Table of Contents
Insights || Colin Whyte

Look under the covers at America’s greatest book store.

Playlist || Malcolm Johnson

Golden Dust, Dirt, Rust & Trust: A Pick Up Worth of Sound for the Soul.

Insights || Lisa Richardson

Growing up & growing pains: Can a garden town all get along?

Conversation || Zaria Forman

From Brooklyn to the ends of the earth, a compelling artist with a chill perspective dives deep into details.

Reflections || Trevor Komori

Forge on! Meet the man with a fire for recycling.

Legacy || Full Press Staff

Father, Son & the Whole Case of Scotch.

Insights || Andrew Findlay

Sometimes a cure is closer than you think.

A considerate prick? No thorny issue: the healing and health powers of Wild Roses and four other overlooked plants.

Welcome to the Backyard Pharmacy

Insights || Andrew Findlay
Andrew Findlay

Writer Andrew Findlay lives surrounded by plants of every type with his family in the Comox Valley, B.C.

Five common plants that grow easily and heal freely.

In the pantheon of herbal remedies, the dandelion is the cure-all. Packed with vitamins and minerals, the entire plant can be used for treating liver ailments, blood toxicity, and many other health issues.

Step into the forest almost anywhere in North America, and it’s like strolling through the aisles of nature’s drugstore. Mother Gaia writes prescriptions every spring with every flower, so why ignore her healing bounty?

With carefully acquired knowledge, gathering and preparation practice—and, of course, an understanding of side effects—the door to these easy cures will open. A wide variety of medicinal plants are readily available in the backyards and trails of North America. As under-appreciated as the lowly dandelion, or as common as the cottonwood, here are five herbal remedies you might consider stocking in your medicine cabinet.

Prickly Rose

Rosa acicularis

The province of Alberta claims this ubiquitous shrub as its floral emblem, and its rosehip berries are by far one of the best known natural sources of vitamin C. The plant belongs to a fragrant family that has long been associated with love, grief and healing. Rosehip berries are best harvested in fall following the first light frost, dried, then added to teas or syrups to make a fantastic winter tonic, rich not only in vitamin C but also vitamin A, calcium and phosphorus. Rose flowers, gathered in late spring before the leaves brown, can also be dried to make into teas and syrups with anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties.


Populus sect. Aigeiros

The sweet fragrance of budding cottonwood trees is one of nature’s most potent signals of spring’s arrival. The compound salicin is found in cottonwood buds, leaves and bark, and is a proven anti-inflammatory and analgesic. Sticky with a scent reminiscent of pine and honey, the buds of cottonwood trees can easily be gathered and then rendered into an oil to treat swollen arthritic joints and sore muscles. Cottonwood oil can also be added to lip balms, body oils and salves. (Note: Due to the presence of salicin, those with an allergy to salicylic acid [aspirin] should take care with cottonwood derivatives.)

Oregon Grape

Mahonia aquifolium

This low-lying shrub with characteristic spiky leaves is the state plant of—you guessed it—Oregon. This widely-available plant features powerful healing properties and contains the alkaloid berberine, which gives other natural antibiotics like goldenseal and goldenthread, their yellowish hue. Among its many medicinal uses, a tincture made from Oregon grape root can be applied topically to wounds to help fight infection and swelling. Indigenous peoples have long used the plant’s bright blue berries to make jelly as well as a yellow pigment from its inner bark and stem to dye baskets and other woven materials.



While we may curse at the heavens as we rip them out of our lawns, dandelions deserve more respect. This resilient little weed flourishes prolifically thanks to its famously fluffy seed heads but, in the pantheon of herbal remedies, the dandelion is the cure-all. Packed with vitamins and minerals, the entire plant can be used to make herbal teas and extracts for treating liver ailments, blood toxicity, constipation and many other health issues. And there’s more: it also tastes good. Dandelion leaves make for delicious cooked greens. Its root can be dried and ground into a coffee substitute, its flower used to make wine, and the whole plant for brewing beer.

Stinging Nettle

Urtica dioica

Like dandelions, stinging nettle is another common plant dismissed as a weed. Yet it has an astounding range of health benefits. Stinging nettle is effective for treating hay fever, while its antioxidant-rich properties make it ideal for topical skin treatments: it helps to reduce scarring and promote healing.

Nettle is prolific, thriving in streamside areas and disturbed habitats like slash piles, avalanche paths and roadside ditches. But stinging nettle must be harvested with care.  Its leaves feature tiny hairs that—when broken—release formic acid which can cause skin irritation. Get past the sting, and you’ll be rewarded with greens that taste fantastic when cooked fresh and served as a side dish. A delicious source of vitamins A, C and D, as well as iron, potassium and calcium, the dried plant can also be powdered and used for making tea, if that’s your sort of thing.

From the neighbour’s garden to urban parks, a reliable reference book and a keen eye will crack nature’s medicine cabinet open. Happy hunting.