We are having another hot spell, and to relieve some discomfort while enjoying some quality family time together; a 45 minute drive is all it takes. My husband’s family still has some land right on Lake Michigan and it does wonders as a natural refresher for hot days. The beach is perfect for a mini vacation and the woods and wildlands that surround it are perfect for an aspiring herbalist like me!!
Originally I was looking for Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) because, as far as I can tell, none of the plants that grew last year are coming back in my garden from last year. (After researching I have realized that Mullein is a biennial and this understanding helps relieve my disappointment and confusion). At the beach it appeared there was also none growing, until I noticed a few small plants starting out by the edge of the woods near the beach. Usually these plants can be seen lining the edges of corn fields and on the sides of roads; pretty much any sunny clearing.
We’ll see what summer brings, but so far I have not spotted many plants growing. After seeing the size of the ones by the lake and realizing they have at least another month to go before being full grown, I will be sure to go back in a month or so and see if the flowers are ready to harvest yet.
Luckily, while searching for Mullein (Verbascum thapsus), there were several other wild medicinal herbs to be found. My foraging lead me to discovering Common Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), Heal All (Prunella vulgaris), & Horsetail (Equisetum). This made my exploring very satisfying. The Heal All was everywhere by the overgrown driveway and it stood out because just the other day I had been looking at pictures of this and Vervain. When I saw it the knowledge, having been stored, helped me recognize it immediately! This is definitely the place to go for Heal All this time of year; it was everywhere!
The horsetail was also plentiful there and has such a wonderful history behind it: Horsetail. It is an ancient herb that has been around since the time of dinosaurs and used to grow to the size of trees. Now it varies in size depending on the type and location, but the one I harvested is short and grows a few inches near water/marshy areas. It has a very high silica content and is used for tissue repair, osteoporosis, kidney stones, as a topical wound healer, and to treat urinary tract inflammation; among other ailments.
Common Yarrow is one of the herbs I started from seed this year. The Yarrow that was already growing on the side of our house is various colors other than white, and from what I’ve read, it is best to use the white/common one for medicinal use; the others are hybrids. It is also highly suggested to harvest it when there has been a dry spell and during mid-day so the volatile oils are most potent and the the morning dew is gone. There was a generous amount just starting to flower all over by Lake Michigan where we spent the afternoon, and it was just a bit ahead of mine in the garden so I decided to harvest some and made tinctures out of all three of these wonderful, wild herbs I happened upon!
It was so relaxing and a natural way to cool off for the day! We had fun and, as always, discovered a few new treasures!
It’s never a bad idea to go out and surround yourself with nature!