Herbs that Calm and Heal, post SHTF

After my post about managing mental illness after SHTF, a reader asked for a more detailed look at some of the herbs that could be grown and used by resourceful prepper types.

My post today should not be interpreted as encouragement to break laws. If I was to tell you, that, hypothetically speaking, I grew these plants, I would tell you that they grew really well for me, and were very effective. That is the path I chose, at a specific moment in my life, in a specific place, and everyone should carefully weigh the risks of growing plants that are illegal.  Basic OpSec like mailing the seeds to a PO box, can go a long way.

Poppies, for opium.  Opium is really great at easing pain.  The seeds you want to look for are Papaver somniferum seeds.  A google search is sufficient to find a variety of shopping options.  They are fairly hardy flowers, and I didn’t find them hard to grow.  At one point we let a couple go to seed, and they sprouted up all over the lawn. Harvesting the opium can be tricky, what you’re after is the sap type stuff in the unripe pods.  Wait for the petals of the flower to drop off, the pod will grow in size for another 5 or 10, to get the sap, cut a slight incision around the equator of the pod, shallow enough not to punch into the seed pod.  A thin metal blade works best, like a razor blade. Immediately after cutting, milky liquid opium will form droplets around the incision. It will coagulate slowly from contact with the air, thickening and turning brown at the same time. Generally, this liquid opium is allowed to dry for ten or twelve hours before it is scraped from the pod. Scraped from the pod and collected in a small container, you’ll be dealing with a sticky darker substance, raw opium will contain from 8 to 15% morphine as well as codeine and related alkaloids.  Let me repeat that for those readers that find their eyes glazing over from the details here, MORPHINE and CODEINE.  I’m guessing I don’t need to tell you what those are good for.  The only way I know to ingest opium, hypothetically speaking, is to get a small amount, in a pipe and smoke it.  Small amount, means, for instance for a broken thumb I found a half a pea sized amount sufficient to dull the pain to bearable levels.  Care should be used with all opiates, if the patient in question has a nature that’s pre-disposed to addiction, they may find the siren call alluring.  I’ve never had that problem, and I don’t know anyone who has, but I know it happens.  If smoking isn’t your thing, I think you can make tinctures with it, but I consider myself a novice at such things, and can’t offer advice on it.


Marijuana to bring sleep,  ease pain, stimulate appetite, calm anxiety and ease breathing problems.  The main things to consider with marijuana is the length of your season, (if you’re growing outside) or the size of your space (if you’re growing inside.) Indoor growing requires a ton of energy, which won’t be available post SHTF, so I’m going to focus on outdoor growing.  There are two basic types of marijuana, Indica’s and Sativas. For the shorter summers we work with in Iowa and Maine, you’re going to want more Indica than Sativa.  Indica varieties will mature and flower quicker.  With the boom in medical marijuana, as well as the growing popularity in countries where it’s totally legal, a quick internet search for seeds will always yield results.  If you aren’t really picky about the strain you grow, (I wouldn’t be, unless you have a specific condition you’re looking to treat, and then do your homework to figure out the best strain for your needs) you can find seeds that won’t break the bank.  The nickname didn’t come by accident. There are strains of hemp/marijuana that grow wild in the ditches here in Iowa.  I’m sure they have a pretty low THC count, but they do illustrate how easy this plant is to grow.  It will grow fairly large though, so be prepared for that. You’ll want a few feet of space per plant, and head room of 5-7 feet.  Harvesting isn’t tricky, what you’re after is the flower, the bud.  Like many other herbs, you can get a bushier plant with more flowers if you cut off the tips of the stalks as growth starts to become rapid.  You’ll want to harvest right before the flowers start to dry up, this takes practice, just cut the flower off. Curing will help the flowers to store better, just like your potatoes and onions. :-) Cool place out of the sun, with some air movement.  After the curing, anything air tight is a good storage place.  You can eat it, make tea, smoke it or vaporize it. They all work, they all have different effects, and you can find tons of information to help you with that decision, so I won’t re-invent the wheel.   Post SHTF, rolling it in papers to smoke would probably be easiest, as well as making acceptable units for barter.


There are some powerhouse herbs that are totally legal.  There’s a lot more information out there about these, so I’ll just briefly touch base on those that I find well suited for short summers and all around care.

Hard neck garlic – Delicious to eat, garlic also has many uses as a medicinal, as it’s known as an anti-bacterial and anti-viral. It contains a weak version of penicillin. Cooking kills most of these properties, so for full effect you’ll need to work with the raw form, and usually in large quantities.  I can grow 50 bulbs and that’s enough for my family to eat on for a year. If I want more for medicinal use, I plant at least a couple dozen more. I think another 50 wouldn’t be out of line, especially if you have someone in the family actively treating something. Ointments, teas, poultices, syrups, the list is long for acceptable ways to prepare it.  I find that hardnecks grow better than the softnecks in the colder country.

Lobelia – Found growing in moist woods, stream and pond banks. Lobelia is good for encouraging stronger and deeper breathing, making it useful for astham, bronchitis, and pneumonia. It’s also good for inducing vomiting.

Willow – you want White willow, spring and summer are the peak times for bark harvesting. The bark is used mainly for its pain relieving effect and anti-inflammatory properties. Salicylic acid is the most popular chemical content of the bark. It is the main component of aspirin.

Catnip can be calming for some. It’s a mild sedative. It is best made into a tea, and grows really easily in most climates.

Red clover can be very helpful for the prepper ladies. It’s chocked full of phytoestrogens, which can ease the symptoms of PMS.  Applied topically it can help skin lesions and small wounds. This grows wild here in my neck of the woods.


With all of these, you have to remember, you’re not dealing with a tablet of advil.  You’re dealing with a natural plant, which has varying levels of beneficial chemicals, depending on variables as diverse as moon phase, moisture levels, harvesting technique, age and variety.  Adjust dosing accordingly, taking also into account the age/size and wellness of the patient. Remember if you’re harvesting from the wild, if you leave no plants to flower and set seed, you’ll have no plants next year.