50 Essential Wild Edible, Tea, and Medicinal Plants You Need to Know

I’ve been often asked in reference to a survival or bug-out situation “which wild edible and medicinal plants should I study and know?”.

Unfortunately there is no clearcut answer for this since it’s highly dependent upon where you live. But if I would boil it down to the top 50 essential wild edible, tea, and medicinal plants that occur in most areas of the northern hemisphere this would be the list:

Note: I’ve added links to the plants which I’ve covered in detail on this site on how to identify, prepare, and use for food or medicine. Bookmark this page since these links will continue to grow as I demonstrate the uses of these plants in upcoming articles.

50 Essential Wild-Edible, Tea, and Medicinal Plants

  1. Amaranth/Pigweed (Amaranthus) – Food
  2. Arrowhead/Wapato (Sagittaria L.) – Food
  3. Balsam Fir (Abies balsamia) – Food
  4. Blackberry (Rubus L.) – Food
  5. Blue Aster (Symphyotrichum laeve) – Food
  6. Blueberries (Vaccinium L.) – Food
  7. Bracken Fern (Pteridium aquilinum) – Food
  8. Burdock (Arctium lappa) – Food
  9. Bulrushes (Schoenoplectus L.) – Food
  10. Bur-Reed (Sparganium L.) – Food
  11. Birch (White) (Betula pendula) – Food, Drink
  12. Catnip (Nepeta L.) – Medicine
  13. Cattail (Typha L.) – Food
  14. Chamomile (Anthemis L.) – Tea
  15. Chicory (Cichorium L.) – Food
  16. Clover (Trifolium pratense L. and Trifolium repens L.) – Food
  17. Curly Dock (Rumex crispus L.) – Food
  18. Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) – Food
  19. Daylily (Hemerocallis L.) – Food
  20. Elderberry (Sambucus nigra L.) – Food
  21. False Solomon Seal / Treacleberry (Maianthemum racemosum) – Medicine
  22. Fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium) – Food
  23. Goldenrod (Solidago L.) – Tea
  24. Heal-All (Stachys L.) – Medicine
  25. Japanese Knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum) – Food, Medicine
  26. Lambsquarters (Chenopodium album L.) – Food
  27. Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) – Tea
  28. Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca L.) – Food
  29. Mints (Mentha L.) – Tea
  30. Mullein (Verbascum thapsus L.) – Medicine
  31. Mustard (Sinapis L.) – Food
  32. Oak (acorns) (Quercus L.) – Food
  33. Pine (Pinus L.) – Food
  34. Plantain (Plantago L.) – Food
  35. Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) – Food
  36. Queen Anne’s Lace / Wild Carrot (Daucus carota L.) – Food
  37. Rose Hips (Rosa L.) – Food
  38. Sheep’s Sorrel (Rumex acetosella L.) – Food
  39. Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica L.) – Food
  40. Sumac (Rhus typhina L. and Rhus glabra L.) – Food
  41. Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) – Medicine
  42. Thistle (Cirsium L.) – Food, Medicine
  43. Violet (Viola L.) – Food
  44. Weeping Willow (Salix babylonica) – Medicine
  45. Wild Lettuce (Lactuca L.) – Food
  46. Wild Leek (Allium tricoccum) – Food
  47. Wild Rice (Zizania L.) – Food
  48. Wild Strawberry (Fragaria vesca) – Food
  49. Wood Sorrel (Oxalis L.) – Food
  50. Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) – Tea, Medicine

Most Common Places to Find these Plants

ROADSIDES

  • Chicory
  • Curly Dock
  • Daylily
  • Elderberry
  • Fireweed
  • Japanese Knotweed
  • Meadowsweet
  • Milkweed
  • Mullein
  • Queen Anne’s Lace
  • Yarrow

WOODS

  • Balsam Fir
  • Blue Aster
  • Bracken Fern
  • Oak (acorns)
  • Pine
  • White Birch
  • Wood Sorrel

BROOK AREAS OR SWAMPS

  • Arrowhead/Wapato
  • Bullrushes
  • Bur-Reed
  • Cattail
  • False Solomn’s Seal
  • Weeping Willow
  • Wild Rice

FIELDS, LAWNS and GARDENS

  • Amaranth
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Burdock
  • Catnip
  • Chamomile
  • Dandelion
  • Daylily
  • Field Sorrel
  • Goldenrod
  • Heal-All
  • Lamb’s Quarters
  • Mint
  • Mustard
  • Plantain
  • Purslane
  • Raspberries
  • Red & White Clover
  • Rose Hips
  • Sumac
  • Strawberry
  • Tansy
  • Thistle
  • Wild Lettuce

Some Helpful Hints on Identifying and Getting Started

Be sure to check out my article on How to Identify Wild Edible and Medicinal Plants for some helpful tips and recommended resources in getting you started.

Copyright © 2014 Tactical Intelligence. All Rights Reserved

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24 Comments»

Comment by vegetable gardening
2011-06-14 04:32:01

such an informative article. Very vital especially to a camper.

 
Comment by Jason
2011-06-25 17:57:40

Another good one is Jewelweed. Quite common in the woods I like to visit. You can cut off the stem and use the juices to ease the itching of poison ivy, and even better, if you’re quick enough, counteract and stop poison ivy from getting on you in the first place. It is said that you find jewelweed where you find poison ivy, but some debate that. The jewelweeds with spotted orange flowers (touch-me-nots) are best, as opposed to yellow. My favorite topical “stuff” is tannin due to it’s versatility, but this flower can actually stop ivy from working it’s black magic on you.

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2011-06-25 22:13:31

Jason,

Good one. Jewelweed is excellent as a remedy for itching and bug bites (I like it when I get particularly bad mosquito bites).

It’s true that where you find poison ivy is not necessarily where you’d find jewelweed. Jewelweed seems to prefer moist, rich soils whereas poison ivy will grow in poor, disturbed soils as well as rich ones. It is often the case where I find poison ivy i do find Jewelweed, however it’s just as often that I find poison ivy and jewelweed is nowhere in sight.

Thanks for the comments Jason.

 
 
Comment by Jason
2011-07-11 20:47:04

No, man, thank you for the good article. I was just hoping to help expand it. I have a question for you, though. Wild Lettuce. Just how dangerous is it for you? I know you can use it as a sedative or some other kind of high, but how much is too much? Been thinking about experimenting, but I’m not a fan of putting myself in unneeded danger.

2011-07-12 12:59:43

I’ve eaten it as an edible but beyond that don’t have much info for ya man.

 
 
Comment by Jason
2011-07-12 11:06:04

I dunno how to get the url for the specific picture, so I’m sending the URL for my whole album on FB. I want to know if my top picture is Yellow Sorrel. I am aware that you probably can’t make a 100% positive ID, but I value your opinion highly. http://www.facebook.com/#!/media/set/?set=a.164939980196013.32039.100000400361032 If you can take a look at that, that would be awesome, thanks.

2011-07-12 12:42:19

Jason,

That’s definitely wood sorrel. Not positive at this point if it’s Oxalis stricta (Common Yellow Wood Sorrel) however it is definitely Oxalis which means you can eat it.

 
 
Comment by Jason
2011-07-12 12:44:32

Oh cool. Yeah, I tried half a “heart”, and my stupid brain being the way it is, started making me feel like I was exhibiting some symptoms if . . . I dunno :P But yeah, by now, I’m certain it wasn’t poisonous. Tasted just like an apple peel! I love it. I got the idea to look for that specific plant from a PDF book by 7Summits.

 
Comment by Sandy
2011-07-14 04:34:15

Wonderful website and articles…thank you! I am amazed and delighted to find out that so many of the plants growing in my wooded field, which I can positively identify, are edible! I can’t wait to go out foraging for sumac berries and sprouts, cattails, dandelions, and daylillies! I only wish that you had pictures and articles on all 50 of the edible plants, as I am sure that I have many many more of them as well.

I use Jewelweed all the time as a topical treatment for poison ivy and mosquito bites. Just break open the stem and rub the juice inside on the affected area. You can also make a spray by placing the stems and leaves in a blender with a little water, then strain into a spray bottle. Keep it in the refridgerator to keep it fresh. Adding a little alcohol to the mixture will help to sustain the mixture longer as well, and may also help to dry up the rash. I heard someone suggest once freezing this concoction into icecubes and storing them in the freezer for use in colder seasons when Jewelweed is not growing, though I think I would be curious to know if it loses some of its effectiveness this way.

Thank you again :)

 
2011-07-14 11:57:07

Thanks Sandy. I plan on covering most, if not all, of these plants in future articles so stay tuned. And great tips on making a jewelweed spray! I’ll be sure to try that.

 
Comment by Willow
2011-07-23 09:48:42

Hi, This is a wonderful article and a great place to learn. I would like to however, add just a couple thoughts. Catnip is from the mint family and makes a wonderful tea. It’s soothig, cooling and relaxing. Catmint/nip can be nibbled as a trail food. AND the good part of catmint/nip is it’s a calmative. Just what we might need when times are the most stressful.

Plantain is a great one to get to know, it’s known as an antitoxin and works great on stings, boils, poison ivy, etc. Certain indian tribes used it to draw out thorns and splinters in the food so powerful is it’s “drawing” effects. If you’re hiking out, become familiar with plantain…so that next time you get into a batch of poison ivy or get stung…simply macerate a few leaves of plantain and leave it on the affected area, when it dries out, do it again…even chewing it up and leaving it moist and applying it, if nothing else is available, will work. You’ll be amazed at how quickly the pain and itch subside. AND it’s a great wild edible…even the dried seeds.

Don’t forget Chickweed, is an awesome wild edible and pretty much the bane of nearly everyone’s back yard. It’s small, and sneaky when in your yard, but don’t kill it…get even and eat it. Full of nutrients and easily identifiable and certainly abundant nearly everywhere in the US.

Well, I hope I didn’t come off as a smarty pants…but I’m working on a Master Herbalist program in my spare time and just wanted to help out…Thanks for listening
Willow

 
Comment by john
2012-02-28 12:54:34

Nice Master in herbalist. I’m trying to come up with a name for my edible botanical baking Co. Lost for words, names have all ready been taken it there just to stuffy. Any ideas?

 
Comment by Bret
2012-07-19 10:29:11

This is one of the best sites describing wild edibles I’ve seen so far. Thanks for your efforts. Foraging is to me a fascinating endeavor and I am surprised more people don’t take advantage of what is free top quality nutrients.

Although you have listed mustard, I think garlic mustard deserves a special mention. It is invasive and incredibly abundant where I live in the Chicago suburbs. And it is a remarkably delicious wild edible, very easy to identify. Land cress is also very common in my area and quite tasty. Mulberries could be had by the tanker truck full for any so inclined, and there are also lots of wild raspberries in certain forest preserves.

One of my favorites are May Apples – very delicious with a uniquely tart flavor but also potentially toxic if consumed when not completely ripe. The rest of the plant is also poisonous. Probably one that, along with Pokeweed, is best avoided by novices.

At any rate, I hope you will be able to provide more great in depth articles on these wonderful wild edibles. Thanks again!

 
Comment by Brenda
2012-08-21 06:59:17

Plaintain should be added to the medicinal list. Cures infections…especially spider bites. Saved me surgery twice. If I had to choose one plant to eat and heal…this would sin hands down. Nice to know it is EVERYWHERE too!

 
Comment by Brenda
2012-08-21 07:01:18

The jewel weed never helped my poison….Not sure why so I scrub with salt and wash with dish detergent. Anything that is a degreaser with get rid of the oil. If I would wash with it as soon as I touch it but that never happens. LOL.

 
Comment by Jason
2013-02-13 11:56:33

That’s how I usually get rid of poison ivy, since I can’t even find jewelweed where I live, no matter how hard I look.

 
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Comment by Tanya
2013-04-04 10:15:58

Thank you so much for the AWESOME information!

 
Comment by Pat
2013-04-08 19:34:02

I have found that if you can memorize around a dozen edibles in your area by each season and terrain it is not such an over whelming task. You should be able to picture the plant in your head with no doubt as there are lots of poisonus plants that look similar to edibles. There are great books out there by region. I have the Field guide to edible wild plants/ Eastern North America by Lee Allen Peterson. If I have any doubt about what a plant looks like I also look it up on line for as many photos as I can find to be sure I am right.
I am in CT and though it is a bit early in the season, I have been able to pick chickweed and just today steamed day lilies for lunch.

 
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Comment by Janice
2013-08-19 09:16:39

Thanks for this information. This would be awesome as a deck of cards.

 
Comment by cynthia
2013-09-22 11:57:29

You should include American Basswood(Linden) tree, Tilia americana, on this list; both edible and medicinal: flowers make a great tea, new leaves can be used in salads, the charcoal can be ingested especially for intestinal issues: “Linden flowers are used in colds, cough, fever, infections, inflammation, high blood pressure, headache (particularly migraine), as a diuretic (increases urine production), antispasmodic (reduces smooth muscle spasm along the digestive tract), and sedative. The flowers were added to baths to quell hysteria, and steeped as a tea to relieve anxiety-related indigestion, irregular heartbeat, and vomiting. The leaves are used to promote sweating to reduce fevers. The wood is used for liver and gallbladder disorders and cellulitis (inflammation of the skin and surrounding soft tissue). That wood burned to charcoal is ingested to treat intestinal disorders and used topically to treat edema or infection, such as cellulitis or ulcers of the lower leg” — Wikipedia

 
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