The Iowan Apothecary

Share This

Read about Iowa’s medicinal plants.  Articles on Iowa’s herbs, published periodically.

Iowa Prairie Driftless | Iowa Herbalist

This “Iowan Apothecary” is called such since I wish to use as much of our immediate native Iowan plants in my practice of herbalism as I can.  All of these plants (except for the cultivated ones) are commonly found throughout Iowa, and which I feel makes up the bulk of the Iowan Materia Medica in the region where I live.  This is called “bioregionalism.”  As I become familiar with more and have access to more, I will add more plants to the apothecary.

Interested in any of these herbs?  Please feel free to contact me for simples or formulas, as I have access/stock of may of these plants.

Agrimonia gryposepala (native)/Agrimonia eupatoria (exotic)

~Alfalfa Medicago sativa (cultivated)

~Anise Hyssop Agastache foeniculum (Iowa native)

~Anemone Anemone patens (Iowa native)

~Barberry Berberis vulgaris (exotic)

~Black Cohosh Cimicifuga racemosa (Iowa native)

~Black Walnut Juglans nigra (Iowa native)

~Bloodroot Sanguinaria canadensis (Iowa native)

~Burdock Arctium lappa (exotic)

~Canada Yew Taxus canadensis (Iowa native)

~Catnip Nepeta cataria (cultivated)

~Chickweed Stellaria media (exotic)

~Cleavers Galium aparine (exotic)

~Cow Parsnip Heracleum maximum (Iowa native)

~Comfrey Symphytum officinale (cultivated)

~Cottonwood Populus deltoides (Iowa native)

~Dandelion Taraxacum officinale (exotic)

~Echinacea Echinacea purpurea/angustifolia/paradoxa/pallida/tennesseensus (Iowa native/cultivated)

~Eastern Red Cedar Juniperus virginiana (Iowa native)

~Elder Sambucus canadensis (Iowa native), racemosa (Iowa native), or nigra (exotic)

~Estafiate Artemisia ludoviciana (native)

~Evening Primrose Oenothera biennis (native)

~Garlic Allium sativum (cultivated)

~Ginkgo Ginkgo biloba (exotic)

~Goldenrod Solidago canadensis/odorata (Iowa native)

~Ground Ivy Glechoma herderacea (exotic)

~Horsetail Equisetum arvense (Iowa native)

~Jewelweed Impatiens capensis (Iowa native)

~Lemon Balm Melissa officinalis (cultivated)

~Lion’s Mane  Hericium erinaceous (cultivated)

~Marshmallow Althea officinalis (cultivated)

~Motherwort Leonurus cardiaca (exotic)

~Mountain Mint Pycnanthemum virginianum (native)

~Mugwort Artemisia vulgaris (cultivated)

~Mullein Verbascum thapsus (exotic)

~Nettles (Stinging) Urtica dioica (exotic)/urens (Iowa native)

~Peach (Iowa) Prunus persica (Iowa native)

~Plantain Plantago major/lanceolata (exotic)

~Poke Phytolacca americana (native)

~Black Raspberry Rubus idaeus (Iowa native)

~Ragweed  Ambrosia artemisifolia/trifida (native)

~Red Clover Trifolium pratense (native)

~Sumac (Smooth/Staghorn) Rhus glabra/typhina (Iowa native)

~Skunk Cabbage  Symplocarpus foetidus  (Iowa native)

~Solomon’s Seal Polygonatium biflorum/multiflorum (Iowa native)

~St. John’s Wort Hypericum perforatum (exotic)

~Sweet Cicely/Sweetroot Osmorrhiza spp. (Iowa native)

~Sweet Leaf (Wild Bergamot) Mondarda fistulosa (Iowa native)

~Sweet Flag (Calamus) Acorus calamus (Iowa native)

~Teasel Dipsacus sylvestris (native)

~Vervain (Blue) Verbena hastata (Iowa native)

~Violet Viola odorata (exotic)

~White Pine Pinus strobus (Iowa native)

~Wild Cherry Prunus serotina (Iowa native)

~Wild Ginger Asarum spp. (Iowa native)

~Wild Lettuce Lactuca virosa/canadensis (native)

~Willow Salix spp. (native)

~Yarrow Achillea millefolium (exotic)

~Yellow Dock Rumex crispus (native)

….more, no doubt, to come

This list of herbs are all plants I work with, have worked with, could work with and/or which I am acquainted with.  All grow right out here where I live, in rural Eastern Iowa; either that or they are sourced from the dense forests and creeks of the beautiful Driftless Region, Northeast Iowa, along the Upper Mississippi.  This area is a secret wilderness that I have found is incredibly overlooked and underrepresented nationally.  I go up there regularly to fish for trout in the cold-fed streams, and I harvest right next to these streams so I can assure that any plants I take from the Driftless of Iowa are found in the most pristine, protected, and untouched areas possible.

This list is by no means the limit of what I know, what I work with or what I have access to!  If there is a plant (or lichen, or fungus) not appearing on this list which you are curious about, feel free to contact me about it.

8 thoughts on “The Iowan Apothecary

  1. Great website! I recently started a facebook group with similar content (haven’t published it yet). I live in Southeast Iowa (Burlington) and study native plants as well. I just happened to notice that a few of my personal favorites aren’t listed and would definitely be worth adding. Yarrow, skullcap, soapwort, heal-all, St. Johns wort, astragalus, white oak, wild yam, slippery elm, and birch, are all in abundance here and are wonderful plants. Also, ginseng and goldenseal, but it’s important to mention that those are protected and not in abundance. There’s a few though, that I’ve been searching for endlessly, for years, and I know they’re here somewhere, but I just cannot find them! I will email you about those and maybe you could help me out! I also have some pictures of plants that I have not been able to identify and it drives me crazy lol. Maybe you can help me with those too! I’m so glad I found this wonderful site!

    1. Hi Jen, thanks for reading and following!

      Thanks for recommending self-heal. As for the rest, some of those do not grow in Iowa in the wild (at least where I’m at), notably soapwort, astragalus, and skullcap.

      I hold off on recommending trees from which to harvest bark medicinally as that promotes harm to the tree if misinterpreted. As such, I will not be writing about those on the site.

      Also, many species of white oak in our area are dwindling in number. Best to leave them alone. It is also recommended to leave elms alone since they are also in peril, due to Dutch elms disease. There are far fewer now than there were. Best to leave the bark on those alone too, especially trees in the wild.

      The same goes for goldenseal, ginseng, and even the cohoshes, which are even more endangered. If and when I do write about them it will not be to promote them as wild herbs available for harvest in Iowa, which is the intent of this page.

      I’d be glad to help you identify any herbs you are uncertain about, though southern Iowa does have some differences from up here.

      1. I absolutely agree about the trees. Every time I find a dead elm, that had been skinned alive, it infuriates me. You can probably hear me cussing from miles away! I did a bit of research on where you’re located, and you’re further away than I originally thought. And the terrain in your area, is vastly different from how it is here. It’s really quite remarkable! I’m located about an hour southeast of Iowa City, right along the Mississippi. So you could definitely be right about soapwort, astragalus, and skullcap not being in your area. But they are certainly in abundance here. I make all natural beauty products, like cleansers, moisturizers, ect., and I use soapwort root for the base of many of my products. I also use astragalus in a few things, but I keep my wild crafting of that one at a minimum because I don’t find it as often as I find soapwort and skullcap. I usually just buy it (I don’t like to take plants, unless I know there’s an abundance). And I would never even consider taking goldenseal or ginseng! In fact, I like to keep an eye on the plant colonies that I find, just to make sure no one else is taking them either!

  2. This is fantastic! I found your website last night and it made my heart skip a beat. We just moved to Iowa City this year and I became slightly obsessed with trying to figure out what all these new plants are around us. (Such a different area than Texas.)

    1. Thank you for reading, Stormy!

      I’m no longer very close to the Iowa City area, I am now in the Driftless near Elkader. But I have strong connections to the lovely city and would be happy to connect you with any herbalists there.


    1. As a matter of fact, Sheree, I just wrote a book on Herbalism and it’s coming out this next week! It has pictures and everything, and does feature some native Iowa herbs. For links to buy:

      Amazon –
      Barnes & Noble –
      Books A Million –

      Or, Google the book title (Herbalism Plants and Potions That Heal) and you’ll find tons more options where to buy.

Leave a Reply