Asteraceae (sunflower family)
Prairie Foraging: A salve for poison oak, poison ivy, and other skin irritations
Friends, this is what ethnobotanical dreams are made of. This is a lovely place to start if you want to get to know the plants around you and what they can be used for. I am actually at the beginning of my medicinal and edible plant journey, and what better way to document what I am learning than to write an article and share information with others. I remember the first time I was inspired to learn more about the weeds in my area and how to utilize them. I was on a road trip with one of my dear lady friends, we drove through the midwest and up to Washington before heading south to California. One of our favorite stops was visiting an old friend in Mt. Shasta, California. We made new friends as well, and did a group hike to the snow melt river that comes off the mountain. While we were hiking, one of our new comrades stepped on a piece of glass with his bare feet. He was bleeding at a very fast rate, and one of the guys hiking with us jumped into action without any hesitation. I mean, he literally jumped and hopped through the forest, and returned rather quickly with a plant. He used this plant to stop the bleeding at an alarmingly fast rate. I can’t remember what plant it was, though I have my guesses, what I do remember however, is how impressed I was. I had never seen anyone do something like that. I was impressed but I was also embarrassed that I didn’t know the plants in my area that intimately. I came back home to Kansas on a mission to one day be that knowledgeable. I’ve bought multiple books, read articles, and googled plants as I come across them. But what has really gave me a good foot in the door of this magical world was my brief interactions with Dr. Thomas Eddy. Dr. Eddy is an entomologist, botanist, and former professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Emporia State University. To have an expert showing you in person the plants you have been reading about in books is so inspiring. I took my books and pressed the plants on the pages that described them, I hope to someday have a giant press book to pass down for generations.
Curly-cup Gumweed is reasonably easy to identify and is usually thriving in the Midwest late summer and early autumn. This is a great time of year for foraging as the summer heat should be calming a bit. The Great Plains tribes had many medicinal uses for this plant. Some tribes boiled these sticky flower heads and used the salve as a treatment for sores and rashes, others made tea for a cough remedy. In modern herb craft it is still widely harvested and used in treating poison oak, poison ivy, and other skin conditions. This version of this remarkably versatile medicine is what we’re going to focus on in this article.
Range: Curly-cup Gumweed can be found in most of North America. You can find it in poor soil and disturbed areas.
Identification: The most obvious of the identifying traits is in the common name. It’s yellow disk flower looks like a cup with curly hairs. Its is highly resinous and sticky to handle.
Harvesting: Harvest the flowers and leaves when plant is in full bloom.
Medicinal Use: Used for relief of skin rash
Parts used: Flowers and Leaves
Preparation: There are several ways to prepare this salve, you will have to decide which you prefer. This time I did approximately:
Coconut Oil- 1 Cup
Curly-cup Gumweed Flower heads- 1 cup
Combine ingredients in slow-cooker and cook on low for 3 1/2 hours. Strain out flowers and put in container of your choice.
(After reviewing the finished product, I decided it would be easier to use if I had included beeswax in this recipe)
You can also try:
Organic Olive Oil- 1 cup
Curly-cup Gumweed Flower heads- 1 cup
Beeswax(melted)- 1/4 cup
Combine flower heads and olive oil in slow-cooker and cook on low for 3 1/2 hours. Strain out flowers and mix oil with melted beeswax.
Another option is to put the flower heads in the oil and let it infuse for 2 weeks or more in a dark cool area, then strain and use as needed. You can also try adding lavender to any of the recipes for an inviting fragrant product.
Throughout all of humankind we have turned to plants for answers. I am thrilled to be diving into the world of ethnobotanicals.
Finding uses for plants is one of the most satisfying experiences. Make sure that you don’t miss an opportunity to attend a plant identification tour with Dr. Thomas Eddy.
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