If you have ever spoken to me at a market about our salves you have surely heard me say something along the lines of “All of the herbs we use are either grown by us or gathered from the wild.” And although it certainly requires a bit more effort than simply ordering our herbs online, I can’t imagine doing it any other way.Don’t get me wrong, there are benefits to ordering herbs online .. number one being the selection. You can get your hands on anything. ANYTHING. And anytime, regardless of season. Interested in Chinese herbal medicine? No problem.. Looking to recreate an exotic recipe you found on Pinterest? No problem.. you’re just a few clicks away from whatever your heart desires. You can even get anything your heart desires certified organic by the USDA..The other day I had a lady ask me why I didn’t use Arnica in our Sore Muscle Salve.. the flower is well known for its medicinal qualities and would have been a great addition to the formula, so why didn’t I use it? Well, Arnica doesn’t grow in my woods. In fact, Arnica is actually listed as endangered here in Michigan..so even if it did grow here, I couldn’t harvest it. But wintergreen grows abundantly here and it does wonders for sore muscles, so that what I used.
Just like the local food movement will tell us that eating locally grown, seasonal food is better for our bodies, I feel the same way about our herbs. Plus, there is something to be said about sitting down in the woods or in the fields and gathering my own. I feel like it helps me connect with the plants in a way I couldn’t do otherwise.
If I’m in need of a herb that doesn’t grow wild in my area, my next option is to grow my own. Lavender, thyme, oregano.. I’ve certainly never found these in the wild here but growing them has helped me connect with the plants and I’ve learned so much about the way they live.. as a “wild” plant Echinacea is listed as extinct here in Michigan, but that wouldn’t stop me from growing it and enjoying its many benefits..
But first and foremost, when I gather my own herbs I can be assured of their quality. Below are two pictures of harvested yarrow. One that we gathered here near the homestead (left) and one purchased online from a very reputable organic supplier (right). You’ll notice differences in the condition and colors of the dried plants and the smell of the herbs was drastically different. One sample smelled just like yarrow .. the other, not so much. It really didn’t smell like anything.
And more than once, the thought has crossed my mind, ” What am I going to do in the middle of winter when I run out of comfrey or plantain?”So I would like to open this up to discussion.. I want to hear your thoughts on this. Where do you source your herbs? What are you thoughts on wildcrafting vs. purchasing?
Don’t really have an opinion but want to share an herb related story or recipe? That’s cool too… either way, leave a comment below! 🙂