Thursday, May 1, 2008

Into the world of medicinal plants

Darryl Patton
Being a business school graduate, its safe to say that I did not have much time for the study of plants. Sure, I loved being outside, playing in the woods, climbing, swimming.... But I never cared to learn the identity and uses of my little (and big) plant friends. It was only after a hike in the Bankhead National Forest of Alabama with Darryl Patton, apprentice of legendary herbalist Tommie Bass, that I plunged full of wonder and excitement into the mysterious world of plants. Food and medicines growing in the wild, oftentimes following us humans wherever we settle, as if to cry out "Eat me! Eat me!"

So where do I begin? Wade has Darryl's Book,
Mountain Medicine: The Herbal Remedies of Tommie Bass. It is a great resource for me as a beginner because it only mentions local plants, many of which are right outside my door. It has big beautiful images and describes the medicinal folk uses and preparations of the herbs.

In a wave of excitement I bought
Edible Wild Plants: A North American Field Guide, and I am currently using it in conjunction with Mountain Medicine in my studies. It is a great resource for identifying edible plants in wild (and not so wild) places across America, and also tells me where I am likely to find them, when is the best time to harvest, as well as whether to use the greens in a salad, cook them, boil the roots, make tea with the leaves, make flour with the seeds.... It is well indexed and I can search by common or Latin names, by season, or by geographical region.

I am also reading a third book called The Master Book of Herbalism, by Paul Beyerl, which offers much in terms of medicinal uses, but unlike the first two books, goes deeply into history, religious lore, and herbal magick. This is the book's true gift, for there are many easily attainable resources out there about herbalism, but it is harder to find a book that describes herbs and their relationships with gemstones, links with astrology and the tarot, and rituals. You can't find this book on Nathan bought it at Blue Dragon Bookshop in Ashland, OR which sells used and out of print books.

So this is where a beginner begins, with a few simple books and the encouragement of all my forest friends.

Dogwood in Spring: Photo by Greg Landua

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