There's a certain magic that comes with gathering your own plant medicine. Not all of us get to live in pristine and nature-filled places, but part of the magic is making the trek all the way up to the mountains and flower fields. Here at Wild Rising, we make the journey out to California's Eastern Sierras at least once a month. We love this area so much we ended up naming one of our CBD ritual smokes after it ("the Sierra"). We load up our big dogs, two bags of hot cheetos and 5 gallon water tanks into our rambler van. Then we keep driving until we're over 8000 feet, which funnily enough is where we finally feel like we can breathe.
Just this past weekend, we were wildcrafting near Mammoth Lakes, California. We never go and look for anything specific. Rather, we let our intuition and divine nature guide us to the medicine. This time, we went home with rosehips, yarrow, sagebrush flowers, rabbitbrush, and mullein. Not surprisingly, these gifts from Mother Nature were exactly what we needed on a personal and spiritual level.
Have you tried wildcrafting? It's a beautiful and meditative practice. Empty your expectations, allow yourself to wander, and feel the subtle draw toward certain brushes and flowers.
Of course, everything will seem foreign at first. We recommend taking home one specimen to start, and then learning all that you can about the plant. More often than not, you can identify the plant with a quick internet search: color, location, texture. There are also many blogs and books out there that identify fauna and flora of popular wilderness recreation areas like Mammoth Lakes. Lucky for us, we used to live in town and received a lot of local wisdom during that time.
To get you started on your own wildcrafting adventures, here are some tips from our horticulturist Kevin.
Get a guidebook at the local Forest Service Visitor Center. Sometimes the interpretive ranger also has free pamphlets or "junior ranger scavenger hunts" that have info on wildflowers and plants.
Be mindful where you walk. Watch for the baby plants!
Use sharp pruning shears to make clean cuts.
Sanitize your shears with alcohol wipes between every brush to reduce the risk of plant disease transfer.
Cut stems at a 45 degree angle above new buds. This helps with water run off to reduce moisture issues and mold.
Harvest a small amount across many plants. This will help to avoid overharvesting, which can damage a plant.
Know the plant's season to know which parts to take. This keeps the plant healthy but also guides you toward which part (roots, stem, leaves, flower) is currently the most medicinal and energetic.
Take a moment to get quiet and open your heart to the plant.
Ask before you take. Give gratitude and an offering (sometimes its as simple as watering the plant).
Know the land you're on. Not only is this respectful of the Original keepers, it opens you up to the ancient wisdom. We found that honoring the Original People of the area has led us to unexpected places and plants. For example, we say out loud "I honor the healers and herbal elders of the Paiute-Shoshone tribe and ask for your kind assistance in guiding me through your home." (https://native-land.ca)