On Saturday, December 16, Stratford Hall hosted a seminar concentrating on the medicinal effects of some plants and weeds in the local area. Heather Bedford, practicing herbalist and Virginia Master Naturalist, led the presentation and described her desired outcome from the demonstration: “It is my wish that everyone leaves this presentation with new eyes to look upon the small, seemingly insignificant plants with love and appreciation. I hope that all of you find beauty in the tenacity of the weeds, and I hope that each of you walk away with a new way of experiencing our relationship with the plants that share our spaces.” Bedford has been practicing herbalism for over 20 years and says her interest in the topic began with her natural curiosity as a child. She describes herbalism as “the art and science of using plants to facilitate healing.”
In the demonstration, Bedford explained how not all plants are safe for human consumption and the population should be educated on which weeds and shrubs to harvest for food and medicine. Bedford went on to clarify that plants are broken up into 5 levels of edibility. Level 1 plants are safe for generally everyone and include well-known weeds like chickweed and dandelion. Level 2 plants should be utilized in moderation, but should be avoided by women who are pregnant. Surprisingly, examples of these plants are sage and parsley which are commonly used in cooking. Plants that are designated as Level 3 are labeled as tonic and should not be consumed by infants, expecting mothers, or women who are nursing; St. John’s Wort and Juniper are two examples of level 3 plants. Arnica and poke are categorized under Level 4, and are toxic; however, some medicinal concoctions contain these ingredients in low doses. Level 5 plants should be avoided, as their toxicity levels are high enough to potentially kill a human. Poison hemlock is an example of a Level 5 plant. Bedford warns that when attempting to harvest plants for medicinal purposes, you should be knowledgeable and positive about identifying the plants you are using. She says using plant keys and foraging with someone who knows which plants to evade is crucial to help ensure that possibly fatal interactions are avoided.
For the full article pick up a copy of this weeks Northumberland Echo Newspaper 12/247/17