An Herb Walk in the Woods

herb walk in november

A November Herb walk

An herb walk in November?  Yes!  Herbs are available year-round when you know where to look, although, it is true that late fall or early winter may not be the best time to gather. The plants may not be at their peak potency. Yet, they are here when we need them, and in a pinch will work fine. Gaia, Mother Goddess, of the Earth, offers her bounty year-round. I am eternally grateful and in awe of the diversity and connectedness around us. 

The other day I took a lovely walk. Below are some of the herbs I found not far from the house. 

Pinion Pine (Pinus spp.)

Pine grows just about everywhere. And although there are many different species depending on where you live, they are all pretty much used interchangeably.  

The whole plant has a warming and stimulating energy, with most parts providing useful food and medicine.  Pine needles, sap or pitch, and inner bark are antiseptic, expectorant, and tonic. An infusion of the needles makes a nice tasting tea and is high in vitamin A and C that are useful for the respiratory and urinary systems. The pitch (or sticky sap inside the bark and wood or found dripping on the outside bark) and the bark may also be used.  Preparations using the bark and sap tend to have a more stimulating action. 

A steam inhalation may be made by placing pine needles or bark in boiling water for a few minutes and inhaling the steam to remove both sinus and lung congestion. Both the tea and inhalations are useful for urinary infections, sinus congestion, coughs, colds, bronchitis, and pneumonia. Add the infusion to your bath to help relieve breathing difficulties, skin complaints, and rheumatic pain. I like to infuse the dried needles and inner bark in olive and caster oils, along with other herbs for use as a decongestant. 

Pinion pine, November herb gathering

Typically, the bark is warmer and more stimulating than the needles. When a light touch is needed, use the needles. When the problem has become more problematic, use the inner bark. The pitch can be chewed raw for a lovely expectorant and decongestant action.

White Horehound (Marrubium Vulgare)

Horehound is specific for dry coughs, respiratory infections and conditions like laryngitis, bronchitis, chronic cough, sore throat, and sinusitis. It also helps lower a fever. White Horehound helps regulate the urinary system, encouraging proper fluid circulation. As a bitter, simulant and digestive herb, it is often used to help relieve upset stomach, heart burn, difficult digestion and to improve the appetite.  

Horehound is not appropriate for pregnant women, as it promotes menstruation and helps expel the afterbirth.

Horehound herb, a walk in the woods

Usnea (Usnea spp.) –

There are many varieties of Usnea growing all over the continental United States. If you live anywhere pine grows, you probably have this little lichen close at hand.   

Usnea has a special affinity for rebalancing bacteria and eradicating infection throughout the mucus membranes, from mouth to lungs and from the gut to urinary tract. Usnea stimulates the immune system as it restores energy. It is especially useful for chronic conditions that create fatigue and weakness. Usnea works as a relaxing expectorant, bronchial dilator, lymphagogue and broad spectrum anti-infective.  A gift for those with signs of infection in the lungs and bronchial area especially in these days of COVID-19.

Usnea tincture, Herbal harvest in November

With a cooling and drying energy, Usnea is best taken as a tincture for the protection of mucus membranes. In formula Usnea combines well with Echinacea, Pine, Grindelia, Horehound and Mullein for respiratory illness.

Externally, use Usnea as an anti-bacterial and anti-infective wound healer, well applied as a poultice, wash, or oil. 

Mullein (Verbascum Thapsus)

Mullein (Verbascum Thapsus) – Mullein leaves are used to relieve dry, unproductive coughs and to help protect respiratory cilia (The small hair-like protrusions in the lungs that move debris up and out of the respiratory system). Mullein tea, made by steeping the leaves in boiling water for 10 – 20 minutes, has a lightly relaxing expectorant action. This herb is perfectly suited for treating dry, spasmodic coughing and asthma. It also brings a soothing, moistening sense of relief to upper respiratory irritation. 

To learn more information about Mullein and how to use it to enhance health read “An Herbal Interlude with Mullein”.

Mullein in November

Alligator Juniper (Juniperus deppeana) and other spp.

Most Junipers are easily interchangeable. The berry and leaf are the parts used most often, yet the twigs and inner bark can also be used. Juniper is an important natural medicine to cleanse and strengthen the kidneys. Having the power to tone, invigorate and activate, juniper is mainly used when its cleansing abilities are needed by those who have become too damp or congested. Look for a coating on the tongue along with symptoms such as water retention, and a dull, heavy ache in their bodies. Many who would benefit from juniper also suffer from unhealthy skin conditions like psoriasis, eczema, or acne. 

Juniper is used in the treatment of chronic and sub-acute infections of the urinary system and kidneys and as a decongestant for the lymph and lungs. Richard Whelan, Medical Herbalist, describes a system-wide cleanse using a combination of celandine tincture and ripe juniper berries.  The cleanse is best used when a deep cleansing action is needed. Here is his website for more information.

The Berry is more heating and activating than the leaf as it contains more essential oils. Care should be taken to harvest only ripe berries (that is when there color is dark blue) for use as medicine. The leaf is more astringent. Internally Juniper can be taken as a tea or tincture (around 2-4 milliliters per day in divided doses). The raw berries can be chewed slowly, keeping them in your mouth as long as possible before swallowing to extract as much of the essential oils as possible.

An herbal interlude with juniper

Scrub Oak (Quercus turbinella) and other species

All Oaks are used pretty much the same, as a basic astringent. Astringent herbs contract or tighten tissue. They are helpful when the tissue is overly relaxed and can help reduce secretions and discharges. Michael Moore, the herbalist, writes in his book Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West,  “A tea of the bark can be used as a wash for gum inflammations, as a gargle for sore throat and as an intestinal tonic for diarrhea.” 

All parts of the oak are useful in first aid when an astringent is needed. It helps dry dampness, heals damaged tissues, and can slow or stop both external and internal bleeding. Its high tannin content binds with proteins in the tissues making them less permeable to infection. Oakbark, leaves and the gall (small round growths in the bark made by insects) are useful to reduce inflammations and to help tighten and heal scrapes, cuts and wounds. The leaves can be chewed an applied to relieve insect bites or placed in the mouth for minor tooth aches.

For internal use It is best used as a cold infusion and as a tincture in formula.   

scrub oak nov harvest

Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia spp.)

This time of year, the most useful part of the Prickly Pear is the inner fillet of the cactus pad.  To harvest this prickly friend, spear the pad of the cactus with a stick or knife. Then hold it down on a rock and scrape off the prickles, both large and small. The inner flesh can be used raw or processed after skinning. Or, depending on the use, the juice can be extracted by chopping the pad, skin and all. Cover the chopped cactus pad in water and let sit for an hour or more. Then slowly simmer the water and the pad, over very low heat for about an hour. Strain. The resulting juice can be used internally and externally much the same as Aloe Vera.

prickly pear for November harvest

The inner fillet of the Prickly Pear works well as a vulnerary and mucosal vulnerary to heal, soothe, and protect our skin, inside and out. A slurry can be made by putting the skinned or de-spined cactus pads into the blender.  Blend until the mixture is smooth and frothy.  This “slurry”  is wonderful to apply externally as a poultice, or to apply straight, for irritated skin of all kinds.  Taken internally, the native peoples of the Southwest used a slurry of the fillet to control Type 2 diabetes and help resolve digestive issues related to excess heat.

When we take the time to look around, we see that all we need is always provided. What plants do you see on your walk? I would love to hear about what you have growing, even in the winter, in your neck of the woods.

Thanks for reading

Many Blessings


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Moore, Michael; Medicinal Plants of the mountain west, Museum of New Mexico Press, Santa Fe, Nm.  2003

Coffman, Sam; The herbal Medic, The Human Path, San Antonio, Tx.  2014


The statements and ideas presented here are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or condition. They have not been evaluated by the FDA. All ideas presented are for the sole purpose of education. To help you take control of your own health. If you have a health concern or condition, consult a physician. We suggest that you always consult a medical doctor before modifying your diet, using any new product, drug, supplement, or doing any new exercises.

These statements and products have not been evaluated by the FDA. They are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or condition. If you have a health concern or condition, consult a physician. Always consult a medical doctor before modifying your diet, using any new product, drug, supplement, or doing any new exercises.

Herbs taken for health purposes should be treated with the same care as medicine. Herbal remedies are no substitute for a healthy diet and lifestyle. If you are serious about good health, you’ll want to combine diet, exercise, herbals, a good relationship with your doctor and a generally healthy lifestyle. No one of these will do it alone.

This information is designed to be used as part of a complete health plan. No products are intended to replace your doctor’s care, or to supersede any of his/her advice or prescriptions.

4 thoughts on “An Herb Walk in the Woods”

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