There are many plants in the United Kingdom that have healing abilities and make a useful addition to your herbal first aid kit. Whilst some of them require good plant knowledge, there are plenty that are common and easy to identify. Here are 5 plants that are both common and abundant that you can use to help if traditional medicine is hard to come by.
Found along woodland rides, hedgerows, verges and waste ground, burdock is not only a good source of carbohydrates (via its root), but it also has useful herbal properties.
Made into a poultice, burdock is a good treatment for bruises and boils. Making a poultice is straightforward, use steam to soften the whole leaf and then apply it to the affected area as hot as you can tolerate. Leave it in place until it cools down.
The leaves are also a good treatment for minor burns, again as a poultice. This time crush the leaves first and then apply. Leave the poultice in place until the pain subsides.
Dandelion (Taraxicum officinale)
Found in a wide variety of grassy places, dandelions are easily recognisable, although they do look similar to hawkweeds and cat’s ears so take care to get the right plant. All parts of dandelion are edible, but the leaves can be a little bitter. It’s high in vitamins A, B, C & D and minerals, especially potassium and makes a good detoxifier.
As dandelions are bitter, eating them triggers signals to the digestive system which in turn aids digestion. It causes the gall bladder to contract and release bile, stimulating the liver to produce more. It’s also good for constipation and fluid retention. Be aware that dandelion is a diuretic (it’s likely to make you wee a lot!).
Here are some dandelion flowers infusing in olive oil ready to be made into an ointment, which is excellent for cracked skin.
Plantain (Plantago major)
Whilst most of us are familiar with the healing properties of dock leaves, plantain is much more effective. Growing on lawns and tracks, the crushed leaf is fantastic for insect bites & stings, allergic rashes, cuts & wounds, infected cuts, and mouth ulcers.
Plantain tea can be used to treat a surprising range of ailments, including haemorrhoids and irritable bowel syndrome.
The seeds can be eaten raw or cooked and are high in vitamin B, as well as being a treatment for constipation.
Yarrow (Acillea millefolium)
A member of the daisy family growing in hedgerows and verges, yarrow is a great addition to any herbal first aid kit. It has anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-thrombotic and diuretic properties as well as being a useful treatment for colds and flu.
Yarrow makes an excellent first aid poultice for deep cuts and wounds (apparently it was used by soldiers in the Trojan war).
Taken as a tea, yarrow is good for colds & flus and high blood pressure; it tones varicose veins and can prevent blood clots.
Selfheal (Prunella vulgaris)
Although particularly fond of chalky soil, selfheal can be found all over the UK in fields as well as woods. It is a good all-rounder. Take selfheal tea for your general wellbeing, but it is also effective in the treatment of fevers, flu and other viral infections as well as mouth ulcers.
Remember guys, if you’re not 100% confident with your identification, don’t take any chances. These are just some of the plants that we show people on our Herbal Remedies courses where we study positive identification of plants.