I was thinking last night about what would happen if a zombapoc really did happen and people weren’t as lucky as Cleo to have a nurse for a mom, or a doctor (no matter how crazy) on hand. Then I started thinking about some of the herbs I know that grow in a variety of places across the U.S. and their uses.

willow bush photo: Bush Willow 090311RevBushWillow.jpg

So. I decided to put it all up in a small collection of posts for people who would like to have a good idea of some of the plants that can be used for medical purposes, which grow in the wild.

The first plant to take a peek at is Willow. Now, I am not familiar with the use of Weeping Willow, so my suggestion, until you get your hands on a local wild/edible herb book for your area, is to avoid them.

The part of the willow that you want is the bark. I have had the sad misfortune of having a splitting migraine (we forgot the aspirin at home when we went camping) and forgetting to leave water where we could actually get to it. As a result, I had my first taste of willow through chewing on the bark. It definitely helped with the pain, but I can’t say whether that was because the bark tasted so bad it distracted me or if the medicine in the bark solved my problem. My suggestion, try not to think about how bad it tastes (extremely bitter is an understatement).

For those of us who are lucky enough to have water available: make a tea. Soaking the bark in cold water won’t help – mostly because it could take hours for the medicinal properties to seep into it. You would be better off chewing on the bark itself. So, if you can, try to get the water hot, warm if you have no other choice.

Willow will help with headaches and other various body aches. And lucky for us, you won’t have stomach issues like you do with aspirin or ibuprofen (common side effect for chemically altered medicines). But you will need to be careful if you are prone to stomach upsets and should only take very small doses.

To make the tea:

Boil 1-2 tsp of dried bark in a coffee cup (a normal one, not a honking one) of water and keep heated for about 15 minutes. Let the water cool for half an hour or so with the herbs in it, then drink. Though you can drink 3-4 cups a day, I would avoid it. Try to limit yourself to one or two cups, if at all possible.

If you can, before the zombapoc hits, get your hands on a mortar and pestle to put in your emergency kit(s). You never know when this little thing can come in handy. I have an earthenware set, which would be my suggestion for purchase. With a mortar and pestle, it will be much easier to measure out the appropriate dosage of plants. However, to get the best usage of the mortar and pestle, you need to let the plants dry

Big side note here: Avoid giving bark to young children. My parents gave it to me because of my migraine (I would have kept the entire campground awake through the night if they hadn’t). With this fact in mind, make sure you can get your hands on a nice amount of children’s aspirin which is specially formulated for a child’s needs. This recommendation is for children up to 16 or so, but I think you might be able to swing bark around after they hit 12. If you do, keep an eye on the kid and make sure it is a very small dose. Also, do not give willow bark to pregnant or breast-feeding women.

Even bigger side note: Some people are allergic to salicin, which is the chemical produced by willow. If you are allergic to aspirin, stay away from willow bark.

Some books for further research:

A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs: Of Eastern and Central North America 

Medicinal Plants of North America: A Field Guide 

Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild (and Not So Wild) Places

A Field Guide to Western Medicinal Plants and Herbs

Herbal Remedies from the Wild: Finding and Using Medicinal Herbs

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

Medicinal Herbs in the Garden, Field & Marketplace

Go back to All Things Survival

    • Cat Reyes says:

      You will find that I don’t use Wikipedia very much. I used to rely on it for everything, but it’s not a very reliable source for information because of its propensity to change. 🙂 Give me a good ol’ fashion’d book any day! 😉

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