Identify Healing Plants
Painting by Tammy Lovelady
Healing Herbs are Weeds too
How do we find out if the plant growing on the back fence is poison oak or beautiful morning glory? The plant could be a healing herb but how do you know?
Learning how to identify plants to see if they are harmful or healthy can be helpful especially when the plants are growing in your yard and a person in the house has allergic reactions.
Many of the weeds and wild plants in our yards and forest are beneficial for healing. Others are edible and can supplement a meal while some are poisonous and should be avoided. It is better to know beforehand which plants are harmful to some people so we can avoid allergic reactions.
Items needed: Gloves, Scissors, Paper bag, access to the Web or Library
1. Locate the plant that you want to identify. Put on gloves before handling the plant. If you do not have gloves with you then a piece of paper or material will work to pick up a leaf of the plant.
2. Using scissors cut off a piece of the end of one branch of the plant so you have a couple of leaves and part of the stem. If the plant has flowers, take one flower.
3. Place the trimmings in the paper bag or container to carry home or to the library.
4. Go online and look up plants for the area of the country you are in. It is very important to do this because plants change and adapt for different locations. The plant may not look the same as it does in another area.
5. Spread your trimming out on a piece of paper and look closely at the leaves. Take note of the veins, shape and size of each leaf. Also pay attention to how the leaf is attached to the stem and if the stem is round, square, smooth or rough. Another clue is if the plant is a shade loving or sun loving plant. Every bit of information can be helpful, like is the whole plant a bush or a single stalk plant. All of these notes will assist you in deciding which plant you have.
6. Compare the plant trimmings and notes with examples you find online or in plant books. Always double check another description or example to make sure you have the right identity for the plant.
7. Another excellence place to learn about plants that are native to your area is the county extension office that often has flyers and handouts about local plants.
8. Never use a plant that you are unsure of for healing or eating. Always double check to make sure the plant is identified correctly.