Saturday was an incredible learning experience for me. Herbalist Jim McDonald taught a one-day class out in the woods of Wyoming, Michigan and I was there, notebook and camera in hand, to soak up some knowledge on my favorite subject – medicinal plants. I soaked up some rain while I was at it too! Much of the walk was done during sometimes heavy rain showers and some thunderstorms, but we were not to be deterred and it turned out to be a beautiful way to experience nature. I discovered I enjoyed being in a rainy forest so much I headed back out the very next day on my own with an umbrella and some new herbal knowledge.
If you’ve never had the opportunity to do an herb walk with an experienced herbalist, it’s well worth the time and money. There’s nothing better than seeing these plants firsthand, getting to know what’s growing in your area and how these plants work. Our class was made up of about 15 people, and it was pretty impressive to find many of the participants had traveled a good distance to attend. I’m sure they weren’t disappointed. Jim McDonald is a wealth of information and has a real gift for teaching, using lots of anecdotes and word pictures that will make it pretty hard to forget what we learned.
I thought you might enjoy seeing some pictures of the day’s discoveries:
Pictured above, we have some chickweed which we all took turns stretching. Interestingly, this little plant has a very elastic core. This one is a gentle herb good for healing minor burns and for use in salves.
Next is mullein, which quickly became one of my favorites. I dug some up the very next day and made a tea of the root. Jim had shared with us how helpful mullein root can be for an out of sorts back, especially the lower back. I couldn’t believe how well it worked for my particular back issue! Just that one bit of info would have made the whole day worth it on its own, but we learned a lot more. I’ll do a post on this plant soon for the Herbs & Their Uses section, so be on the lookout.
Motherwort is a great plant for nervous anxiety that causes problems in other parts of the body. Jim shared with us how bitter herbs, such as motherwort, generally help with anxiety.If you know what this is, you’re probably wondering what poison ivy is doing in our herb walk! Turns out this stuff is fascinating. While poison ivy tea should never be on the menu, it is an amazing “awareness” plant. It makes humans aware of where they’re stepping, forcing us to pay more attention to our surroundings while in nature. Not a bad thing, this awareness!Perhaps one of the great finds of the day for me, wild ginger. You may have noticed I like to write about ginger a lot, but I’d never seen it in the wild. What a treat!Stinging nettle, another great herb I’ve liked talking about here in the past. A nutritious food, stinging nettle won’t sting after it’s cooked. It will, however, provide you with a whole host of vitamins and minerals, making it one of the healthiest foods on the forest floor.Let’s wrap things up with this recognizable beauty – the violet. This spirit lifter is also great for the skin and tasty as a salad, leaves, blossoms, and all. I plan on discussing this one soon too; I simply can’t wait to delve into violets!
If you’ve never experienced an herb walk, consider finding one in your area. Or better yet, look up Jim McDonald’s website and get signed up for a true learning experience you won’t forget!