discerning where it concerns using the liquid gold printer ink. But this article just got printed and saved. Great job!

    • BC,
      If you’re still using ink, you should look to upgrade to a laser printer with toner. It’s much less expensive than the ink and it’s water proof. Just a thought as they are getting less expensive by the day.

  9. I love this article. Thank you for writing it. I want to spend some time this summer learning to identify local plants. I know a lot about herbal medicine but I’ve always just ordered them online. Bad. Bad. Bad.

  10. DB Prepper says:

    Great article Christine! I knew some of the plants you referenced from my survival handbooks (I carry one in my everyday “go bag” and one in my SHTF bugout bag).

    I had no idea about the pine needles easing pain in muscles and joints. I will try this tonight or this weekend!

  11. I always thought rose hip tea also is a good laxative.

  12. Christine W,
    This is an excellent article which will end up in my documents folder. Just what I needed, more work to do, LOL.

    Here are a few more additions and observations:

    Broccoli and Brussels sprouts, although not generally wild, also contain large amounts of vitamin K. In fact, if you take an anti-coagulant like Coumadin (Warfarin), you need to be careful about any of these plants.

    Multiflora Rose is tenacious and persistent and grows wild around here like a weed. It was an introduced species that has gone truly wild. The upside is that it generally contains an abundance of large rose hips

    Lambs Quarters was another plant imported to this country and was originally a food crop like spinach. It seems to grow everywhere around here.

    You can use the cattail root (tuber) and the pollen on the head. Drying some of the starchy root by baking, grinding it into flour, and mixing it with some of the mashed wet tuber (as a starchy binder); can yield a dough that makes a reasonable bread or biscuit.

    Rhubarb should not be confused with the look alike Burdock. Although they both have edible components, they are different, in that Burdock has edible flowers and root, while Rhubarb has a edible stem. Burdock can also increase uterine contractions. It is plentiful around here.

    One additional easy to identify mushroom is the puffball. In the early stage the mushroom can simply be sliced and fried in butter (I’m sensing a theme here). In certain stages it can be confused with a poisonous variety, but simply slicing it open can tell you the difference. Refer to the Edibility and identification in the following article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puffball

    • Ohio Prepper – you have burdock? Dig up some of the 1st year plants (before they get the tall flower spike and are just a rosette) – it is GREAT for so many things. From Dr. Christopher’s Herbal Legacy:

      “Burdock Root contains polyacetylenes that gives the herb its antibacterial and antifungal properties. It is used as a mild laxative that aids in the elimination of uric acid or gout. It is classified as an alterative, diuretic and diaphoretic. It helps the kidneys to filter out impurities from the blood very quickly. It clears congestion in respiratory, lymphatic, urinary and circulatory systems. Burdock releases water retention, stimulates digestion, aids kidney, liver and gallbladder function. It also functions as an aperient, depurative, and antiscorbutic.

      Decoctions of Burdock have also been historically used for soothing the kidneys, relieving the lymphatic system, rheumatism, gout, GI tract disorders, stomach ailments, constipation, catarrh, fever, infection, fluid retention and skin problems. An article in Chemotherapy identified the chemical arctigenin contained in Burdock as an “inhibitor of experimental tumor growth.”

      Both European and Chinese herbalists have long considered burdock root’s “lightly warming, moistening effect an excellent tonic for the lungs and liver. It reportedly stimulates toxic waste through the skin and urine, improving digestion and is good for arthritis and rheumatism.

      Burdock is an aid to circulation because of its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity.

      A recent study showed that Burdock blocked dangerous chemicals from causing damage to cells, suggesting to the possibility that burdock may help decrease the risk of developing cancer from toxic chemicals.”

      I’ve been looking out for it here, and found something that looks similar (remember, we got here in the winter), but does not have the little hooks on the end of the hairs/stickers/burrs.

      • Michele,
        Do we have Burdock? More like Burdock has us and grows everywhere. Most of the animals will nibble at it, so in the inhabited areas it’s kept in check. This article has me curious and perhaps I’ll start looking medicinal plants a little deeper. Up to this point, the only thing I knew Burdock was used for was as an ingredient in “real” root beer.

  13. Great article!
    One caution about wild greens that are high in Vitamin K..If you have circulatory issues (I am prone to blood clots in my legs) avoid excessive amounts of vitamin K, as this encourages clotting.

  14. Fresh growth on kudzu can be eaten and it can be used to treat high blood pressure, briers have little white nodules on their roots that can be eaten and of course poke salat. Poke leaves should be harvested before the stems and stalks turn red and always boiled in three waters.

    Chickweed, purslane, dandelion and miners lettuce make a salad

    Green black walnuts can be tinctured to make a parasite cleanse for livestock and humans.

    Goldenrod makes a good tea to help with arthritis and inflammation

    Any tree in the maple family can tapped to make syrup: red maple, pecan, black walnut, etc.

    Sweet gum trees contain the same chemical used in Tamiflu. The green sweet gum ball (after they turn brown they are useless) is best but the bark and leaves contain it as well.

    The bark of the mimosa tree can be made into a tea for depression.

    Maypop or passionflower leaf tea is a good sedative and the fruit is tasty as well.

    • tommy2rs,
      Kudzu? As I was reading the article I was thinking, “too bad you can’t eat kudzu” and it tirns out you can. Although it doesn’t grow much right around here, where it does grow, you can almost stand and watch it grow. According to the wikipeida article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kudzu) it has many food and medicinal uses. Who would have thought.

      • tommy2rs says:

        Trouble with harvesting kudzu is you need to a good distance away from any road it’s by because of pesticide spraying and the chemicals and gasses shed by vehicles. Not to mention the reptiles and varmints that live in and under the kudzu.

        And if one little bit of kudzu falls through the cracks it can swallow your house…lol (sort of)

  15. Excellent post – one can never have enough knowledge when identifying the local flora. Like others here, I put a plant ID book in the BOBs. This will make a great addition to my growing library. Man, I need to buy more notebooks. 🙂

  16. wow, thanks MD for the list, fantastic but now i have to learn what they
    looks like. got to make sure we eat the right ones as not to get sick or even worse.
    again, thanks, really helps.

  17. forgot to add, i have a plant book but it’s not very good, would
    greatly appreciate it if anyone can steer me to a good book for ID ing plants.

    • Peterson’s Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants is very good. You need one for the area in which you live, as the plants don’t grow everywhere.

  18. rebar, thanks for the heads up about the cards, sounds like a good idea and easy to pack, but i still think a book will come in handy.

  19. sorry MD i overlooked your book somehow.

  20. Christine,

    Thanks for the great article. It is definitely a print and keep!!! I think that I will remember all this and I don’t.
    You refreshed my memory on a couple. My son was on a pine needle tea binge one summer. We ate the wild strawberries and wild violets on salads. We also had a tangy tea of wood sorrel
    Now, I need to get outside and harvest some rose hips if it is not too late.
    tommy2rs Thanks for the reminder on those pesky sweet gum balls for the flu. it’s good that they are good for something. It is always good to have more plant weapons in your medicine arsenal.

  21. Chuck Findlay says:

    There are several good books on wild food foraging. The best ones are by Samuel Thayer. The Forager’s Harvest: being the first and the best of the 2 of them the second book (Nature’s Garden) is an attempt to broaden the value of the first book that focused mostly on the eastern USA. The Forager’s Harvest is more then just a wild food book, it has a very good manual on how to find, identify, harvest, store and cook wild food. While most books give only a few pages at most to a plant. The Forager’s Harvest gives 30 pages to each plant it covers. Lots of color pictures of plants in all seasons, after all what good is a picture taken in July when it’s November?

    The Forager’s Harvest: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants


    Nature’s Garden: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Wild Edible Plants

  22. Chuck Findlay says:

    For the last 3-years wild strawberries have been growing like crazy all over my yard. I mow them up there is so many of them. They are small, about the size of a marble, but they are STRONG in flavor. I’m glad it’s strawberries and not poison ivy growing all over the place.

  23. Chuck Findlay says:

    Hey MD my post above waiting for moderation gives me an idea, could you put a link on the main page that allows people to post reviews of books or items that others will want to read. Maybe in a column on the side? Anytime someone wants to post a review it would be easy to click on the link and post it.

    • Chuck Findlay,

      Don’t know about doing that but it’s easy enough to just email your review…

      • Chuck Findlay says:

        What’s e-mail? I live a very lite-online-footprint. No E-mail. No net connection in my name.

        Not that I do anything illegal, it’s just my life is just that “My Life” and I want to keep it that way. I trust government even less then Bctruck trusts cops. If that is possible.

        It’s actually easy to have privacy on-line.

        • Maybe you would share a few words of wisdom on the online privacy? I have a feeling that I leave a footprint big enough to make a Sasquatch jealous, and can always use a few reminders and to learn something new, thanks!
          btw, C.F. was by far my name is favorite to Burn 😉

  24. patientmomma says:

    THis is a keeper article plus all the great comments from the Pack.
    Thanks so much!

  25. Excellent article Christine. It is so important that folks learn to grow and use the plants that are available in their area instead of simply relying on their purchased stores.
    I hope you’ll be doing more articles like this.

  26. Suburban Housewife says:

    Very useful article. I just got an app for my iPhone that may be of interest. It’s called Garden Compass – it’s free in the app store. You can take a picture of a plant and get an identification for it. Also has a problem identifier for pests – I just got it so I can’t give a very good review but I did take a photo of a plant that looked like a vine on the ground with a large bright pink flower. I took the pic and sent it in and in less than 24 hours I got a response that it must be a hollyhock that had somehow gotten laid down to grow on the ground. Made sense to me – I couldn’t find anything on google image. It will be interesting to go out and see how it does identifying weeds and herbs. Useful as long as we still have cell service.

  27. mom of three says:

    As soon as we get ink, for the printer I will be printing this off. With all the modern medicine, many people have know idea about our wild flower friends. FDA! Is now allowing a new pain medicine, to come out that is more addictive, oxicodon.

  28. Loved this article! Oh boy, more to write down. Here in Maine, we have Japanese Knotweed, which is listed as a “noxious weed” by the state, but which can be eaten like asparagus, or made into jam, and is high in vitamin C, is a possible treatment for Lymes’ and has other fine medicinal properties. We also have sweet fern (not really a fern, but looks like one and smells very fragrant) that can be made into tea. On the other hand, most of our white mushrooms are death angels which are deadly (ugh!)

  29. Great article, thank you. I book marked and printed. Also going to order the cards and The Forager’s Harvest: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plant using the amazon link on the site. Looks like a summer project.

  30. Southern Belle says:

    Thank you so much for this article. I was just reading about a few of these “weeds” in Mother Earth Living magazine last night. However, your list is much more inclusive. I will be printing this out for sure!

  31. Chuck Findlay, thanks for the advise.

  32. Arizona Reality Prepper says:

    Another common plant that is edible is the prickly pear cactus. There is the obligatory “be careful of the spines” warning, but the interior of the cactus pads is edible, but somewhat slimy like okra. Use it like bell pepper, best cooked.

  33. mindful patriot says:

    Thank you Christine for this information. Will also be printing this.

  34. mindyinds says:

    Terrific information, Christine, also from the wisdom of the pack. Most of these plants do not grow in this dry area, but some do and some might be nurtured. Gathered the last of the juniper berries yesterday, to dry for UTI tea (with precautions).

  35. where I live, nd in may parts of the US there is wild chamomile, which is great for colds, especially for cranky children with colds, and is also a mild sedative. it tastes pretty good, too at least the variety we have here does. I think there are more medicinal uses as well, these are just the main ones I remember.

  36. Encourager says:

    What a great article, Christine! Saved to a word doc and going in my binder.

    I was able to get M.D.’s recommended book ordered at my library; I always like to take a look at a book before buying. Also was able to order a few others. I have been looking for a good recommendation for a medicinal plant book for many months.

    Thanks Christine, and all the others who added info!!

  37. I haven’t much knowledge about the tonsil but after read your well written article i learn many new thing about it. Your blog really excellent and have many fantastic information. Carry on…….

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