Medicinal Plants Backpackers Should Know

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Artice title: Medicinal Plants Backpackers Should Know

Why learn about medicinal plants? Certainly, backpackers shouldn’t leave the first aid kit home, but it can be useful and interesting to know a few plant medicines too. Whether you are someday in a survival situation, or you just lost your first aid kit and have a terrible headache, wouldn’t it be nice to find relief nearby?

You can. There are many effective medicinal plants. Some are also dangerous, of course, just like synthetic medicines can be. I won’t discuss those here. This is a quick guide to a few safe plant medicines.

Plants For Pain Relief

Fill the bottom of a cup with shredded willow bark, and make a cup of tea with it. Let it steep for a few minutes before you drink it. The active ingredient is salicin, closely related to salacylic acid, which is used to make aspirin. You can also try chewing on a few balsam poplar buds.

Antiseptic Plants

Sap from “blisters” on balsam firs is a strong antiseptic. Pop the blisters on the trunks of young trees, and the sap will ooze out. You can spread it over cuts and small wounds to prevent infection. It is very sticky, however, and it will be difficult to wash off (at least it smells nice).

The crushed leaves of Saint John’s Wort can be used as an antiseptic dressing as well. I once put a wad of the mashed leaves on a nasty gash in my foot, replacing it occasionally, and the cut healed faster than I’ve ever seen a cut heal. St. Johnswort has anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties.

Medicinal Plants For Diarrhea

You can drink tea made from the roots of blackberries and their relatives to stop diarrhea. Just fill the bottom of the cup with the cleaned and shredded roots and pour boiling water over them. Let the mix steep for five minutes before drinking.

Oak bark and other barks containing tannin are also effective. I have also used the twigs to stop diarrhea when I was backpacking in Mexico. Make tea with a spoonful of the bark or chopped-up twigs. Tannins can be hard on the kidneys, so drink just one cup of tea, or use oak only if you don’t have other options.

Skin Medications

You can relieve the itch from insect bites, sunburn, or plant poisoning rashes by applying a poultice of jewelweed (Impatiens biflora). I have seen a poison ivy rash cleared up overnight using the juice from jewelweed. It is also said to work on sunburn as well as aloe vera.

Make a tea of witch hazel leaves (Hamamelis virginiana), and you can use it for relief from insect bites, and sunburn. Witch Hazel used to be a common astringent that women used as a “tightening” face wash.

There are hundreds of wild medicinal plants that could be useful to hikers and backpackers. You don’t need to become an expert to benefit from them. Just learn to identify and use a few of the most widespread and safest ones.

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Backpacking 101 – Backpacking Tips For Beginners

Backpacking can be a fun and exciting adventure in nature, but surviving in the outdoors with only your gear is a dangerous risk for someone with no backpacking experience. Before even planning your first backpacking trip, become familiar with common terms, the necessary gear and equipment, and outdoor accident response and first aid procedures. Read reputable books and guides to gain a better understanding of backpacking before going out on your own. Outdoor and hiking clubs offer members organized training an outings to gain more experience and a number of government and private agencies hold backpacking and hiking classes to further your knowledge.

Backpacking also requires a great deal of physical strength and endurance. Before starting out on a long backpacking outing, you should train yourself not only for the terrain, distance, and climate, but to bear the weight of your pack on an all day trek as well. Exercise regularly and remember to work your lower back, upper back, and abdomen muscles as well as your legs. You should also be aware of your personal medical condition. Be prepared for any adverse affects you may suffer on your outing or consider an easier trip if your conditions warrant.

Plan your backpacking trip carefully far in advance of the actual date. Decide where you will hike and how many days your trip will last. Get familiar with the climate and terrain of the trail so you can adequately prepare your body and get the necessary gear. Always remember to tell friends and family about your backpacking plans. Leave detailed information of where you will be and how long you will be gone with a loved one so help can be sent in the case of an emergency.

Once you have planned your trip, you can decide on gear and equipment. Weight is the most important factor for backpacking. Consider the altitude and climate of the area you will be traveling in, as well as the forecasted weather for the days you will be backpacking. Choosing a tent and sleeping bag will depend on how you personally sleep, the weather, and the number of people going along.

Besides comfortable hiking shoes or boots, a lightweight, appropriate sized pack, and the lightest sleeping gear that meets your needs, there are a few other essential things you should always remember to pack. Most importantly, you will want a relevant, detailed map of the area you will be backpacking in and a reliable compass that you can read. Consider laminating the map to protect from element damage. Carrying all your supplies in Ziploc bags can keep them dry and help you easily find things at the same time.

You will need a flashlight and/or a headlamp. A small, lightweight flashlight is good to carry with you at all times. Remember to bring along an extra set of batteries for your lights. Pocket knives and tools are important for every trip. The Gerber 600 Pro Scout with toolkit is a great all in one option that saves on space and weight.

Pack fire starters and water and wind resistant matches for extreme conditions and emergencies. Fresh water and purifying tablets are also very important backpacking supplies. Always remember to pack a fully stocked first aid kit and a whistle for emergencies. Other items you will want to carry on every trip are a really good bug repellent, especially in summer or marshy locations, sunscreen and a lip balm with sun protection, and at least one pair of high quality sunglasses.

Remember to pack extra food, at least one extra meal, and extra fuel for your stove if the food requires cooking. The final things you need to always bring along on every backpacking trip, even a day trip, are extra clothes and emergency shelter. Extra clothes should include a wool or fleece sweater, waterproof pants and jacket, thermal underwear, insulated gloves and socks, and a warm polypro, wool, or polar fleece cap. Space bags and tube tents are good lightweight shelters.