Survival Skills: Re-Supply Your Medical Supplies, With Medicinal Plants

The use of plants for medicine dates back thousands of years, and thankfully, these natural sources of medicinal compounds are still available in the outdoors and in backyard gardens.

Even with limited space, you can grow your own herbal remedies—and in a disaster scenario, this is valuable knowledge. These plants won’t replace proper medical care, but they’re nice to have on hand in a pinch.

Aloe Vera
Very soothing to burns and scalds, this tender plant is best grown in a container so that it can be brought inside for the winter (unless you live in a tropical climate).

The flowers (an annual with brilliant blue flowers and hairy leaves) can be soaked in alcohol to make a mood-boosting tonic.

Similar to pennyroyal, peppermint can be a great tonic for digestion. Fresh peppermint, though, along with pennyroyal and other strong mints, should not be consumed by women who are (or may be) pregnant. Food and drink that contain an abundance of fresh strong mint leaf can be dangerous to the baby.

Here’s comfrey leaves and home-made salve.
Here are comfrey leaves
and home-made salve.

The cooked mashed roots of comfrey are used for a topical treatment for arthritis, bruises, burns, and sprains. Just don’t eat it. Recent research shows that it is damaging to the liver if eaten in quantity.

Crushed yarrow leaves and flowers can be placed on cuts and scratches in order to stop bleeding and reduce the chance of infection.

Lemon Balm
Make the best lemonade of your life by adding bruised lemon balm leaves to the drink. This plant also makes an outstanding topical agent for cold sores, and it is often used as a calming “nightcap” tea to fight insomnia.

Echinacea, also known as the purple coneflower, is an American perennial wildflower best known for stimulating the immune system. Echinacea preparations are used to protect against colds and flu, minor infections, and a host of other ailments.

This great-smelling mint relative can be crushed and applied to the skin as a very effective bug repellent. The leaves can also be crushed and then applied to wounds as an antiseptic, or brewed as a tea to settle upset stomachs.

Typically used as a fragrance today, lavender has been used since ancient times to treat bug bites, burns, and skin disorders, and to relieve itching, rashes, and reduce swelling. It should not be used by pregnant or nursing women, or small children.

Shop Sportsman’s Guide for a fine selection of First-Aid Kits!

Shop Sportsman’s Guide for a fine selection of Emergency Gear!

This tip, and 337 more survival tips, are in MacWelch’s new book Prepare For Anything. This latest Outdoor Life survival manual is available at Amazon.

Follow him on Twitter @timmacwelch  And check out more of MacWelch’s outdoor skills and survival articles in Outdoor Life Magazine.


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