This Sunday at the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace we were treated to a presentation by Medicine County Herbals about 10 Appalachian plants and their medicinal uses. Janet Kent and Dave Meesters passed around and discussed preparations that they had wildcrafted from plants available locally: yarrow, stinging nettle, joe pye weed, to name a few. Wild grown medicine used to be the only medicine around, so we got a Ancient Greek history lesson as well. Achilles was said to have learned from a centaur about using yarrow to staunch the bleeding of battlefield wounds. (Hence the genus name of yarrow, Achillea.)
Walking in the Appalachians is good medicine in and of itself. Janet explained that an important part of wild medicine is actually the act of collecting it yourself. Going out into the environment where these plants live can begin the healing process. We learned about warding off allergy attacks (ragweed tea), dissolving kidney stones (joe pye root), and calming coughing fits (black cherry bark tea). We also learned about collecting the wild medicines safely and responsibly: ensuring proper plant identification, leaving sustainable stands of the plant in the wild, and avoiding polluted areas while collecting. Our participants now know they can look beyond the boundaries of their vegetable garden to nature's wild garden for better health and nutrition.