Ok, so none of these are actually exotic at all, they just come from a little bit further north than I can easily get to.
Wild Ginger (Asarum caudatum) – One of my less common allies. This plant is amazing, all the benefits of domestic Ginger but with an extra wild deep forest feel. I only get this plant from wildcrafters I know personally, since its delicate rainforest habitat is in danger of being eradicated. Wild Ginger is just so warm and yummy, it’s a great addition to many formulas and does tons on its own as well. A great plant for any cold condition that needs some local energy and blood to initiate healing. Fresh Wild Ginger Elixir is a wonderful addition to Elderberry Elixir, and warms it up for colder constitutions too. If you need to sweat, this is a great plant to help you. As an added benefit, both the root and leaf can be used.
Sweet Root (Osmorhiza Occidentalis) – Yummy, root beer flavored roots from the Rocky Mountains. This is a great anti-fungal medicine, as well as being wound healing and very belly soothing for all kinds of nausea, infection and general belly out of whackness. Did I mention it tastes good? Makes a fabulous syrup. I’m going to try this one in my garden over the winter and see if it survives to proliferate next season.
Wild Peony Root (Paeonia brownii)) – Mine comes from the Rocky Mountains of Idaho, wildcrafted for me by wonderful herbalist Darcy Williamson. Comparing fresh Wild Peony Root to the Peony root of commerce is like comparing fresh caught, woodfire grilled wild Salmon to dollar store Tuna in a generic tin can. Really. It’s still medicine and it’ll work if you really need it but it totally lacks class, panache and the ever essential taste of wildness. Wild Peony makes a gorgeous wintergreen scented deep violet colored tincture. It moves blood, stops cramps and relaxes tense muscles like nothing else. It was the one and only thing that stopped my extremely painful ovarian cyst cramps back in the day, and the one thing that removed the cyst, in only three months. Since then, I’ve used it many times for menstrual cramps (often works, but not always), cysts (nearly always helps, often resolves), stagnant blood and energy (works beautifully), tense, stressed muscles, anxiety and externally for bruises or other local trauma.
Devil’s Club/Bear’s Claw (Oplopanax horridus) – Poweful plant with a distinct taste and feel. Calming, blood sugar lowering and generally adaptogenic with an affinity for the lungs and adrenals. Really helps with those evil sugar cravings that potentially drive you to ripping open candy bar wrappers with your teeth. I haven’t yet had a chance to see its effects long term, but the short term mood and metabolism altering effects are impressive. My apprentice Kate from Washington graciously harvests this plant for me. Rhiannon helped me come up with the name Bear’s Claw, since neither of us liked the original, and rather degrading name. It’s especially appropriate since this plant is a traditional bear medicine and was first used medicinally because of native peoples observing the silver tipped bruins digging and using the root. Check out Matt Woods’ interesting and remarkably accurate understanding of the animal medicines as applied to herbs, he talks about it somewhat in the Book of Herbal Wisdom as well as in yet to be published material.
And on a northern non-root note:
Labrador/Swamp/Trapper’s Tea (Ledum spp.)- An amazing plant from the far north, this is just about impossible for me to obtain except through the rare Alaska/Canada connection which I am sadly short on just now (any volunteers?) I love its amazing taste and gently mood altering effects, as well as its impressive antibacterial and wound healing abilities. A side benefit is that if you drink enough of this stuff, the mosquitoes will be more likely to leave you alone. This plant has a bad reputation for being toxic, but I’ve not seen any dangerous effects from the tea. According to Michael Moore, the less pleasant constituents are not water soluble. The tincture is great for short term acute chest/lung irritation with persistent cough though.