Watch above: A local plant expert says Edmonton’s River Valley is much more than a pretty place. As Su-Ling Goh reports, it’s an herbal pharmacy.
EDMONTON – When it comes to dealing with aches and pains, many people head to the local pharmacy for relief. But a local clinical herbalist says many ailments can be treated by heading out to your own backyard.
Robert Dale Rogers, an assistant clinical professor in family medicine at the University of Alberta, recently published a series of books on the edibility and medicinal benefits of plants that grow in the boreal forest.
“One of my missions in life has been to re-associate people with herbalism, which is the people’s medicine,” he explains. “For minor issues, there is a plethora of plants out here that can help.”
Walking through Edmonton’s River Valley Monday, Rogers pointed out several plants and their medicinal benefits.
Alberta wild rose:
The wild rose is more than just Alberta’s provincial flower, Rogers says it’s used in herbal teas and has a “handy wilderness bandage.”
“Just apply it like a butterfly bandage and it’ll stick there, heal, tighten the tissue, bring the flesh together, and soothe and heal.”
While the berries are often used for wine and preserves, the chokecherry tree – when prepared properly – can also have medicinal benefits.
“You probably have heard of wild cherry cough syrup, well the chokecherry bark is the major source of the bark for that particular compound.”
Rogers warns the bark must be dried and boiled before use, though.
“It contains a significant level of hydrocyanic acid that if you take it fresh it will kill you.”
Fireweed, which is often one of the first plants to move into an area disturbed by fire, is the number one herb used for benign prostate hyperplasia in men, Rogers says.
“About 50 per cent of men over 60 years old have enlargement of the prostate. And this is a great tea to take. You can just dry the leaves, make a tea on a daily basis.
“There’s a lot of clinical evidence that it’s just as efficient, and with less side effects, than some of the pharmaceutical drugs.”
High bush cranberry:
Also known as ‘cramp bark,’ Rogers says the bark of the high bush cranberry is often used in herbal medicine.
“Traditionally it’s been used in herbalism for uterine cramping – so menstrual pain – but also could be used for respiratory spasms like asthma.”
While the buds can be steamed and eaten, Rogers says the cow parsnip can also be helpful for people with certain types of paralysis.
“The green seeds are remarkably important medicine for paralysis, particularly virally-related paralysis. So things like trigeminal neuralgia and Bell’s palsy. Some of the best medicine I’ve ever seen, actually.”
Star-flowered solomon’s seal:
Part of the lily family, Rogers says the star-flowered solomon’s seal has a couple of medicinal benefits.
“The root was traditionally used by native women in this part of the world as a birth control method,” he explains. “But it also has compounds in it that make it really good for joints.”
Rogers stresses every plant needs special preparation before it can be used. He’s outlined the preparations in his new book series, which can be viewed on his website.
With files from Su-Ling Goh, Global News.