Minnesota plants used for medicine

Herbalists around the Twin Cities still use plant-based medicine in daily life.

Hannah Weikel

Today, herbalism and wild plant foraging has become an increasingly popular alternative to modern medicine. 
 

 
Herbal medicine is still widely used among American-Indian, Chinese and European populations in primary health care. These practices are also becoming more normalized in American health, especially among younger generations.
 
 
University of Minnesota Horticulture Science Assistant Professor Changbin Chen said many of the chemicals in modern medicine derive from plants, adding that the best medical treatment combines herbal and pharmaceutical remedies.
 
 
The university teaches classes about herbalism and alternative medicine through the Center for Spirituality and Healing said Carolyn Porta, a nursing associate professor. These classes provide information about identifying plants and using the medicinal parts for tinctures, oils and teas. 
 
 
The parts of a plant have different uses for the body, Porta said. For example, dandelion flowers can be soaked in olive oil, and the infused oil can be used for massage to reduce muscle pain, she said, while the roots and leaves can act as a digestive aid.
 
 
Angela Campbell, an herbalist in south Minneapolis, teaches classes about local medicinal and edible plants at community centers and hosts “Local Plant ID Walks” around her neighborhood. 
 
 
Campbell said it’s important for rookies to set out with a skilled plant identifier or a book with detailed pictures and warnings. 
 
 
There are many plant look-alikes, and a mistaken identity could do more harm than help, she said. 
 
 
Herbal medicine works differently for everyone, Campbell said. Because it has less-serious side effects than pharmaceuticals, she said, it’s worth trying in low doses to see what herbs respond well to a person’s body.