Edible & Medicinal Wild Desert Plants

Edible & Medicinal Wild Desert Plants
There are a number of different plants in the desert that are edible and/or can be used for medicinal purposes in an emergency situation. Becoming familiar with edible plants through the use of a desert plant identification guide will help ensure that you don't eat the wrong plant.
 

History

Native Americans have long used desert plants for both food and medicine. For example, the Pima Nation used various concoctions of Desert Thornapple to make analgesics, earache remedies, eye washes and poultices to draw out pus from boils and sores.

 
 

Features

Edible parts of a desert plant typically include its seedpods, flowers or cactus paddles.

Water Sources

The pincushion cactus can be used as a water source. Just pry off the top of the cactus with a rock and then drink the water within.

Medicinal Uses

Many desert plants have medicinal uses. For example, the pulp from the pad of a prickly pear cactus can be used as a salve to heal wounds.

Jojoba seeds produce oil that is a great natural skin care medium and can be used to create many homemade products. The leaves of the Mormon tea plant contain a small dose of pseudoephedrine, which means it can treat congestion and respiratory conditions.

Food Sources

Mesquite (seed pods) prickly pear cactus (the fruit and cactus pads) are both edible; the mesquite's seed pods can be ground into flour and prickly pear cactus paddles are good either boiled or grilled. Both plants have properties that help stabilize blood sugar. Agave in syrup form is often used as an alternative sweetener; the flowers are sweet and can be cooked and eaten.

 

Article Written By Susan Berg

Based in northern Wisconsin, Susan Berg has more than 10 years of experience as a writer and editor. Her work has been published in both print and online media, including the "Dayton Daily News" and BioZine. Berg earned a Master of Arts in journalism from Indiana University.

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