Herb walk season

June opens herb walk season. This is the time of year for plant medicine enthusiasts, armed with identification guides and prior knowledge of who likes to grow where, roam forests,

June opens herb walk season.

This is the time of year for plant medicine enthusiasts, armed with identification guides and prior knowledge of who likes to grow where, roam forests, meadows and swamps in search of the medicinal herb.

Sunday, we picnicked at Crimson Lake and hiked through its forest. Here’s just a few of the plants we spied.

The first plant we came across, growing almost on the path, was arrow leaf coltsfoot (Petasites sagitatus).

Coltsfoot has a dense fluffy white flower. I imagine is how it came by its name.

Coltsfoot’s root is used to settle down irritated dry cough.

Recently it has fallen from favour.

Coltsfoot contains a chemical called pyrolizidine alkaloids which when taken in excess can cause liver damage.

The key word here is excess. Using coltsfoot to get relief from a hacking cough and get a good nights sleep, will not cause liver damage.

The blue bells of lungwort (Mertensia paniculata) were in full bloom and plentiful.

Lungwort, as it name suggests, is medicine for the lungs.

The suffix wort is from old English.

It was frequently used to identify medicinal plants.

The leaves and flowers of lungwort are used in teas to heal inflamed bronchi as wells as conditions deeper in the respiratory tract, such as pleurisy.

Frequently it is combined with coltsfoot.

This is something I often notice on herb walks. Medicinal plants which are used to complement each others actions frequently grow in close together.

Scattered close to the ground, bunchberry grew in the dabbled light of the forest.

I have seen bunchberry in forests throughout Ontario, the Yukon, B.C. and Saskatchewan.

This unassuming plant is one of my forest favourites. It always appears so organized on the chaotic forest floor. It tends to do things in fours, four leaves and a four petal flower.

Frequently it produces four berries. This little plant is used to relieve inflammation.

The root is chewed to ease tooth ache and the leaves can be brewed in a tea to relieve aching muscular pain.

This pain relieving action is attributed to its salicylates.

Salicylates are found in many plants, including strawberries and peppermint, but some plants have enough of them to be classed as medicine which eases the pain of inflammation.

Mountain meadowsweet (Spirea beauverdina) is another herb high in salicylates.

Dotting the shady dry hill sides of the forest, Mountain meadowsweet is a tiny shrub with finely toothed elliptic leaves.

In July delicate clusters of sweetly scented white flowers will bloom. Many use the flowers for medicine. I prefer the leaves.

Tasting a meadowsweet leaf gives clues to its medicine. It tastes like aspirin.

The first aspirin was derived from salicylate containing willow. Meadowsweet is most valued as a digestive tonic.

Taken as a tea over a period of time it will balance stomach acids and tone the bowel.

On the dry hillsides there were also lots of blue berries (Vaccinium myrtilloides)in flower.

Besides making the very best pies, blueberries are medicine for the eyes. The blue of blueberries is due to anthrocyanodises. Anthrocyanodises improve the regeneration of a pigment in the eye called rhodopsin. Rhodopsin is essential for night vision. In other words, eating blueberries improves night vision.

The leaf of the blueberry shrub also has significant medicinal value. First Nations people add blueberry leaves to teas to help balance blood sugars.

Blueberry’s European cousin, the bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) was one of the favourite herbs of the 11th century mystic, abbess, herbalist Hildegard de Bingen.

I was first introduced to Hildegard de Bingen through the divine music she wrote.

Later, doing historical research on European herbal medicine, I came across her writings.

Hildegard used bilberries for both gallbladder and kidney stones and like the First Nations` managing blood sugars.

In couple of weeks, I will head back out to Crimson Lake to see who else is growing and mark the progress on the plants I have already noted. This is the traditional way herbal medicine was taught.

Believe me, studying a plant in a book, is a totally different experience than watching it grow in the forest.

Just an end note, the law says never picks plants growing in provincial or federal parks. Good ethics says never pick without a land owners permission.

Abrah Arneson is a herbalist living in Central Alberta.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange says she has not received an official request from any other school board for a similar move to online learning. (Advocate file photo)
’Operational pressures:’ Calgary schools shift to at-home learning for grades 7 to 12

School boards can ask to move online for a number of reasons

Russian President Vladimir Putin visits the Coordination Center of the Russian Government in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, April 13, 2021. The centre was set up as a line of communication with the whole of Russia for analysing and collecting information, promptly using big data and solving arising problems. (Mikhail Metzel, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Months after hack, US poised to announce sanctions on Russia

First retaliatory action against the Kremlin for last year’s hack

FILE - NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman speaks during the “Topping Off” ceremony of the New York Islanders new home, the UBS Arena at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y., Friday, Oct. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Mary Altaffer
Islanders close to selling out inaugural season at UBS Arena

Arena capacity of about 17,000 for hockey

An Uber Eats delivery person carries items near the Japan National Stadium, where opening ceremony and other events are planned for postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics, with engravings in honor of 1964 Tokyo Olympics seen on the side of the stadium wall behind the fence Tuesday, April 6, 2021, in Tokyo. Two top officials of Japan’s ruling LDP party on Thursday, April 15, 2021, said radical changes could be coming to the Tokyo Olympics. One went as far to suggest they still could be canceled, and the other that even if they proceed, it might be without any fans.(AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
Officials say Olympic cancellation, no fans still an option

COVID-19 cases have been rising across Japan

FILE - In this Jan. 24, 2020 file photo, co-directors Jim LeBrecht, left, and Nicole Newnham, center, from the documentary “Crip Camp” pose with film subject Judith Heumann during the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. The disabled have a moment in the Oscar spotlight that they hope becomes a movement. LeBrecht, who has spina bifida and uses a wheelchair, says a golden age for disabled films could come if Hollywood lets them tell their own stories. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP, File)
The disabled hope their Oscar moment can become a movement

Traditionally the disabled appear only when an actor seeking an Oscar-worthy role plays one on screen

FILE - Diane Warren poses for a portrait at the 90th Academy Awards Nominees Luncheon on Feb. 5, 2018, in Beverly Hills, Calif. Warren is nominated for an Oscar for best original song for her work in “The Life Ahead” starring Sophia Loren. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)
12-time Oscar nominee Diane Warren hopes for ‘awesome’ win

Third movie adaptation of the 1975 Romain Gary novel ‘The Life Before Us’

Opinion: Waiting 4 months between vaccine doses too long

“It’s not just a matter of potency, it’s a matter of the… Continue reading

Richie Laryea of Toronto FC, left, and Jean Meneses of Mexico's Leon battle for the ball during a CONCACAF Champions League soccer match in Leon, Mexico, in Leon, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. Toronto FC hosts Club Leon in the second leg of their Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League round-of-16 tie holding a valuable away goal after a 1-1 draw last week in Mexico. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Mario Armas
Injury-riddled Toronto FC dispatches Club Leon in CONCACAF Champions League play

Injury-riddled Toronto FC dispatches Club Leon in CONCACAF Champions League play

Winnipeg Jets' Dylan DeMelo (2) skates the puck around Ottawa Senators' Thomas Chabot (72) as he holds off Winnipeg Jets' Mason Appleton (22) during first-period NHL action in Ottawa on Wednesday, April 14, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Winnipeg Jets score two third-period goals to secure 3-2 victory over Ottawa Senators

Winnipeg Jets score two third-period goals to secure 3-2 victory over Ottawa Senators

Toronto Raptors forward Chris Boucher (25) shoots over San Antonio Spurs forward Keldon Johnson (3) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 14, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Anunoby, Siakam rally Raptors past Spurs 117-112

Anunoby, Siakam rally Raptors past Spurs 117-112

Most Read