Medicinal Plants

As time goes by, pharmacuticals and over the counter medication will be harder to come by.  Because of this, it would be wise to familiarize yourself with plants that have medicinal properties.  Below I have shared some plants that will help with treatment in emergency situations (bleeding, shortness of breath, weakness, nausea, etc).  When doing research on medicinal plants and herbology, you will come across plenty of plants that fall into the realm of homeopathic remedies.  The only supporting evidence that the plant does what someone claims it does is anecdotal at best.  So without further ado:

Aloe Vera

The leaves of the aloe vera plant are used to heal burns and wounds as well as some other skin ailments.  This jagged green plant grows in arid climates and can be found all over the world.  Aloe vera has been marketed as a “cure all” and is included in products ranging from gels and lotions to yogurt.  However, it hasn’t been shown that aloe helps with anything else.

Bilberry

These tiny fruits grow in temperate and sub-arctic climates (such as North America and the U.K.).  They are very similar to the North American blueberry, however they are not the same.  The pulp of a blueberry is a greenish/white color and the pulp of a bilberry is a dark purple color.  On top of being a great food source, it can be used to treat diarrhea and scurvy.

Clove

Clove is a very common ingredient found in many households, but it isn’t an indigenous plant to North America.  It is native to Indonesia and can be found naturally in the surrounding area.  Regardless, if you happen upon some dried cloves they can be used for an upset stomach and as an expectorant.  If you have some clove essential oil, it is an effective topical anesthetic especially for toothaches.

Ginger

The root of the ginger plant is used to relieve nausea.  Ginger can be found throughout Southeast Asia, West Africa, and the Caribbean.

 

 

 

 

Indian Head Ginger

Indian Head Ginger, or costus spicatus, is a plant native to the Caribbean and South America.  If you brew the leaves of this plant into a tea it has been known to help cleanse parasites from the drinkers system.

 

 

Kava

Kava may not have a vital first-aid use, but some of the effects make this plant a good one to have around in the PAW.  When the leaves are chewed they have an anesthetic effect on the mouth and throat (similar to that of chloroseptic spray), and if enough are ingested, it can be used as a sedative.  In small doses, the kava leaf can impart a mild euphoria and increased mental acuity.  Kava is native to Polynesian islands from Hawaii to Micronesia, so unless you are lucky enough to be stranded there when at the end of the world as we know it, you probably won’t come across this plant.

 

Sangre de Grado

This is a tree that is native to northeastern South America.  The sap from the “Dragon’s Blood” tree is a very unique first-aid tool.  Rub this blood red sap in a wound until it turns into a white paste and it will form into a latex bandage.  On top of covering the wound it is also a verd strong antiseptic and hemostatic.

 

Sphagnum

Sphagnum moss is common around the world.  There are around 300 known species that mostly look different (the only characteristic that ties them together is the way the branches cluster).  The thing about all the species of sphagnum moss is that they have an antiseptic quality.  So when you wrap a wound, put some sphagnum moss in between the wound and the wrap.

Yarrow

Yarrow is used to stop bleeding (topically), help wounds heal, and as an anti-inflammatory.  It is commonly found all over the Northern Hemisphere.  It should be noted that yarrow can promote AND staunch blood flow depending on how it’s prepared.  Placing the plant on the wound will cause it to staunch blood flow.

How to Cross a Rope Bridge

Just being able to make a rope bridge doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily be able to cross it.  The less crossing ropes to your rope bridge, the more complicated the crossing will be.  For suspension bridges and any other bridge where you can plant your feet firmly and walk forward, that’s exactly how you cross.  Just be cautious of your footing.

For either a one or two rope bridge you will want to attach yourself to one of the ropes via a safety harness.  There are safety harnesses commercially available, but here at The Armageddon Blog, we like to assume the worst.  You can tie a Swiss Seat using a 6-10 foot length of rope.  This will prevent you from falling while crossing.

Postman’s Bridge (Two Ropes)

For a Postman’s Bridge you will need to devise a safety rope to tie your safety harness to the top rope of the bridge. I would suggest tying a bowline knot to a carabiner attached to the top rope, and another bowline knot tied to the carabiner attached to your harness.

Once you are attached, you will use the following system of movements in order to cross the bridge.

  1. Shift all your weight to your back hand and leg.
  2. Move your lead leg as far forward on the bottom rope as possible.
  3. Shift your weight equally between your legs and move your lead hand above your lead leg on the top rope.
  4. Shift your weight onto your lead hand and leg.
  5. Move your back hand up to your lead hand (move the carabiner for the safety rope up with this step).
  6. Move your back leg up to your lead leg.
  7. Repeat

This seems fairly easy, but there are a few things to be wary of. 

  • No matter how tight the bridge lines are, there will still be some wiggle in the rope.  Move slowly to avoid losing your balance.
  • If you’re crossing a river, it is entirely likely that the rope will absorb some moisture.  If this happens the rope will be slick: Make sure you have solid footing before shifting your weight.

Commando Bridge (One Rope)

There are two ways to go about this.  You can either cross on top of the rope or below the rope, either way will be equally taxing. 

Commando Crawl (On Top of the Rope)

For this, you lay on top of the rope with one leg bent, foot hooked on the rope and as close to the butt as possible.  The other leg dangles to maintain balance.  You move across the rope using the hooked foot and your arms to drag you across.  While it is harder to maintain your balance with this technique, it is a lot easier to stop and rest your muscles should they become fatigued.

Monkey Crawl (Beneath the Rope)

Grab on to the rope with both hands and hook both heels over the rope.  Move by crawling forward.  This is a simpler method to maintain, however it is much more taxing and nearly impossible to stop and recover should you become fatigued.  On the other hand, if you are using a safety rope you can simply let go with your arms or feet (but not both at the same time) to give them a break.

Crossing with Gear

Should you need to cross with any equipment, hopefully it is in bags.  Attach the bags to the line via carabiner and drag it along behind you.  You can attach the equipment carabiner to a rope and attach it to your safety line carabiner to make it easier to keep track of.

How to Tie a Swiss Seat

There are plenty of knots you can learn that will have much more use and be of more value than the Swiss Seat.  That is, until you need to go climbing or rope crossing.  The Swiss Seat is a makeshift harness that you can use to attach yourself to a rappel or bridge rope in case you don’t have a climbing harness.

  1. First of all, you need a length of rope 6-10 feet in length.
  2. Fold the rope in half, grasping the midpoint.
  3. Place the bight on your left hip.
  4. Wrap the rope around your waist on both sides, ensuring that the midpoint stays over the left hip.
  5. Pull one side under the other to make a half hitch. Repeat so that the rope turns twice around itself. This will eventually be where the carabiner is placed.
  6. Let the free ends of the rope fall to the ground, dangling in front of you.
  7. Reach between your legs from behind and grab each end of the rope in the adjacent hand.
  8. Bring the ends up to the outside edges of your back and tuck the ends under the rope at your waist from the bottom and over.
  9. Simultaneously squat and pull on the rope ends to tighten the seat as much as possible.  Repeat this step until the seat is sufficiently tight.
  10. To maintain the tension, run the ends under themselves from back to front, creating a loop around the waist rope directed back to the front.
  11. Tie the two rope ends into a square knot off-center to the left (to avoid snagging the line you are attaching to).

This should be uncomfortably tight around your body but not cutting off circulation, and certainly not squeezing… sensitive… regions.  After you’re all tied up, attach a carabiner to the wrap of ropes at the front of your body and then attach it to the line and your ready to go.

Bad Plants: What Not to Eat in the Wild

Growing up, we had a yew bush in our front yard and my parents had to almost constantly tell me not to eat the berries from this bush.  They looked so vibrant and delicious-looking that I couldn’t help but be tempted.  It turns out that had I given in to this temptation I would have been perfectly fine as the berries themselves aren’t poisonous, but the entire rest of the plant is (It’s reputed that some bowyers have died from handling too much yew wood while making bows).  There are many plants in nature that rely on their toxicity to survive.  Unfortunately, we humans are incapable of detecting this poison where the natural world has ways of telling.  So we have to rely on our wits to help us avoid these plants.

An easy (but tedious) way of determining a plants toxicity is to look for signs of other animals eating parts of it or observing the plant to see if any animals eat it.  Some animals aren’t affected by poisons that affect humans so this doesn’t necessarily mean that it isn’t poisonous, it just makes it less likely to be poisonous.

Universal Edibility Test

If you encounter a plant that you think may be safe to eat, you should conduct the Universal Edibility Test on it to ensure that it is, in fact, safe to eat.  The UET minimizes your chances of being injured or dying from contacting a poisonous plant.  It is a long and tedious process, but it could very well save your life.  You must have an empty stomach at the start of the test so you need to fast for at least 8 hours before you start.

  1. Separate the plant into five basic parts: leaves, roots, stems, buds, and flowers.  Some plants have parts that are edible while the rest is poisonous (as with yew bushes).  Separating each part lets you test the individual pieces to determine its edibility.
  2. Rub a part of the plant on a bit of sensitive skin (wrist, inside of the knee or elbow, etc.) and wait eight hours.  During the waiting period, you shouldn’t eat anything, but it is acceptable to drink water (and only water).  Throughout the waiting period, watch out for a burning sensation, redness, welts, or bumps on the skin.  These indicate that you are having a reaction to the plant, and if it affects your skin, it will affect your stomach.  If you encounter any of these reactions, rinse your skin, wait 8 hours, and start the test over with a new piece of plant.
  3. It has been shown that some toxins that were present in a plant raw were not present after boiling the plant.  If you have the means to boil the plant, then do so.
  4. Whether or not you boiled the plant, place the plant against your lips for three minutes.  If you feel any burning or tingling, remove the plant, rinse your lips and start over with a new piece of plant.
  5. Taste the plant for 15 minutes without chewing.  If you experience burning, tingling or any other unpleasant sensations.  Discard the plant, rinse your mouth, and start over with a new piece of plant.  Remember that just because it tastes bad doesn’t mean it’s poisonous.
  6. Chew the plant thoroughly and leave on your tongue for 15 minutes.  DON’T SWALLOW!  Again, if you experience any burning, numbness, or tingling spit out the plant, rinse your mouth, and start over with a new piece of plant.
  7. Swallow the soggy, masticated bit of plant.  Now you get to wait another eight hours while watching for signs of nausea.  You can only drink water during this time.  If your feel nauseous at any point during the 8 hours, induce vomiting and drink lots of water.
  8. Eat about a quarter cup of the plant (specifically the part you have been testing) in the same manner as you’ve tested to this point (just without all the waiting).  Once you get it all down, wait for adverse effects again for eight hours, only drinking water.  If you feel sick, induce vomiting, drink lots of water and start over.

At this point the plant part can be considered safe to eat, just don’t gorge on it.

Signs To Avoid

Memorizing all the plants in an area can be tedious, and will do you no good if you are surviving in a different area, but that doesn’t mean that you’re totally screwed.  There are some surefire ways to determine if a plant is poisonous or not:

  • Plants with shiny leaves.
  • Don’t eat mushrooms. Some are perfectly safe, but others are highly toxic and it’s very difficult to differentiate between species of mushrooms.  Also, mushrooms don’t offer much in the way of nutrition so they really aren’t worth the risk.
  • Umbrella-shaped flowers.
  • plants with milky or discolored sap.
  • Bitter or soapy taste.
  • Smells like almonds.
  • Leaves in groups of three.
  • Beans, bulbs, or seeds inside pods.
  • Spines, fine hairs, or thorns.
  • Dill, carrot, parsnip, or parsleylike foliage.
  • Grain heads with pink, purplish, or black spurs.

There is a saying about berries that holds true:

White and yellow, kill a fellow.
Purple and blue, good for you.
Red… could be good, could be dead.

Additionally, a good way to determine if a red berry is poisonous is to look at how they’re grouped on the branch.  If berries are grouped in bunches, then avoid them.  If the berries grow individual off the branch, then they are probably good.

How to Tie a Figure Eight Slip Knot

The Figure Eight Slip Knot is an adjustable loop-on-the-bight knot.

  1. Make a bight in the rope.
  2. Hold the center of the bight in the right hand. With the center of the bight in the right hand and the legs of the rope secured, twist two complete turns clockwise.
  3. Reach through the bight and grasp the long, standing end of the rope. Pull another bight back through the original bight.
  4. Pull down on the short working end of the rope and dress the knot down.
  5. If the knot is to be used in a transport tightening system, take the working end of the rope and form a half hitch around the loop of the figure eight knot.

 

 

 

How to Tie a Wireman’s Knot

There are many knots that fall into the loop-on-the-bight category, but this one is particularly helpful when building a rope bridge (as described in an upcoming post).  This knot is basically tied by reverse french braiding the loops.

  1. Wrap two turns around the left hand (palm up) from left to right.
  2. Name the wraps from the palm to the fingertips: #1 (heel), #2 (palm), and #3 (fingertip).  Grab the #2 wrap (middle) and place it over the #1 wrap (heel).
  3. Grab the #1 wrap (now in the middle) and place it over the #3 wrap (fingertip).
  4. Grab the #3 wrap (now in the middle) and place it over the #2 wrap (heel).
  5. Grab the #2 wrap (now in the middle) and pull up to form a fixed loop.
  6. Dress the knot down by pulling on the fixed loop and the two working ends.  Pull the working ends apart to finish the knot.

How to Tie a Round Turn and Two Half Hitches

Knots are pretty important in survival.  Most people don’t realize it until they suddenly have to tie a rope and the knot collapses and they have no idea why.  One of the best knots for tying the end of a rope to a static object is called the Round Turn and Two Half Hitches.  Called this because of the components that go into tying it.  You turn the rope ’round the object and secure it with two half hitch knots.

  1. First, wrap the rope around your static object.
  2. Then loop the running end of the rope over the standing end.
  3. Tuck the running end of the rope through the loop created by the last step.  Pull to tighten the knot and push it back close to the anchor object.
  4. Wrap the running end of the rope over the top of the standing end again.
  5. Tuck the running end of the rope through the loop create by the last step (again).  Pull to tighten the knot and push it back close to the first half hitch.

This will create a stable knot that can take a fair amount of weight without weakening.