Wildcrafters – Farm to Fork Wyoming

– We’re really lucky
here in Wyoming. I come from Germany where you
just look at a plant too long and you get a ticket, you
know, because it’s verboten. There’s so many people there
of course you can’t wildcraft. – Here we have osha, we have Arnica, sweet cicily, we have yarrow. – My great grandmother
showed me herbs. They’ve been kind of part
of my life for a long time. – So this beautiful
plant is called burdock. The root of this is
what we usually use. You can use the leaves as well. – My grandmother talked
about going in the mountains and gathering things. They were putting up food and
medicine at the same time. – So in Wyoming
you can wildcraft. That means to go out, look for a plant coming into the and collect a few plants
and take them home, dry them or make yourself
a tincture or salve it’s a creative wonderful
way of connecting yourself to the green universe. – Wildcrafters, on this
Farm to Fork Wyoming. – Funding for Farm
to Fork Wyoming is provided by Wyoming
Community Bank, your locally owned
community bank in Riverton and
Lander, and on the web at www.wyocb.com, and by viewers like
you, thank you. (flute music) – The ancient art
of wildcrafting is a journey back to our
deepest roots in nature. – Some of the early
explorers that had doctors on their expeditions
and most of them did. They would interview
native people and specifically ask questions. So the question was
asked frequently, how do you know all these
medicines in your environment? And one of the answers
that happened several times was from the grizzly
bear, our teacher. And it makes perfect
sense because in the 70s and 80s when
people started studying bear metabolism,
it turns out that bears are almost
identical to humans, not only in their
metabolism and digestion, but in their food
preferences in the wild. – It’s the people of the land
that live in the countryside that never lost it. – Wrapped in riddles and myth, people have carried plant
wisdom through the ages. – There’s these quizzes
that as a little kid they say what burns
all around the house, but doesn’t burn the house? Nettles. – This is true nettle here. Stinging nettle. – People have nettle
growing all around the house because they relied on it. – So this is old stuff
and it never really left. – For Native Americans, the
thread of medicinal knowledge was woven deeply
throughout tribal society. – And how that was
done is different ways of remembering how
to preserve medicines and these tribes
are learning that from talking to these elders
who really are in touch with the pre-reservation
ways of doing things. And some of the history
that goes way back before the course. There were specialists
who were very very good at discerning how to
best prepare a medicine so that it was most effective. It wasn’t one person in a
village that was the doctor. There people spread
out through the different ranks and
social structures. Some were women with
children, grandparents, there were warriors who knew
certain types of medicine and there were
these storytellers who could go back and
remember an epidemic in history that was many many
hundreds of generations away and how they treated it. – Some fragments of
old traditions are
still familiar today. – In the street that
I grew up, you know, there was one or two midwives. They weren’t called midwives. They were just, you
know, Mrs. So-and-so that you called
when you had a baby, and they knew what herbs
to use and so forth, so they always had it. It was something that
people grew up with that was passed on
generation to generation. If you talk to the
Indian elders here and the elders way
back in Europe, the same kind of
cloth, you know, land connected the
living with these plants with these animals with
their lives depended on it. So your gonna be
more interwoven. You’re gonna look at these
plants as not things, you’re gonna look at them
as things that have spirit. – But sadly, these
connections are being broken with the passing
of each generation. – There’s one elder
we’ve been interviewing quite a lot, in Montana, is the last storyteller who
was raised to memorize things. His grandfather
who he grew up with was born in 1847,
before the reservation, so what he was taught was
mostly the old knowledge. And his first language
is Apsaalooke, that’s Crow language. They know that when they die, some of their cultural knowledge that came down through hundreds and probably thousands of years, is gonna end and they
don’t want to see it end. Still holding out hope that
this culture they grew up with can sustain somehow. – As these ancient threads
struggle to remain, interest in herbal
knowledge has seen a revival across the broader society. – There’s an herbal
resurgence here, so more people are
interested in it. There’s more people
that want to grow. There’s more people
that want to do this, become herbalists. When Caroline and I
started out, there was– There were two places where
you could study herbalism. Now there’s herbal
schools in every state. Lots of them, so
there’s a boom in this. – And science has become a
welcome part of this revival. – Science is a really
important aspect of herbalism because we need to be able
to speak multiple languages when it comes to herbs. Integrating new science
with ancient wisdom. With that very idea like, hey
this is stuff we already know, we’re just putting science
behind it as well, you know, because both are important. – In modern research
is revealing how Native Americans
medicinals may be some of the most promising
healers of the modern era. – That one and these are
some of the primary roots that were used for
medicine in the old days and still very effective. We’re still learning
about how to use these. That doesn’t grow here, but it grows in Yellowstone and Eastern Wyoming,
around Saratoga, and it’s called sweetroot and it’s probably
gonna be the cure for Type II Diabetes very soon. – Today, plant experts
share wildcrafting knowledge to preserve our connection to
nature, nutrition, and health. – Yarrow occurs
all over the globe. – Here is yarrow flower. – And it’s the oldest recorded
medicinal plant in the world, I think eight or
9,000 years ago. – These are its leaves. These will probably
soon get stems. And have flowers like that. This is a really
important blood stopper. – It was used all
over the world; Central Asia, Europe, North
America, South America, and it’s always used for
the same general purpose which is to treat
open bleeding wounds. – It’s also a painkiller. And it also granulates tissue, so it’s great for
any kind of wound, it stops the bleeding and gets
the healing process started and stops the pain. – There was specialized
herb collectors that went out
anticipating battle wounds and they would collect
yarrow wherever they were. The day before a battle and store up big bags of it because it was first
aid remedy of the day. – It’s called the band-aid. They used to chew them up
and put them on a wound. – So we put a
little smudge there? – Oh yeah, oh that’s
ugly isn’t it? – That you shoved fresh
into an open spear wound or arrow wound. – You collect
yarrow out here too? – Yeah, right back
there on the other side of the culvert, is
a really good place. – Caroline and I have
been wildcrafting for, I don’t know, 30 years, and we always go back
to the same spots. You have to be really careful,
you can’t over harvest. – Striking that balance
between harvest and stewardship is key for all
these wildcrafters. – There’s our Arnica. – Kind of a Rhizomeness plant?
– It is. It is Rhizomeness and so
it just thumbs these mats and you can see, it’s
almost ubiquitous. It just almost covers
the whole hill. – You have to know your
area, you have to observe. You can’t just go off and
I’ll take some of this, some of this. – Wind River Herbs has
been harvesting this area for several years now. – We have to know whether
this plant communities are stressed out or
if it’s doing well, and then collect accordingly. – With some plants, like Arnica, the medicinal parts
can be harvested without destroying
the rest of the plant. – And it’s not necessary
to dig it up because– Although, you can use the
roots for pain relief, you don’t need to. You should probably just use
the upper part of the plant. – We call it aerial, so basically the whole
above-ground part of the plant, including some of the root, which does have
medicinal properties. – It’s easier and quicker
if you just break it off at ground level and if
you don’t destroy the root it will come back
again next year because this is a
perennial plant. – But this is the time
of year when it blooms and then when it’s
gone, it’s gone, as far as the bloom goes,
unless you go higher and then you can– – Follow it. – Yeah, you can follow it. – And it will make
you a believer. You use it on sprains
and strains, bruises, and it is amazing. And you just use it topically.
Internally, it’s toxic. Even on broken skin it’s toxic, but it is by far one
of my favorite plants. – We pick it fresh and within
an hour it’s in the oil. The fresh is much
better than the dried. – The dried is just so
inferior, you might as well not. – It takes about three
days for a batch, so right now we’re just
pretty much doing it every three days. We’ll go up and get enough
to fill all of our bins and then we’ll, you
know, filter it out, and then we can
start a new batch. You just basically
want to try to get whatever’s in
there into the oil, so we cut it up and wilt it and then put it in the oil,
warm it up a little bit, and that creates the great
properties of the Arnica oil. – And by following
nature’s ebb and flow, inventories can be replenished
in times of abundance. – Like if some plants come up, like now we had all
these forest fires, and what comes up there in
the large pull area there, is Corydalis. It’s a plant that’s
really good for pain and anxiety problems. So the ground was
just covered in it, so we have enough Corydalis
for the next few years, until the next fire, you know, so go with the events in nature with what, you know, goes on. – And with powerful root
medicines, like osha, a little goes a long way. – Really, one root
that’s like this big, can last an entire family
two or three years. You know, so you
use a lot of caution and be conservative when
you’re harvesting these plants. There’s no reason
to over harvest. – Many plants, once
preserved by drying, salves, or especially in tinctures, can have an astonishingly
long shelf life. – Once it is a tinctured, they stay good for 20-30 years, I mean, we tested or we
tasted a Valerian tincture at the pharmacy, it was 100
years old and it was fine. – Wow. – You know, so the
ones that you– That maybe lose a
little bit are the ones that are made from
delicate parts, maybe Pulsatilla,
the Pasque flower, I wouldn’t maybe use
it past five years. So here we are making a
fresh plants tincture. (crunching) This herb is stinging nettle and it does really
sting, it bites. It has the formic acid. It bites kind of like
an ant would bite you, so it hurts, okay? This is a wonderful herb
that people use for, what is it called,
for allergies, for arthritis. The nettle seed of it
is used differently, it’s used for kidney failure, and the root is used
for enlarged prostate or prostate inflammation, so it’s an all-around
really good plant. Not all of the herbs lend
themselves to be done fresh, but fresh you get
that life force. You get that green in there. The essential oils
that may be in it, um, okay, so we add alcohol, 95% certified organic
corn alcohol to that to pull out all the
properties that are in there, all the good
therapeutic ingredients,
chemical ingredients. And when you make a green,
a fresh plant tincture, you will see how it’s
kind of like luminescent. Look at that color. So you can make a tincture
out of a fresh plant or out of dried plants. – And while a wilderness
is a prime source of medicinal plants, you don’t
always need to travel far. – Right in your back
yard you usually have a panacea of medicine. Dandelion grows in
everybody’s yard. – So dandelion is
not a native plant, but it’s everywhere and
it’s very medicinal. It was one of the
chief medicinal plants of the Arabs and the Persians because it’s native
to Central Asia. So we can use it the same way
they did as a liver tonic. The reason it was
so important was anytime you were
recovering from an illness, you needed to replenish the
minerals that are in your liver because when you’re
sick you use them up making enzymes, which is the
main function of trace minerals in the liver is to make enzymes. They’re co-factors and
they occur in plants, they occur in the
soil in unusable form,
for the most part. The plants absorb
them and kelate them and then we can use them. So if you’re recovering
from Hepatitis or any kind of serious illness, you absolutely need to
replace the trace minerals, which are copper,
cobalt, zinc, manganese, chrome, and selenium, and you get them
from dandelion root because that’s one of
the traits of dandelion is it concentrates
those trace minerals. That’s just one example
of hundreds and hundreds of these plants that people
come to know how to use through trial and error. – So you can go right
in your back yard and begin foraging
and wildcrafting. Even using the things that
are growing in your garden. Instead of weeding them
out and throwing them away, bring them in as your
winter medicines, dry them. – But there are
important things to know about what you
might be collecting. – I think one of the essences is really knowing, and
I have to say this, first and foremost, right, really knowing what
you’re harvesting. So don’t go out there being like well, I think this is this because there are plants
that can kill you. – And here we have
one that you don’t want to make friends with. You could confuse that with osha and you could confuse it
with some of the other plants in that Umbel family. This is a family,
the Umbel family, that has the best
medicinal herbs, wonderful vegetables,
wonderful spices, and here, North America, the
two most poisonous plants, the water hemlock and
the poison hemlock. This one was water hemlock. If you eat this, you
go through convulsions, you throw up, you
have horrible cramps, and you die a miserable death. And the water
hemlock, most often, is confused with a wild carrot. But yeah, you just have
to know what you’re doing. – In plants like elephant
head, may be safe. – The elephant head is a
really wonderful plant. It kind of relaxes you. – But if it is growing
among toxic neighbors it can be poisonous. – When we get to
the elephant head this is one of the things we
cannot collect it next to. – Be really careful
where it grows because its roots are parasitic on the plants that
it grows with. So if you find it growing
next to like dwarf willow, that’s really good, because willow has
pain-relieving properties in it. You don’t want it growing
next to death camas. – That is death camas, so
it’s got something bad in it, killed the Indians, many of them because they would
be gathering onions and they’d get this instead because it’s the same family and even if you smell
it and pull it up, if you’d been gathering onions your fingers are gonna
smell like onions and you’re gonna
say, oh, that’s fine. So see here’s an onion
right next to the– So you’re pulling
onions and you pull out and you go, yeah… (giggles) Not. – You don’t want it growing
next to arrow grass. – This is wonderful
because here’s the poison. The other poison.
This is arrow grass. – Huh. – This has cyanide in it. Those elephant heads
would be poison. That cyanide is
too close to them. – Wow, boy, not so subtle.
– It’s really hard to see too. – Yeah. – And it looks a
lot like plantain, so you can be confused and
if you get down to its base you find that it has
three-sided leaves, it’s thick, and it’s– – Fat, round on one side.
– Yeah. – And scooped out on the other. – Right. – Kind of like the onion. – And looks a lot like
plantain, but contains cyanide. – Are there other poisonous
plants that grow around this? – There is one called ragweed– – Which is a sincicial and has pyrrolizidine
alkaloids in it which destroy your liver. – It’s got a yellow
flower, tall. – So you’ve got to know those
plants that it grows with. – Okay, there’s the poison, so we don’t get any of those. – And then you collect from it if you see a poisonous
plant or a plant that isn’t very good for you, you want to be at least
a meter away from it. – There’s a poison,
there’s a poison. These are okay. – You know, it’s a
big learning curve. The more you read, the
more you try to understand what needs to be done and
how to complete the process. – And in communities like
Atlantic City, Wyoming, friends get together to
share their knowledge in the work of crafting. – Now since we live up here
it’s more at our fingertips. I mean, we just
walk out our door and, you know, we have
all sorts of stuff. And then people,
like John and Jetta, and everybody just have
so much knowledge and– – We laugh, we laugh together and if we think of something,
we’ll call that person up and I said wait a minute,
I was reading this or what shall we do, you
know, we’re a family. – So this is the cow parsnip oil and it works on the nerves. – And the big things, of
course, are important, and they mean a lot, but a lot of times
the small medicines that have bigger potential, but you just use
for small things, that’s the important stuff too because everybody is going
to have a burn or a scrape. – The horsetail, of course,
does your connective tissues. – And they see all these
things that are growing here and they’ll give you a call and say what could
I do for this. – The goal that you want
is to help other people. – If they have a need then it’s nice to
have it there for them and some people
like things enough that they begin making
it for themselves and they need a little
direction to do that. It’s kind of a community
supported activity. – And while plants
grown in the wild might make better medicine, there is a need for
cultivated medicinals as well. – But planting is good
too, in the garden, because you know where it
is, you can go harvest it. This is the garden. We are looking at
the organic garden. Aspen Grove Ranch
organic garden. Anything on this ranch
that we want certified and we write down when
we send in the papers and that’s the
really exciting part of organic farming,
is the paperwork. – Oh, right. – So anything that we want
certified is certified. – Okay. – Because there’s never
been any herbicides or pesticides or
fertilization on it. Okay, here’s the woad,
also called isatis. An excellent antibiotic
and antiviral. There’s an herbalist
called Stephen Buhner that’s treating Lyme
disease and he uses this to treat the Lyme disease. – Huh. – So he put us in his book, so we got lots of orders
for the stuff he recommends, so this is one of the things we’re trying to get a
lot of that growing. – A native, is this
a native plant? – No. – So you’ve cultivated it? – Yeah, we planted it here, but it can take over because
it makes a lot of seeds. – Yeah. – This is European mugwort, which is a sagebrush. – What’s it good for? – They’re using it in
their Fertilica formulas, so it’s calming. That’s the osha that actually
froze and did its thing like it’s supposed to. This is how it should
look after three years and I think we’ll be
able to dig some of this, probably this row. I think this row got more sun, so the next time we
plant osha it’s gonna be in the middle where
it gets a lot of sun. And this is lady’s mantle. – Oh yeah. – Which we use in the
formulas for Fertilica too. – And what’s its properties? – It draws tissue together. This is hyssop. It’s good for mucous membranes. So we put it in one
of our formulas, our nose, throat,
and lung formula. These are osha babies. These guys here
are the baby oshas. These were planted last Fall. That’s a last year’s one. It’s already making seeds. – So what part of
the plant is usable? – You can use the whole thing. For flavoring, you can use
the seeds or the leaves, but the root is the one
that we put in the medicine because that’s the strongest. – Oh, okay. Notice it’s
concentrated in the root. – Yeah. – And the seeds, you
actually, is a culinary thing? – Yeah, you could use them, yep. They’re kind of like
celery on steroids maybe. – Oh really. It doesn’t have any
adverse effect if you– – Oh no. Eat it. You’ll love it. – Oh, it is! It’s super good! And what is this? – This is cow parsnip. This is another, same
family as the osha. The root you can use for Bell’s
Palsy or other nerve damage. It has been used for that. The seeds are excellent
for tooth ache and also has a digestive aid. This is motherwort which is
good for heart palpitations. And it’s another
mint, a square stem. And then this is plantain and we put that in our nose,
lung, and throat formula too because it’s really
good for lungs. And this here is Valerian. – And how do you
harvest this one? – This is the root, they
use the root on this one, so we have to dig it. – In the future I
think we’ll have more plants that
are grown in the US. – Gardens like Caroline’s
demonstrate the potential for small farmers
in the Rockies. – Probably 80% of
what you get here comes from India and
China, Eastern Europe. Then it gets
sprayed or fumigated when it comes in the country. Is it organic or
not? We don’t know. – With a need for
traceable quality herbs there’s opportunities
in growing plants suited to our regional
climate and soils. – Because you can’t
wildcraft for, you know, two million people. It’s like sorry, you know? Take on maybe one or two
herbs that they could grow. Maybe some dandelion
or maybe some lavender. Well, lavender not here, but
maybe in the Sheridan area. Osha, or maybe this
baikal skullcap, I mean it grows here. And have a cooperative
of small growers and people will want
more and more of this because this stuff really rocks.


  1. Great video! We need to keep the knowledge collected by past generations of wild edibles and medicinals available to younger populations. Can't wait to see more videos like this.

  2. Hi Stefani…
    I hope I got the spelling right because I only had a couple of seconds. THIS is one THE best PBS shows I have watched, and there have been many because I am in my 50's. Thank You for doing this! I live in Longmont, CO and luckily stumbled onto it this weekend on Youtube. I am very thankful because I am not feeling all that great and I am watching WYPBS… ALL DAY!

    My Mom lives in GA and I SO wish they had something comparable. They recycle year old shows, for many years. I have always thought that I would find some land in southern Colorado, but watching this, and now subscribing to WYPBS, I have re-thought that. I will have to research groundwater, so if you have any links regarding that, it would be helpful.

    This is my community and I amd so thankful to now that it growing, and thriving. Well done!

  3. 7:50 Achillea millefolium ? Why would you need it for stopping bleeding ? When you cut yourself the bleeding stops by itself.

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