Natural Recipes & Remedies

Knowledge of place is best discovered through experience and exploration. We are offering this page as a hands-on way to get involved, get educated about plant-identification, and learn more about the uses of wild herbs. Feel free to contact us if you have further questions about these recipes and remedies, or if you have ones you’d like to share.

Poison Oak Information and Remedies
Plantain Salve
Acorn Bread
Elderberry Tincture 



Use:  For soothing cuts and scrapes.

Known to WYP kids as the band-aid plant this Plantain salve is great for bee stings, cuts and scrapes, and poison oak.  Common Plantain was brought to the United States by Europeans. The Native Americans, observing its spread, named it “white man’s footprint” or “Englishman’s foot” because wherever the white man stepped, Plantain seemed to grow. Plantain is found everywhere in Santa Barbara. It can be seen in gardens, lawns, along trails, in sidewalk cracks, etc. The very young leaves can be added to salads, or cooked as greens. The older leaves are still edible but are not as palatable as they become tougher and a little bitter. Plantain is very high in beta carotene (A) and calcium. It also provides ascorbic acid (C).  Make sure you are harvesting in an ethical way and somewhere safe (i.e no pesticides, heavy exhaust, etc).  
You can order plantain, beeswax and vitamin E Oil from Mountain Rose Herbs, a partner of Wilderness Youth Project. 

1 ½ oz. dried or 3 oz. fresh Plantain leaf powder 
½ to 1 oz. Beeswax
½ tsp Vitamin E oil
1 cup Olive oil
Small jar or tin 
In a saucepan, mix Plantain with olive oil.
Simmer over a low heat for about 20 minutes.
In a separate pan melt the beeswax.
Carefully pour into the herbal oil and blend well.
Add the vitamin E oil which serves as preservative.
Last, check for consistency.
Dip a spoon into the Plantain Salve and let cool.
If it is too hard, add more oil. If too soft, add more beeswax.
When it is just right pour into a small jar or tin and cover tightly.
Acorn meal can also be ground by hand.
Acorn meal can also be ground by hand.
1 cup Acorn flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 TBL Baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 TBL sugar
1 Egg
1 cup milk
3 TBL Oil
Preheat oven to 400º.  
Sift together acorn meal, flour, baking powder, salt and sugar.
In a separate bowl mix egg, milk, and oil.
Combine dry and liquid ingredients. Stir just to moisten dry ingredients. Pour into greased loaf pan and bake for 30 minutes. Slice and top with butter and honey. 
How To Process the Acorns Into Flour 
Gather a healthy bowl of nuts and crack the shells to remove the meaty inner part of the acorns.  Start pounding your acorns into a course meal by hand or use a food processor/grinder.  Pour boiling water to cover the nuts and let stand in this water for at least an hour. Drain the water and repeat the soaking process with new boiling water. Every time you drain the water taste the acorns. The more you rinse them, the more you leach out the bitter tannins to make the nuts taste sweeter. Rinse as many times as you like. Once you like the taste, the meal should dry before use. You can also use the meal wet but make sure you adjust the recipe.
To dry the acorn meal, place in a dehydrator or on a cookie sheet in a thin layer. You can put this in the sun or in the oven.  (Don’t turn the oven on, the pilot light is warm enough). Once the meal is dry you want to pound it into a finer meal or place back into your food processor. Now the acorn flour is ready to use. If you are going to store it for future use, make sure the flour is COMPLETELY dry or it will mold. Acorn flour can be used in many recipes that call for flour.  It adds a nutty, rich flavor.
You can also try this cold water method to leach the tannins from the acorns.
Use: For the common cold and flu 
WARNING: Elderberry is a wonderful plant and one that deserves our respect. The ripe berries and flowers are edible but leaves, twigs, unripe berries and bark are all poisonous. They contain cyanide and can do harm to humans. 
CAUTION: Make sure you use Sambucas nigra or Sambucas mexicana. All parts of Sambucas racemosa (Red Elderberry) are poisonous. 
Elderberry has a very high Vitamin C content and is a great immune booster, especially during the winter months of cold and flu season. This tincture can be used before you feel any symptoms, as a preventative when you start to feel the symptoms or as a way to boost your immune system when you are in the thick of a cold/flu. 
 Quart jar with lid 
 3-4 cups fresh or dried Elderberries
 80 proof vodka
Clean your jar with hot water
Put the Elderberries in jar
Pour the vodka in so the berries are just covered
Lid the jar and shake, shake, shake
Label and date your jar
Try to shake it once a day.
Let it sit for at least 30 days before you strain it. You can let it soak for longer, up to a year.
To take as a preventative use 1 teaspoon 3 times a day. If you have symptoms of a cold or flu take 2 teaspoons 3-4 times a day for 2 weeks. For kids, cut the dose in half. 
You can harvest Elderberry and use the fresh berries. Make sure you are harvesting in an ethical way and somewhere safe (i.e no pesticides, heavy exhaust, etc). 
You can also order Elderberry extract or powder from Mountain Rose Herbs. It is a great way to support Wilderness Youth Project programs because Mountain Rose Herb gives a portion of its proceeds to WYP with every purchase made from our website.  Simply click here or on banner below. 


Poison Oak (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)
Poison Oak (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

One of the most challenging hazards our staff and participants face out on the land is contact with Poison Oak.  We work hard to help kids identify and avoid this plant, but that is sometimes not possible.

The best way to help you or your child prevent a reaction to poison oak is to follow the directions below and wash skin and clothing immediately after program. 

How to Identify Poison Oak:

Read more about Poison Oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum) on Wikipedia.

Poison Oak Prevention:

Immediately after contact with the leaf or stem:

Wash skin with soap and cold water (biodegradable soap if out in nature). Baby wipes work well on the go.

If Poison Oak came in contact with clothing or backpack do not to touch anyone else with those items.

At home:

  • Immediately wash clothing/backpack/shoes (whatever came in contact with Poison Oak) with soap and cold water. The oils can remain active for a long period of time.

  • Immediately shower with cold water and soap (hot water spreads the oil!)

    • There are several Poison Oak soaps out there that work well:

      • Tecnu skin cleanser (CVS, Rite Aid)

      • Paradise Road Soap Company PO soap (Whole Foods, Lazy Acres)

      • Zanfel Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac Wash (CVS)

If Poison Oak rash develops:

Red, itchy bumps are sign of a mild poison oak reaction. (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

Poison Oak skin irritation can be characterized by redness, blistering, swelling and severe itching. The blistering usually appears in a streak-like manner (see link below for  reaction images). Typically, itching develops 24-48 hours after the exposure. Some people experience symptoms after as little as 30 minutes and others may not have symptoms until a week following exposure. Mild cases of poison oak last from 7 to 10 days and severe cases may last up to three weeks or longer.

Urushiol is the toxin known to cause the itching and rash associated with poison ivy, oak, sumac, poisonwood and related plants. This oil is in all parts of the plant including the leaves, stem, berries, flower, and roots. The most important step in eliminating the rash is to remove urushiol from the skin.

  • Don’t scratch! It feels good immediately, but makes worse in the long run.

  • To relieve itching and swelling (in no special order):

    • Non-prescription antihistamine such as Benadryl (CVS, Rite Aid)

    • Hylands Poison Oak/Ivy Tablets- a natural relief (Lazy Acres, Whole Foods)

    • Cool Compress

    • Quantum “Itch Nix” Gel (online)

    • Zanfel Wash (CVS)

  • If rash persists and/or becomes systemic consult your pediatrician or doctor.


More Links to photos of Poison Oak reactions:

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