Wild plants in Oklahoma touted for health benefits | News

A number of wild plants — some found in Oklahoma — can be used for health benefits, either with the direction of a natureopath or individually, but caution is urged.

Taylor Goodwin, a natureopath in Jay, Oklahoma, presented a seminar, Oklahoma Medicinal and Edible Plants, at the Tahlequah Public Library Oct. 4.

Goodwin finished up his naturopathic doctor program at Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine and Health Sciences, now known as Sonoran University of Health Sciences in Tempe, Arizona.

“I do naturopathic consultations. It’s kind of like a general practitioner, except I’m not primary care, at least not in this state, and I use alternative medicine for the most part – herbs, lifestyles, supplements, acupuncture, hydrotherapy, etc.,” Goodwin said.

In the presentation, Goodwin shared core safety rules in the use of medicinal plants, and three of the local plants that grow in the Ozarks that have medicinal purposes, and are easy to identify.

“They have applications as healthy food, but also as a way to do some home medicine,” Goodwin said. “There’s a time and place where that’s appropriate.”

Goodwin has a practice in Jay, and teaches herbal and medicine making. In his consultations, Goodwin goes over whatever issue a patient might be having, and works in tandem with the person’s primary care doctor.

In Oklahoma, Goodwin said acceptance by the medical field has been “surprisingly good.”

Susan Callison, a Tahlequah resident, attended the seminar because she is interested in local plants that can be used medicinally.

Although she uses Indian Health Services and they don’t work with naturopaths, Callison came to the event because she was interested in what Goodwin had to share on the topic.

During the safety part of Goodwin’s talk, he encouraged the attendees to be very careful with what they find in the wild, and to be sure they know what they are gathering.

He told the story of having the opportunity to go on a week-long herbal education trip in the foothills of Colorado with a group of friends. On the last day, the teacher took them up into the mountains looking for Osha, or Bear Plant. The group went to where the stand had been and found it was missing. So she sent the students off to look for arnica and violet while she looked for another area with the plant.

The teacher found some Osha and a student pointed out that plant looked like poison hemlock.

“The way to tell the difference is by the smell,” the teacher said to the group.

This is an important thing to include when training people how to make medicine, Goodwin said.

Goodwin said there are three reasons why he tells the story. One, when learning something where the stakes are serious, you want to have more than one source. Two, Osha was scarce, and it used to be endangered and it was a responsible practice to harvest just the one for the group of 30.

“So [people] can harvest plants so that they become scarce locally, and if enough localities do that, they can go flat out extinct,” Goodwin said. “Take what you need, not more.”

The third reason is to be sure of the identification of the plant.

“So Osha looked a lot like poison hemlock,” Goodwin said. “There were a few things under a lens where you could tell them apart, but smell and the elevation [where it was found] is your first introduction to telling them apart.”

Most plants are not that hard to tell apart, Goodwin said, but be aware there are stories of park rangers who grabbed some wild greens for a sandwich, “and that was their last sandwich.”

The first plant in the presentation was Plantain, also known as Plantago, which is good for wound healing. It can be prepared as a poultice with a cloth and applied to the injury, or chewed up and applied directly to the wound, Goodwin said.

Oak, the second plant, works as a binding astringent, and the second action is as an antiseptic. It kills fungi, bacteria and viruses, but not all of those, Goodwin said.

“The biggest oak tree in Europe is in, of all places, Sherwood Forest, and I think that’s poetic,” Goodwin said.

The third subject of his talk, Perilla, which is sometimes called Japanese Basil and Beefsteak plant in the U.S, is in the mint family. Cattle and sheep farmers do not like this plant as it is toxic to their animals and causes acute respiratory distress.

Goodwin’s three favorite medicinal actions of Perilla are involved in breathing, emotional center and clarity of mind. He calls it the “meditation plant.”

On the first Wednesday of each month from 6:30-7:30 p.m., Goodwin presents a seminar on three wild growing herbs and their medicinal properties, and how to recognize and utilize them. This is a free talk and the public is welcome.

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