Tapping into Native Roots

Although “native roots” may conjure up thoughts of the medicinal plant cannabis, that is not what this post is about. Sorry guys, but many of you probably already have your sources and could teach me a thing, or two, or three about that ancient plant. What this post is about is learning to use the native plants we have all around us, for medicine. Since this is one of my many passions, it was not surprising to hubby that I asked (ok, maybe begged a bit) the Campus Manager at Yellowstone Forever to allow me to support this field seminar. My charms won out as he graciously agreed. šŸ˜‰

Linda Black Elk

I was so honored to be a part of this course, led by Linda Black Elk, PhD and Ethnobotanist. Linda is part of the Catawba Nation and is married to Lakota native, Luke Black Elk, who has an illustrious family history – activist mother and revered grandfather, Chief Black Elk. Ā Side note: Ā Black Elk Speaks is a great read.

Hubby supported Luke’s course on Lakota Creation StoriesĀ immediately after the Native Plants class. Sadly no amount of begging or bribing has convinced him to write a guest post about his experience, which he loved. Fortunately for me, theĀ Native Plants and Their UsesĀ class began with singing and praying by both Linda and Luke, in their native Lakota tongue. It brought me to tears it was so beautiful. No photos were allowed during this sacred ceremony.

Luke and Linda sharing stories around the campfire.

Our Native Plants’ course consisted of indigenous stories (many were heartbreaking), identifying and learning the beneficial uses of local plants, foraging for specific plants, and bringing our bounty back to the Lamar Buffalo Ranch to make balms, salves, and elixirs. Seeing what I do at home, making so many of my own products, hubby said he couldn’t imagine a more perfect course for me to support. I had to admit that it was very special and completely in line with my belief system.

Classroom time after some foraging.

Since removing anything from a national park is strictly forbidden, our foraging for two days took us outside the park, where we strolled through forest lands for several hours, as Linda educated us on the medicinal properties of the many plants we found along the way. We harvested fireweed, sticky geranium, and yarrow, to be used later in the making of balms and salves, as well as wild onion and garlic for fire cider.

Salve in the making

There is something so comforting about walking in nature, harvesting plants that have been on this earth since ancient times, providing countless generations of people food and medicines. I’ve been told a time or two that I am an old soul and being in this environment, feeling such a strong connection to the past, I feel that may be true.

I loved this course and would highly recommend it for anyone interested in creating their own elixirs, salves and balms or want to learn more about native customs. Check out Yellowstone Forever for this and other great field seminars here.

Linda Black Elk and her husband Luke are a fantastic couple, armed with a wealth of indigenous history they are anxious to share. Ā It was a humbling experience to be in their presence. I walked away with a notebook full of information that I am happy to share if anyone is interested.

Since cold and flu season is upon us, here are a couple of recipes that might be of interest, because it’s all about keeping it natural (at least for me):

Elderberry Elixir


  • 1 c. dried elderberries (I purchase mine from Mountain Rose Herbs.)
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 cloves
  • one good-sized piece of ginger (~4 slices)
  • 4 c. good quality water
  • 1-2 c. raw honey

Add all ingredients except honey to heavy-bottom pan. Bring to boil, then reduce to simmer. Cook down liquid to 1/2. Add honey at end, after pan removed from heat. Keep in the fridge so elixir doesn’t ferment. Lasts a long time.

Ā NOTE: Powerful anti-viral & anti-bacterial agent. Great for treating colds.

Fire Cider


  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 head garlic, cloves separated & minced
  • 3/4 c. horseradish root, finely diced
  • 1 (6″) piece of ginger, diced
  • 1 (6″) piece of turmeric root, diced
  • 2-3 T. peppercorns
  • Chilies, sliced – add according to your heat preference. One large jalapeƱo might be a good start.
  • Unfiltered, raw apple cider vinegar

Pack all ingredients besides vinegar in 2-quart jar. Add enough vinegar to fill the jar.

Let fire cider steep for 3-4 weeks on your countertop. Shake periodically.

Strain the vinegar into a clean jar & store in fridge, where cider will keep for up to 12 months.

Enjoy a shot of this daily. Honey can be added for a little sweetness. Be forewarned, this one packs a bit of a punch! šŸ˜®

NOTE: ThisĀ can be used as an expectorant and is a great tonic for sore throats. Great for those with high blood pressure and is also good for the heart.

Disclaimer: Ā The views expressed here are my own and those of the instructor and do not necessarily representĀ the views of Yellowstone Forever. Ā