Medicinal Plants

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As any survivalist will tell you, being able to identify wild plants is imperative. However, one mistake that is commonly made is focusing on being able to identify only those plants that represent a possible food source. While this is one of the most important aspects of survival, it isn’t the only one. If you find yourself in a survival situation, you won’t be able to run out to the local Urgent Care if you are injured or ill. If you don’t have a first aid kit to use, taking the time to familiarize yourself with the many medicinal plants that grow wild could not only save your life, but the lives of those in your care.

Using plants for medicine isn’t something new. For thousands of years, people have been using herbal medicines to treat any number of illnesses. The Native Americans knew the value of many of the plants that were native to their areas and now modern medicine is conducting research on some of the medicinal plants that they used. Some of the plants that can be found in the wilderness rival prescription medications that are being sold by drug companies today, and often without the negative side effects. When studying medicinal plants, caution should be used because even potentially helpful plants can be toxic if used incorrectly or in excessive amounts.

YarrowMedicinal Plants

Yarrow is one of nature’s most diverse medicinal plants. It can be found growing wild in open woodlands and field from coast to coast in North America, as well as in many ornamental gardens. Yarrow can grow to be 3 feet tall and has feathery, fern-like leaves that are covered with fine, white hairs. Flower stalks grow from the center of the leaf cluster and produce umbrella style flowers that can be white, yellow, or various shades of pink.

Yarrow leaves and flowers can be crushed to form a paste and applied to cuts and scratches to staunch flow of blood and disinfect the wound. When made into a tea, yarrow can be used to break a fever and as cold relief. Some Native American tribes dropped an infusion of yarrow into the ears to treat earaches.

Sweet Violet

Violets are Native to Asia and Europe, but they have been widely cultivated and grow wild throughout the world. The colors may vary, but the dark green, heart shaped leaves and delicate flowers are easily identifiable. Often referred to as the wood violet, common violet, or garden violet, the leaves and flowers can be dried and used to make a tea that is helpful as an expectorant, a laxative, and a natural emetic. While this may not seem like a particularly useful property, if you are in a situation where someone has eaten a questionable plant or berry, it could potentially save a life.

PlantainMedicinal Plants

Plantain (not to be confused with the banana- like fruit) is one of the many medicinal plants that are widely considered to be a noxious weed in North America. Not true at all! Plantain is one of those wonderful plants that can be used both medicinally and as food. The young leaves can be eaten raw or cooked and are very high in riboflavin and B1.

It can be found growing in backyards and fields throughout North America and its oval shaped leaves are easy to identify. The leaves may appear to grow directly from the ground, but actually attach to a center root much like dandelions. Seed stalks grow from the center of the leaves and look like a tiny, green cattail.

Plantain has many uses and in fact can be used in the treatment of anything from fevers to skin diseases. The leaves can be heated and used for preparing a wet dressing for wounds. It is also useful to stop bleeding and promote the healing of damaged tissues. A poultice made from the leaves can be applied to draw out foreign objects such as thorns or splinters as well as soothing inflammation. The root is said to be useful as an anti-venom for snakebites. Whether or not this is true, if you get bitten and no help is nearby, it can’t hurt to give it a try.


Orange jewelweed is a very common sight in the moist, shady soils of ditches and creeks of most parts of North America. Commonly called touch me not for its seedpods that pop when touched. The orange (or sometimes yellow) flowers hang from the plant on small stems. This plant is an age-old remedy for many forms of skin irritation including poison ivy and poison oak. The stems are succulent and filled with a clear, viscous sap that will act as a soothing agent and prevent the spread of poison ivy rash. The sap can also be used in the treatment of insect bites and stings as well as stinging nettles.

Wood Sorrel

Sometimes called sour clover or Indian lemonade, wood sorrel is something that many of us are familiar with. This native herb can be found growing in many open grasslands, woodlands, and on shaded slopes throughout the eastern part of North America. With its three, heart shaped leaflets on each stalk and flowers that range from pink to yellow, many children have picked and eaten these tangy little plants.

Its medicinal uses are varied and the entire plant may be used. A concoction made from the tart leaves is given as a fever reducer as well as to treat urinary ailments and to stop vomiting. It can be used as a mouthwash for mouth ulcers and cloths soaked in its juices can be used to treat inflammation and swelling. Crushed leaves applied to a wound will help to reduce bleeding.


Coltsfoot is a perennial flower that can be found throughout North and South America, as well as Asia and Europe, where it originated. The plant itself looks much like a very small dandelion without the characteristic leaves that accompany dandelions. Coltsfoot also appears in bloom much earlier than dandelions.

The dried leaves and flowers have been used in the past to treat bronchial congestion and cough in the form of a tea. In some countries, it has been used to treat fevers and viral infection. There have been documented cases of this plant causing liver problems so caution should be exercised in its use.

Bee Balm

Also called wild bergamot, Oswego tea, and horsemint, bee balm can be found almost anywhere in North America. The plant can grow to 3 feet in height and spiky flowers bloom at the top of the stalk. Most wild bee balm is either red or pink and has slim, serrated leaves that grow opposite each other along the stem.

Native Americans used bee balm in poultices for the treatment of minor injuries and skin infections. As a member of the mint family, it has also been used in teas for soothing stomach ailments and as a gargle to treat infections of the mouth and throat. When boiled and used in an infusion it is useful in the treatment of headaches and low-grade fevers.

Ground Ivy

This herb is sometimes called alehoof, hedge maids, creeping Charlie, and because of its strong aroma when crushed, headache flowers. Found in shady, moist areas from Canada to the deep- south and almost everywhere in between, this purple flowered plant is easy to find. It has dark green, heart shaped, serrated leaves and grows quite close to the ground.

It is edible as well as medicinal and can be used in salads. Made into a tea it can be useful in the treatment of congestion and other inflammations of the mucous membranes that occur with colds and flu. It has antibacterial properties as well as antiseptic and is used as an expectorant, and immune-stimulant, and as a sedative. It is currently being studied for use in the prevention and treatment of many diseases.


Dandelions probably need no description as they grow everywhere, especially on your perfectly manicured lawn. These golden yellow flowers along with their sharp-toothed leaves have been the source of much frustration to homeowners around the world. What most people don’t know is that they are medicinally useful as well as well as being quite tasty.

The entire plant can be used both internally and externally. Fresh dandelion juice can be applies to wounds to fight bacteria and promote healing, and the milky sap can be used to remove warts and corns. It is also used to treat skin issues such as acne and eczema. Infusions of the plant can be used to eliminate toxins from the body. It is also a strong diuretic but will not cause a loss of potassium. This plant can also help with urinary and kidney ailments as well as the edema that is sometimes experienced by those with high blood pressure.


Growing prolifically everywhere in North America, mullein can be found growing by roadsides, in vacant lots, and especially on gravelly areas. The leaves can be up to 15 inches long and 5 inches across with dense hairs on both sides of the leaf. This has led to the plant sometimes being called the flannel plant. The flower stalk can be up to 8 feet tall and is densely covered with bright yellow flowers.

This herb has been used for centuries in alternative medicine as an analgesic, an anti-viral, and a fungicide. Taken internally as an infusion, it will treat diarrhea, bleeding of the bowels, as well as numerous complaints of the chest. The leaves and the flowers are both used in infusions. The entire plant can be harvested and dried for later use.

While there are many more medicinal plants to be found in the wilderness, this is just a few of those that can help you in a survival situation. As with any plant you find in the wild, make absolutely sure you have identified it correctly before using it.




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Survival Knife Buying Guide

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One man’s survival knife is another man’s toothpick! Whether you get your first knife at 13 or 33, the ecstatic feeling is similar to any male rite of passage, where boy becomes man. Once you have settled on your best survival knife, you’ll likely never leave home without it.

Because the sheer number of knives on the market is mind-boggling, we’ve designed this knife buying guide. A word of advice – price should not dictate your final determination.  Your survival knife will last many lifetimes, unless you lose him!  Survival in the wilderness is possible with only your wits and survival knife. It is an all-purpose tool you can use to chop wood, skin rabbits or shave.

Basic Survival Knife Buying Guide

Best Survival Knife


Let’s explore survival knife features. The tang reaches down into the handle. Your best survival knife should be constructed with a full tang that extends the length of the handle. This feature strengthens the knife.  The full tang knife has a fixed blade and survival experts consider them the most valuable.  The pommel on full tang knives is extremely handy for hammering or breaking glass.

Poorly made knives, or no tang omit the tang and simply connect the blade to the top portion of the handle. These knives are exceptionally weak at the spot where the blade and tang are joined and easily break when pressure is applied.

Partial tang knives extend a minor amount of steel into the handle and won’t stand up in many survival situations.


Hollow handled knives do not have a full tang.

Types of handles vary from polymer to rubber. You may want to avoid the hollow handled knife that is marketed for “storing things” since they won’t have the optimal full tang. Survival knives with a compass in their handle are trending, but impractical as it could interfere with how you grip your knife.

Comfort is the key when trying out a handle. Look for a non-slip grip that is a good fit for your hand.  A finger guard is useful to keep your hand steady when you’re using the knife. Otherwise, your hand might accidentally slip and the sharp blade will cause injury.

Some survival knives have a nifty lanyard hole in the handle for tying the knife to a pole and constructing a spear.


Blades are usually formed from carbon or stainless steel. There is a colossal controversy among survivalists concerning which is better. Like everything in life, you are at choice. It’s up to you to determine the best blade on the best survival knife. Here are the differences:

  • Carbon Steel blades are revered by those who want their knife to hold a good edge for a long time. Be mindful, carbon steel will rust if you leave it in the elements.
  • Stainless Steel is rock-hard and rarely will it rust. This is the blade you want on your best survival knife if you wish to pass him on to future generations.  It is easy to overlook sharpening. Steel that is too hard can result in a brittle blade that doesn’t hold the edge well.

Fixed or Folding? The folding knife is easier to carry and you won’t need a sheath.  The fixed knife is sturdier and holds-up better for tough tasks like erecting a shelter or chopping wood.

Straight or Serrated? Another hot topic when you’re sitting around the campfire. The main difference is that you can sharpen a straight edged blade on any smooth stone and the serrated blade calls for a particular sharpener.

A serrated blade would likely serve best for boating or in various situations when you need to cut rope. For workhorse duties, like cutting or carving wood, the straight edge outperforms.

Blade Shape

Blades are available in various designs. Select your best survival knife according to your preference and performance requirements. For example, choose the straight edged for splitting wood, since the serrated edge binds up in the wood when performing this task. One caveat is that straight edges aren’t terrific for sawing wood.

Naturally, a saw tooth back edged is better for sawing. But, the saw tooth edge requires a special sharpening tool. Unfortunately, many knives of this design aren’t made well and potentially heighten your risk of injuries.

Partially Serrated is a cross between the saw tooth and straight edge blade. You can saw with the serrated portion and it also holds its edge longer, so that you have a backup when the straight edge gets dull.

Blade Thickness & Length

About four to six inches is a desirable length for the blade. Some measure 12-14″, however, any that are longer than 10″, may be awkward to carry or wield. Length matters according to usage also. Using a really long knife would make it difficult to skin small animals. Too small and the knife wouldn’t serve for protection.

Thicker blades are stronger and stand up to the abuse of heavy tasks such as prying or chopping.  Best blades are approximately a quarter-inch thick.


The sheath is a valuable accessory. Some sheaths have handy pockets for smaller items, such as flint and a knife sharpener.  If you’re not acquainted with the sheath in general, know that it will influence the way you carry and/or draw your survival knife.

A couple of important must-haves hardcore survivalists look for in sheaths are:

The tip end of the sheath should have a hole or an attached piece that allows you to strap your knife to your leg if you’re wearing it on your belt or securing it to your backpack.

Look at the position of the strap. If it is located at the handle base, your knife can slip out. Optimal sheaths contain a crossover strap where the handle and sheath meet.

Leather or Nylon Sheath? A leather sheath hugs the body and is more aesthetically attractive.  Cordura (nylon) sheaths are more durable.




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Emergency Water

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Next to breathable air, water is the most important thing a human needs to survive.  If a person is not taking in water through food or drink they will quickly succumb to dehydration.  In the US, we take running water for granted.  But what if the tap suddenly turned off?  Is that possible?  Where would you get emergency water from if it did?

Water Storage

 How Tap Water Can Be Lost

A city’s water system is surprisingly fragile when you look at it.  Most water systems would be crippled simply by a loss of power at the water treatment plant.  The water pressure that pushes fresh water out of your faucet is maintained either by a pump or by a water tower or pressurized holding tank which are filled by a pump.     If the pump, tank, or water tower are damaged, your water will stop running.  You will have a little more time in the case of a water tower or tank, but once the tower is empty, or the pressure is down in the tank your water will stop flowing.  Earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, fires, and many other disasters can cause the kind of damage that will shut down your water supply for hours, days, or longer.

Emergency Water Sources

If the city water does stop flowing, there are several alternatives for emergency water.  If you have advanced warning, you can store some of the city water.  You can gather water like they did before modern plumbing  was prevalent.  You can also store water in advance of an emergency.

Advanced warningEmergency Water Storage

If a disaster strikes and you know, or even suspect, that your local water system might be down for a while, you need to move fast.  Before water pressure is lost you will want to fill every container you can with clean, fresh water.  This includes your bathtub, sinks, plastic totes, camping water jugs, etc.  This isn’t going to sustain you for the long run, but it will keep you going for a while.


Before there was plumbing, people gathered water from wells, ponds, lakes, springs, streams and rivers.  Any water source that isn’t contaminated with chemicals or salt can be boiled or filtered and used for drinking and cooking.  If you are in an area where it rains often (like it does here in the Pacific Northwest) you can collect rain water.  Again, you will want to boil or filter the water for bacteria.

Water Storage

Emergency Water Storage

If you want to be ready at all times, you can also keep water storage along with your long term food storage and disaster supplies.  Water can be stored in any air-tight container if it has been treated properly.  You don’t want bacteria building up in your emergency water supply.   Adding a few drops of unscented chlorine bleach to the water will keep this from happening.  Two liter bottles, milk jugs, and camping water jugs will all work for storage.  You can even go all out and get some large drums to store water in.  You can also stockpile commercially bottled water.  Any water supply you go with should be rotated regularly to ensure freshness.

Since there are so many options for emergency water, you shouldn’t feel panicked about what to do.  You should take some time to think about it, though, and come up with a plan to provide water for you and your family if the need ever arises.  Plan on about a gallon per person, per day.

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Creating a Survival Garden

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Many people are concerned about potential disasters affecting them at some point during their lives. Knowing the basics of building a survival garden is still useful background knowledge for anyone, including people who simply like to be prepared for almost all situations. Making the right decisions in advance can make all the difference for everyone involved with the project.
Survival Garden

 Important Crops for a Survival Garden

People who want to have stable, long-term survival gardens must have stashes of seeds hidden away. They should calculate the amount of seeds necessary, given what they would want to grow and given what they can reasonably store. Many people with survival gardens will also have stashes of emergency food storage. Canned food typically doesn’t last longer than five years, and most other survival foods tend to be costly. Maintaining a seed bank is a good long-term strategy, regardless of whether you have any other stocks of food or not.

One of the hallmarks of a good survival garden is having a reasonable wide variety of plants. Being able to live off of any survival garden would be very difficult for anyone, particularly if a large number of people are going to depend upon it. The important thing is to try to get as much out of your garden as possible.

Choosing vegetables that are dense in nutrients is important for survival gardens. Highly nutritious vegetables that aren’t starchy include broccoli, spinach, cauliflowers, onions, and carrots. Eating both beans and grains can provide complete protein, which is essential to long-term survival. Barley and wheat are popular choices for grains in survival gardens. Most vegetables that aren’t starchy are very low in calories unless you eat large quantities of them, which wouldn’t be an option in circumstances where a survival garden was necessary.

People can also include peanuts in their survival gardens for the protein and for the fats. Barley, wheat, and beans are all very low in fat, and people trying to get a full diet from their survival gardens will need something like peanuts to fill the gap, particularly since peanuts are a good source of essential monounsaturated fat.

Finding foods that are sufficiently high in energy is important, given that even the most successful survival garden can only provide so much food. Potatoes are relatively high in calories, as well as vitamins and minerals. People should be able to get closer to meeting their calorie needs if they plant potatoes and other starchy vegetables. Corn is another good choice, particularly since it’s a fairly resilient vegetable. Winter squash, turnips, peas, and rutabagas are also reasonably caloric and nutritious.

People who eat enough varieties of vegetables that aren’t starchy can usually get by without fruit: they’ll get most of the essential nutrients from vegetables. Then again, fruit tends to be somewhat more caloric than most vegetables, given the sugar. Melons are relatively easy to plant, while being nutritious and filling. However, if space is a concern, it may be best to divide the same nutritional needs amongst other plants.

survival Vegetables


The Needs of Different Crops

Farming and planting revolves entirely around the seasons. There are important benchmarks to use when planning your survival garden. The season’s last frost is an important milestone in any year. There are many plants that must be planted before or after the final year’s frost. Others should be planted in the summer or the springtime. Different vegetables will have different needs for growing times, and keeping them straight is exceedingly important.

Potatoes, for instance, must be planted one month to a month and a half before the final frost of the year. Peanuts need to start their growth in warmer weather. Keeping the right balance of plants based on their growth rates and growing times can help ensure that you can secure a safe food supply.

Plants also vary in terms of the amount of space they need within the garden. Gardeners should plan ahead and try to mark out the plots of land that they have reserved for their survival gardens. People who are limited in terms of space may have to be more selective over which vegetables they plant.


Maintaining Soil in a Survival Garden

Gardens of all kinds rise and fall based on the health and fertility of their soil. There must be enough nutrients in the soil to nourish plants and enough moisture in the soil. People who live in climates or areas with poor soil may have some challenges when it comes to starting their survival gardens, but there are measures that even they can take towards improving the quality of their land.

The soil should be treated early in the gardening process. Tilling the soil is potentially challenging work, and it’s best to try to get it up to standard before you find yourself in any circumstances where a survival garden would be necessary. There are many ways to evaluate the soil of your survival garden’s plot, and thus work out a strategy for amending it. Some soil may be lacking in nutrients, and adding different types of meal can improve the quality. Other types of soil may have a pH that’s unhealthy for the plants, and gardeners can add different buffers. There are many factors that go into creating and sustaining ideal growing conditions for plants, and gardeners should consider all of them as they are designing their survival gardens.

Compost can be useful, both for nourishing the garden and making adequate use of materials. In any circumstances where a survival garden was actually necessary, supplies would almost certainly be limited. Today, making appropriate use of resources is important for environmental reasons, and using old vegetable matter as compost to help nourish your garden is far more valuable than getting rid of it. There are many shortcuts to take when it comes to trying to be as efficient as possible with gardening, given the long history behind it and the fact that modern conveniences for gardening are relatively new.


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September is National Preparedness Month

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National Preparedness Month at Wilderness Survival GearSeptember is National Preparedness Month, the month where the American public are reminded to be prepared for anything. The focus is placed on home and family preparedness, businesses being ready for anything, and school-aged children being prepared.

During September every year, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) encourages the citizens of the United States to prepare their homes, schools, and companies for emergencies – situations ranging from natural disasters to terrorist attacks to nuclear disaster.

Since the events of 9/11 over a decade ago, September has been the month in which the U.S. Government has made an effort to remind the general populace of the importance of being prepared. A 2009 survey showed that less than 60% of Americans had supplies stockpiled at home, so the Government is placing extra emphasis on emergency preparedness this year.

The most important thing to stockpile is survival food. Homeowners are recommended to store enough to feed their family for 2 weeks. Emergencies could cause damage to water pipes, so it’s recommended that homeowners also store drinking water.

Preparing an emergency kit is the smart thing to do, as it will prepare the American public for any situation. This kit should include blankets, sleeping bags, a tent, a lantern, a flashlight, a first aid kit, a signal flare, and water purification tablets – among many other things.

The Guardian Survival Kits offered by Wilderness Survival Gear provides all of the necessities that will help the general public survive in case of an emergency. Their website also offers a host of informational articles, videos on how to survive in dire situations, and a host of resources that will help the American public to be prepared for anything. The complete survival kits start at $99.

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