Field Medicine for a Survival Situation


A reader e-mailed to ask if I could suggest some medicinal wild plants that could be used fresh in the field, without much preparation, in an emergency survival situation. Usually I write about plants that take some amount of time to turn into medicine, so I thought this was a good idea.

Here are seven plants at the top of my list:

Rose – Apply the petals as a bandage to inhibit bacterial growth on cuts.

Yarrow & critter (Photographer unknown)

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) – Apply the leaf topically to stop bleeding and act as an antiseptic to prevent infection, even in very deep wounds. It can also stop internal bleeding if the leaves are dried and ingested as a tea!

Plantain (Plantago major or minor) – Chop up the leaf and add spit or water to make a paste, then apply it topically to draw out splinters or soothe stings from insects or jellyfish (I do know someone who used it this way!).


Chickweed (Stellaria media) – Eat the leaves, flowers and stems to bring down a high fever.

Usnea lichen – Antimicrobial properties mean it works as gauze for a wound. You can also dry it and then brew a tea of it to tackle pneumonia or a similar respiratory infection.

Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) – Eat the leaves or dry and brew as a tea to kill parasites hitching a ride as intestinal worms. This plant could cause an miscarriage, so don’t take it if you’re pregnant and want to stay that way.

Blackberry (Rubus discolor) – Dig up the root or pick and dry the leaf from this thorny vine and then drink as a tea to cure diarrhea. Might sound like a minor issue, but if left untreated, it could cause fatal dehydration.

Blackberry/ Image by Oregon State University

It is in your interest to achieve mastery at identifying these plants ahead of time. You really wouldn’t want to be trying to match sketches in a field guide to plants you aren’t familiar with in a high-stress situation.

The links to the plants listed above will take you to my posts on identification and further use info.

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12 thoughts on “Field Medicine for a Survival Situation

  1. Pingback: Field Medicine (medicinal wild plants) for a survival situation - rugged life | rugged life

  2. Still looking the best herb which can kill virus like aids virus as well as killing bacteria . All this done without damaging the beneficial cells. Or creating any problem to the body.

  3. Today, I went to the beach with my children.
    I found a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old daughter and said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She placed the shell to her ear and screamed.
    There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched her ear. She never wants
    to go back! LoL I know this is totally off topic but I had to tell someone!

  4. Thank you for sharing all the details and photos of your wild plants and flowers! I especially like the plant listings w/ details on the plants. I’m striving to someday catalog and map my plants and you guys are an inspiration :-)

  5. Excellent Post! Pine Trees (while not plants) also have a couple of medicinal uses. The needles can be boiled to make a sort of refreshing tea, that is high in Vitamin C, and can be used as a mild antiseptic wash. The sticky pine pitch (sap) can also be spread over exterior superficial wounds to keep dirt and bacteria out. Love getting your posts, keep up the good work. I would also be interested in re-posting this actual post on my site if you were interested? Let me know. Cheers JJ

  6. Miss Rebecca , i want to add a plant to the list if it grows that far north . I think everyone no matter what should stay as clean as possible so heres a plant that is good to wash ur hair and body with, now its not as lathery as store bought soaps but does wonders for ur hair and skin. Soapwort (Saponaria officialis) also know to me as Bouncing Bet. This plant as was taught to me grows near the water so should not be hard to find if needed . Soapwort is a medicinal plant ready to use in a moment to clean wounds or scraps or just to clean ur body of daily funk..
    Never eat this plant it will not kill ya, but if u like the taste of soap ?
    Soapwort was used for yrs. as a cleaner for wool cloth . i know it makes ur hair so shinny and soft …u young ladies listen if u want a good herbal shampoo try Soapwort . Add ur own fragrances . Thank u miss Rebecca for all ur great articles . You teach me something new even if that plant does not live in my area . If there are any readers of this site near the Ark.-Louisianna line would love to hear from yall I know many people who love plants and use plants everyday. Happy Holidays :)

  7. Is that critter smiling , thats one happy little critter…lol… i know im late everyones seen it. u think its high on yarrow or just knows its gettn its pic took…… love it thank you!

  8. River Birch ( Betula nigra) chew the leaves , do not swallow the leaves just swallow the juice then spit out the pulp. Good for diareah..
    Toothache Tree (Zanthoxylum americanum)
    This works i have used the bark many times just chew the bark , ur mouth will go numb.. but do not swallow the bark . spit pulp out.
    I do not know if these plants grow in ur area but down here in the bayou we have many medicinal plants……

  9. Great info! Yarrow also is analgesic. Not only does it effectively stop bleeding but it significantly reduces the pain when applied as a poultice.

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