It is May in the west of North America, and the Arrowleaf Balsamroot are warming the hillsides. This medicinal treasure is found in arid climates as far east as the Dakotas, north up into the western parts of Canada, and south into Mexico. Its official name is Balsamorhiza sagittata. The root of this plant holds the deep magic, but all parts of it are edible/beneficial. Historically, Native Americans ground the root into a substance similar to flour to consume.
The bitter piney flavors of this plant might not be tasty to everyone. The giant leaves are almost a gray (silvery) green color. They are fuzzy soft to the touch, and have been known to get close to two feet in length. They are great for small hiding critters. Sheep, deer and elk like to nosh on the shoots. When you see this plant from afar you’ll likely think of a sunflower, and balsamroot are in the asteraceae family, so related to the sunflower. This plant blooms from April to July on dry hillsides. If you live where I live, you can’t walk too far up a mountain without stepping on one.
This plant is an expectorant, which is really neato because it grows where wildfires tend to happen, and it aids your respiratory system. Aren’t plants so smart?
It is also a diaphoretic, which means it warms the body, so it can be a nice salve to apply to sore muscles to increase circulation. It can be taken internally to warm your system as well.
How do we use this plant in our family?
First off, as always, make sure the area you’re harvesting from hasn’t been sprayed and has an over-abundance of the plant. Balsamroot has an enormous root so if you commit to harvesting it, remember it likes to grow in the rocks, and the root can be 30 pounds and several meters deep. It’s a commitment. But, you can use the bark of the root AND the inside which is more resinous, to make a tincture or oil. This isn’t my photo of the root, I borrowed it.
We take the tincture for sore throats and as an expectorant for respiratory gunk. It is especially nice at the tail end of a cold. That sticky sap from the plant is also a nice remedy for minor wounds.
If you like the visual, I hiked up a mountain in my hood to find one for you. Happy Spring!