In Utah we celebrate Pioneer Day on July 24th. But Utah isn’t the only state where pioneers immigrated to the area. Many states and countries have had groups of people create their homes in a new place and when they did they brought with them their beloved medicine from their previous home. These were seeds carefully chosen to bring with them as medicine to keep them healthy and
well. It was also necessary to learn about the local plants and how to use them as food and medicine.
Because they had to rely
on what they grew to survive, not only did they need to think about food and medicine but also plants to deter pests and to resist disease. Companion planting was used as a survival method out of necessity.
As medicine, dandelion seeds were chosen by the pioneers to bring along because dandelions were good medicine for almost everything. It’s hard to think about a world without dandelions because they grow so abundantly out of control, but they have been a valued medicine for many people. The whole plant is used medicinally. The root is used for the liver and as a blood purifier, the leaves help the kidneys as a
diuretic and stimulate bile flow in the liver. They are also very nutritious. The flowers were used the same as the leaves and to make wine, jam, and as a dye for fabric.
Many pioneers had learned methods used by Samuel Thompson. He used lobelia to purge the system and cayenne to build it back up. Cayenne was a staple for emergencies because of its ability to stop bleeding, and increase circulation and stamina.
Yarrow was valued as a treatment for stomach problems and fevers. It acts as a diaphoretic as a very warm tea to produce perspiration in a dry fever.
There were many tree barks which provided wonderful treatment for many different ailments. Poplar bark and willow bark both contain salicylic acid and were used to reduce pain. Oak bark and its astringent properties helped with diarrhea, hemorrhoids, tooth and gum issues, and to heal old wounds. Wild cherry bark
gave its expectorant blessings to those suffering with coughs, colds, and other lung problems.
The pioneers relied on plants,
prayer, and perseverance to keep them well. When doctors came around the use of plant medicine was slowly replaced with drugs. Today many people are turning back to the use of plant medicine as a means to bring back true health. We have mentioned a few plants that have been used for hundreds of years with good results. Dr. Christopher encouraged his patients and students to find out what was growing in their own backyards and use it. I encourage you to do the same.
Jo Francks is a Master Herbalist working at the School of Natural Healing.