Sunday, February 6, 2011

Winter Medicinals for Cold Weather Areas

For my birthday my sweetie took me to an outdoor winter medicinals class, taught by Jim McDonald. For those of you who live in the cold weather states, then you probably would never think about taking an herb walk class in the snow. In fact, here in Michigan, we have over 2 feet of snow, and had quite the snowfall while we were out on this herb walk. I have studied herbology for a few years now, and nowhere, ever, have I read about collecting medicinal plants in the winter.

I have often found myself wondering how cultures survived in cold weather places when they couldn't go to the grocery store, or they needed herbal medicines for that time. I believe in collecting plants in season and that our creator provides for us what we need, when we need it... winter time included.

But, Jim McDonald filled us in. I was extremely impressed by his knowledge of medicinal plants, especially his winter medicinal herb teaching. One of the first plants we visited was the White Pine tree. This tree can be identified by its 5 needle cluster, as opposed to the Red Pine that has 2. Jim explained that the White Pine is high in vitamin C and would work wonders for people who have scurvy (although we don't see a whole lot of that here anymore). At that time I tasted a needle, and sure enough, it tasted like it was high in vitamin C (the sour lemon/orange flavor/rose hip flavor). The White Pine is also great for people with coughs and congestion that is stuck in the lungs and won't come out (more of a wet cough). White Pine works as an expectorant, and helps the body to eliminate the 'gunk' in the lungs through effective coughing.

*Remember, that we never want to take anything to 'make our sickness go away' but instead, we want to promote the body's natural abilities to eliminate and heal itself. In Naturopathic Medicine we never want to suppress symptoms.

We continued to walk through the woods and field and learned MANY other plants that can be used as medicines in the winter time. Some of these include: the stalks of the black or red raspberry plant (as an astringent), rose hips on the rose bush (high in vitamin C), and burdock seeds (for people who get sick from catching a chill).

I am so impressed! I love the fact that we can still 'harvest' some medicinal plants in the winter, especially if we are in an emergency situation!


Svea is a traditional Naturopath, classical homeopath and holistic doula. Her private doula practice can be found here. 

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