Herbs of the North Shore

At the beginning of August, I spent a few days on the North Shore at a personal retreat center called A Room of One’s Own, in Lutsen, MN. It was a wonderful break in the action before the big move! I especially enjoy hiking on the trails near Lake Superior, and taking in all the incredible plant life. Here are a few beautiful specimens that I found.

Usnea – Usnea filipendula

Usnea is a lichen that grows on dead tree branches and trunks. It is also known as “old man’s beard,” and here you can see why. Usnea is known for its anti-bacterial and anti-fungal effects. I typically use it in small doses for staph infections. It is best to use usnea, either topically or internally, in small doses for a short time.

Club Moss – Lycopodium clavatum

This isn’t an herb that I have used, despite the fact that I admire it every time I visit the North Shore. It grows on the forest floor. It is traditionally used to treat bladder and kidney disorders, acting as a diuretic. The spores have historically been used topically on various skin conditions, including eczema and bed sores. According to Maria Treben, an esteemed Austrian herbalist, it also can be used to treat leg cramps. Read more about what Maria Treben has to say about club moss.

Horsetail – Equisetum arvense

This prehistoric plant likes to grow in damp soil. It functions as a diuretic, represented by its hollow stem in the doctrine of signatures. It is also useful in promoting healthy skin and nails. Similar to club moss, it is a vascular plant that reproduces by spores rather than seeds.

Solomon’s seal – Polygonatum multiflorum

Solomon’s seal grows in woodlands throughout our area. I use a tincture of the root constantly for musculoskeletal complaints and injuries. In Chinese medicine it is also used for lung infections and dry coughs. Matthew Wood describes its effect on connective tissue as tightening that which is loose, and loosening that which is tight. This is one of the top ten most-used herbs in my apothecary!

Purple Loostrife – Lythrum salicaria

This plant is considered to be invasive throughout our area and eastward. Herbalist Jim McDonald  has become quite a fan of this plant for drippy and irritated sinuses. It not only dries up the drip, but it also soothes the inflamed tissues. Similarly, it can be used in an irritated digestive tract with diarrhea. It’s always nice to find good uses for über-plentiful species.