Autumn is a spectacular time to enjoy the cooler temperatures and bright colors as you gather herbs for winter. It is also one of the best times of the year to harvest bark, seeds and roots.
While you are out foraging, take note of plants you want to harvest next spring. Mark their location now so you will be prepared when tender, new shoots first appear. Notice the locations of nettles and poke. Both are best used while they are young.
It’s Time to Get the Turkey Tails!
While hunters may be out stalking the Thanksgiving bird or imbibing in Wild Turkey whiskey, I prefer to forage for turkey tails of a different kind. Turkey tail mushrooms are colorful fungi which make good medicine. While turkey tail mushrooms may be gathered year-round, they really stand out on fallen logs during autumn. They are among the best herbs to use for deep immune system support. You may dry them and grind them up when needed, or tincture them for best results. They store well, so I generally just keep dried ones on hand. (Learn how to tincture here.)
I use turkey tails for people who are immune-compromised. When I had cancer, a friend used to include them in a potent healing tonic which I believe helped me to withstand conventional treatment more readily. The herb is powerful and well-tolerated. People who have autoimmune diseases should not use turkey tails. However they are beneficial for most other individuals who are coping with chronic, debilitating conditions. As with all natural remedies listed here, check with a trusted medical doctor before using.
Enjoy the Oaks Groves
In addition to making a terrific picnicking spot to lounge under while you are out foraging, those magnificent oak trees provide useful medicine and food. The inner bark of oak is a strong astringent. It may be used to firm, dry and tone mucus membranes. It is antiseptic and can be used to rid humans or pets of intestinal worms. The herb can be made into a powder and applied directly to bedsores or other open wounds as a means to fight infection and dry up moisture. Be sure to cleanse wounds carefully before applying the powder. Repeat as necessary depending upon the nature of the sore.
Oak bark can bring down elevated temperatures. Think ahead to winter. Congestion, runny noses, fevers and sore throats often develop as the cold weather sets in. Inner oak bark is the perfect remedy. While most studies have been conducted on white oak inner bark, you may use the inner bark from any oak tree.
If there are fallen limbs down from autumn rains, obtain the bark from those. Only obtain a small amount of bark if you are harvesting it from a living tree. Never harvest bark from around the total circumference of any tree; you will kill the tree if you do that.
To obtain the inner bark, simply separate the bark from the wood. You will notice that the inner bark is a different color and texture than the outer bark. Cut or scape the inner bark away from the outer bark. You may dry or tincture the inner bark. It may be decocted, made into syrups or ground up and made into pills or capsules.
Autumn Fields: Herbal Pharmacies
I think that one of the prettiest sights in autumn is a field in full bloom with purple New England asters and brightly colored, yellow goldenrod. These fields are often edged with brilliant, scarlet sumacs. If you have access to such a field, know that you have a rich harvesting site.
Roots of New England asters may be harvested easily. The tea relieves inflammation. It has antiviral and antioxidant compounds in it. Shakers used the tea to soothe skin irritations. Prepare the tea as a decoction.
Goldenrod makes the best remedy that I know of for sinus congestion and pain. Use the leaves to make an infusion or tincture.
If Staghorn sumac is present and the fuzzy red berries are still hanging on in their horn-like formations, harvest a few and make a lemonade-like drink which is a great source of vitamin C to fight off illnesses as the temperatures decrease.
While you are wandering in the fields, notice if any blackberry bushes are there. If so, dig up a few roots and you will have a natural, effective remedy for diarrhea.
You may be fortunate to find some wild comfrey which has escaped from a long ago garden while you traverse the fields and woods. If so, harvest a piece of the root. It will be hard work, but comfrey is unsurpassed for its abilities to heal skin problems. Just don’t use it on open wounds or internally because compounds in comfrey can be harmful to your liver.
Enjoy the fabulous weather and sights that fall offers as you harvest the medicine you need to stay well during the cold months ahead.
What do your forage for in the fall? Share your tips in the section below: