Tag Archives: plants

Herbs of the Ozarks

I believe that if we know the local herbs in any region well enough, we can rely on them nearly exclusively to treat most common complaints. This holds true for the Ozark region, where many classic American herbs grow and many introduced species also tend to flourish. In fact, the Ozarks are part of the native range for herbs in very high demand—like goldenseal and American ginseng.

Another well-known plant from this part of the country is black cohosh. This herb is found in nearly every blend for menopausal symptoms, but it is most effective for women that have a particular constellation of symptoms, such as hot flashes, depression, and achy muscles or joints. Studies are showing that black cohosh may reduce the hormone surges associated with hot flashes. Black cohosh might also have constituents that act similarly to the medications known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which could explain its possible mood benefits. Furthermore, black cohosh also has pain-relieving attributes that make it an ideal herb to choose for discomfort and complaints not related to menopause. It contains analgesic and inflammation modulating constituents that make it a promising consideration for joint and muscle pains. Women can use it to address menstrual cramps because it relaxes smooth muscles, such as those found in the uterus. Black cohosh is also an herbal option for men who have low back and knee pain, especially if they also have prostate issues or are under a lot of stress.

 Robert H. Mohlenbrock @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / USDA SCS. 1991. Southern wetland flora: Field office guide to plant species. South National Technical Center, Fort Worth.


Robert H. Mohlenbrock @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / USDA SCS. 1991. Southern wetland flora: Field office guide to plant species. South National Technical Center, Fort Worth.

Japanese honeysuckle is a plant that is probably known to every Arkansan, but few know about its health benefits. Japanese honeysuckle isn’t native to the Ozarks. It was introduced and is now invasive, but one way to combat invasive plants is to harvest them for herbal medicine. The flowers of Japanese honeysuckle are antimicrobial, antiviral, inflammation modulating, and mildly detoxifying. The most common traditional use of honeysuckle flowers is as a component of Chinese herbal blends for colds and flu. A modern use of honeysuckle flowers is as an addition to pharmaceutical or herbal antimicrobial agents to increase their effectiveness. Additionally, Japanese honeysuckle flowers can help block the pumps that harmful bacteria use to disseminate the antimicrobial agents out of themselves. Apart from supplementation, Honeysuckle flowers are also mildly cooling and can make a refreshing summertime iced tea.

So we don’t necessarily have to search exotic lands for our medicinal herbs. Instead we can use our local plants provided by Mother Nature to help our environment and ourselves.

And you can check out my recent appearance on a local Harrison TV station talking about some other common herbs found here in the Ozarks.

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Black Walnut: Powerful Herbal Warrior

On our farm on the western edge of the Ozarks, we have several magnificent black walnut trees. This is one of the native Arkansas plants I missed when in lived in Washington State. I came home to visit one fall around this time and actually carried a few of the freshly fallen nuts home with me on the plane. Other people may curse the black walnut trees in their yards because other plants have a particularly hard time growing in their shade. Black walnut trees practice chemical warfare by producing substances that inhibit the growth of many other plants so they can maintain their dominance. This attribute of black walnut gives us insight into the role this tree can play in our health.

Just as the black walnut trees fight off other plants, the black walnut hulls are used to help reduce the growth of pathogenic organisms, especially in the gastrointestinal tract. While black walnut hulls may be best known as part of an “anti-parasitic” formula, it may actually be better as an antifungal agent. It can also be applied topically to the skin. Black walnut hulls can have a fairly strong laxative effect on the gut, and in larger doses, can induce vomiting.

The green outer hull of the nut is the part of the black walnut that is used by most herbalists. The green hulls can either be used fresh or made into a tincture. If you want to work with the hulls yourself, consider using gloves because they can stain your hands. It is also worth going through the effort of cracking the very tough shell to get to the nuts. These have a very distinct flavor, but can be used like any other nut. When it comes to using the hulls, be cautious. This is a very strong herb that should only be used short term or under the supervision of a medical profession.