By: Lee Trebotich (Kuju Ambassador)
Lee has a M.A. in Alternative Medicine and is an expert in the identification of beneficial as well as harmful plants in the backcountry. A professional mountaineer and adventurer, Lee spends as much time as possible conquering peaks and testing gear. Lee can be found on the web at www.nattyadventurer.com and on Instagram @natty_the_adventurer
Springtime is closing in….slowly for some regions and rapid for others.
As an avid outdoor enthusiast and trained botanist, I always look forward to the spring season every year, it’s the time of new beginnings for both flora and fauna. Growing up in the southeastern region of the United States, spring season always seemed to show itself early with a promising window of sensory overload. As spring arrives, people seem to follow the patterns of plants and come out from their warm humble abode and start to explore their environmental surroundings. I encourage this, as spring is my favorite time to hit the trail and talk about plants in various ways!
I specialize in both edible and medicinal plant education and tours. I lead/guide courses that focus on the plants that are currently around us and what interactions we have with plants in various ways. In this blog I will touch on only a fraction of what knowledge is out there! I encourage you to reach out to your local herbalist and wildlife expert for more opportunities and chances to expand your knowledge of herbs.
As each season comes and goes, plants – trees, herbs, grasses, etc. – all go through seasonal change. Spring is a great time of the year to see a lot of plants show their beauty in many ways (flowers, leaves, smells, and taste!). This is also a great season for a beginner to dive into the education on edible and medicinal herbs and to learn some great tips to make your outdoor adventure more interesting. In my teachings, not only do I educate on how to properly identify certain plants and what parts of plants can be used or should be avoided; I also tie in the folklore and history of plants with human beings. I am a strong believer and follower of all Native American tribes encompassing the bush doctors and shamans.
Next time while out on an adventure I challenge you to turn your eyes toward the ground as you walk, run, or ride by. Here you will see the earth come alive and express itself through all types of plants. Ground cover herbs such as Dandelion, plantain (the herb not fruit), clover (white and red), and Echinacea are all great herbs for beginners to learn. These few herbs alone have books on them with endless edible and medicinal properties, and to dive into each herb would take dedication and time, so here is just a touch of what these herbs can actually do for us humans.
A weed beneath us…..
Dandelion itself is all consumable. The whole plant can be consumed in various ways such as boiling the leaves for a high and nutritious snack, the roots dried and grounded for a coffee substitute, or even the fresh greens and flowers to top off a spring salad. The medicinal properties in dandelion can heal a number of ailments. I love to touch on how strong of a diuretic this herb is and how it is great for cleansing the liver!
Watch your step!
Plantain (Plantago spp), a common ground cover herb is always available for a quick first aid response for a cut or gash. Here the herb helps staunch bleeding once crushed and applied, this herb works very similar to Yarrow in helping to stop bleeding by toning and repairing blood vessels for a quicker clot. Plus plantain is high in vitamins, so it’s a great mid-day snack and yummy addition for all salads.
An alternate first-aid kit….
Echinacea (Echinacea spp) native to Central US, is a first aid kit in itself. This beautiful purple/pinkish flower packs a punch of medicinal values. One that I love to talk about is how eating 3-5 raw leaves of Echinacea a day will help fight infections due to its strong antibiotic/antiseptic constituents it holds. This plant can also help heal wounds, help detox by sweating (diaphoretic) and help with toothaches and sore throats.
Not just for luck….
Finally, one of my favorite herbs to point out while on trail is the clover family (Trifolia spp). Spread throughout the United States, clover both white and red are used in various ways. I always talk about how this 3 leafed...or 4 can be used to color up a spring salad while on the trail. I love to pick both the leaves and flowers to munch on, but in moderation, as too much clover can lead to bloating if you’re consuming like livestock!
These are just touches on what these and other herbs can do for us while on our adventures. Outside of ground herbs other plants like trees, shrubs, bushes, and grass offer endless opportunities for edible and medicinal choices. Take the Willow tree (Salix spp), it’s a great substitute for over the counter Aspirin. Actually the compound that makes up Aspirin, Salicylic acid, is derived in the barks of Willow species. Hence saving the trip to a CVS for aspirin. Another example is taking the leaves from a Sweet Bay Magnolia and crushing them up for a great rue and seasoning addition to any stew!
There are countless resources on edible and medicinal plants and countless resources on how plants are used in other ways (cosmetics, building materials, hunting materials, etc.) Just like anything I always recommend consuming in low moderation while in the field. It is safe practice to consume in moderations, due to possible environmental contamination or just over consumption. Now that interest has been sparked, again I encourage people to get out and pick up a plant guide book or reach out to their local herbalist and start your journey. Follow me on IG @Natty_the_adventurer and check out my website NattyAdventurer.com for upcoming plant tours that I will be hosting throughout the US.