Treating by Tissue State – Plant Medicine for the Woodsman

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Treating by Tissue State – Plant Medicine for the Woodsman

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TREATING BY TISSUE STATE

The woodsmen of the eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth centuries could go out into the woods and find the medicinal plants they needed to survive. We’ve lost much of this knowledge over the years, but the following will give you the essentials needed to treat common ailments with plants typically found throughout the Eastern Woodlands.

By learning to treat by tissue state (as described by herbalist Matthew Wood), you remove a lot of the guesswork involved in selecting treatment options so long as you can positively identify your medicinal plants.

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BUSHCRAFT TIP

What are herbs? The botanical definition is a seed-bearing plant that dies back to the ground after blooming and does not have a woody stem. The other definition of herb, which is the one we will use in this chapter, is any plant or part of a plant that is used for medicine. Under this

definition, herbs include leaves, flowers, buds, stems, roots, bark, berries, seeds, mushrooms, rhizomes—any plant or part of a plant that can be used for healing.

definition, herbs include leaves, flowers, buds, stems, roots, bark, berries, seeds, mushrooms, rhizomes—any plant or part of a plant that can be used for healing.

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THE FIVE TISSUE STATES

The five tissue states are:

1. Dry: dry cough, first-degree burns, and abrasions

2. Cold: constipation, fungal infections

3. Wind: changing conditions of hot/cold, cramps

4. Hot: minor burns, fever, bites, blisters

5. Wet: bleeding, diarrhea, wet cough/congestion

Once you understand tissues states, you can select a plant to treat the tissue state, regardless of the specific problem. The herb can treat any of these issues— the processing of that herb is really all that will change.

HERBAL PROPERTIES

Please note that you should not go around tasting plants that you cannot readily identify. When you begin to study plants and learn to identify them, it helps greatly to find a local expert you can work with. If one is not available, all is not lost. You can learn on your own, but you should follow a few simple rules. Get at least three references that show the plant in detail and have a good description of not only the plant itself but also where and how it grows. Photos of it in different parts of its life cycle will be very helpful. When it comes to trees, be sure to get a book that shows details of the bark, nuts, and fruit as well.

Take your books to the field and start exploring.

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BUSHCRAFT TIP

One acronym I learned from a man they call Green Dean is ITEM:

• I = Identity: Identify the plant with several references.

• T = Time: Is the plant growing, blooming, fruiting in the proper time of year?

• E = Environment: Is the plant growing in the proper environment?

• M = Method: Use the proper method of harvest and preparation.

Understanding herbal properties will allow you to understand how to apply a medicinal plant to a specific tissue state. For example, different plants have different taste properties that will treat a specific tissue state:

1. Mucilaginous: sticky, slimy—used for lubrication and cooling

2. Bitter: bitter flavor—used for stimulation and heating

3. Astringent: dries out the mouth, creates a pucker reflex—used for drying and restricting

4. Volatile oil: fragrant plants—used for soothing and antisepsis

5. Resin: sticky substance that hardens, such as pine sap and birch tar—used for antisepsis and as an antifungal

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