Healing Herbs

Wounds and Weeds
Plants that can help keep a character alive

Initially written by Kevin J. Anderson
Altered by Halfogre

(This information is NOT intended as a guide to woodland plants for players to find and eat themselves! Eating strange plants is a very risky thing to do and is best left to experts; it should also be remembered that even experts can make dangerous or fatal mistakes.)

The following is taken from a Dragon magazine article (Issue #82, Feb 1984) of the same name, written by Kevin J. Anderson. I have made some changes to it in order to use it with my current campaign system.

Aaron’s Rod (DC 12 Herbalism check to find, DC 12 Heal check to administer)
Scientific Name: Verbascum thapsiforme
Other Names: Great Mullein, King’s Candle, Candlestick Plant

Appearance: Aaron’s rod has many large, pale silvery-green leaves that feel like soft felt. These leaves surround a thick, tapered stalk of large flowers and smaller leaves, which grows to four or five feet in height. According to tradition, this prominent spike of flowers was dipped in suet and then burned as a ceremonial candle. The flowers are bright yellow, bearing five petals each. Aaron’s rod has a long, white, wood-like root.

Location: Aaron’s rod grows in rocky or clay soil, most often on sunny slopes, cliff faces, and terrain such as that found around rock quarries; sometimes it is found along roads. The flowers appear in midsummer.

Uses: Aaron’s rod is useful as a painkiller. At least live flowers should be crushed and mixed with water or, better still, wine. This mixture is applied directly to fresh wounds and will deaden the pain from an injury.

Game effect: Since the pain itself is a critical part of an injury, this herb will provide ld8 temporary hit points, immediately. These hit points will be lost within two hours because the painkiller has worn off. Aaron’s rod can only restore hit points once every two hours; multiple applications before the first application has worn off are not cumulative.

Precautions: If a character uses this painkiller to help him get back on his feet and fight again while still wounded, he will lose an additional 1d8 hit points when the solution wears off because he has aggravated his injuries in the meantime.

Adder’s-tongue (DC 16 Herbalism check to find, DC 14 Heal check to administer)
Scientific name: Ophioglossum vulgatum

Appearance: Adder’s-tongue has one large leaf, at the base of which rises a thin stalk covered with tiny bumps or knobs; on closer inspection, this stalk is seen to be a spike of tiny, yellowish-green flowers.

Location: Adder’s-tongue grows in moist meadows and shady clearings. It is most easily found in late spring.

Uses: This herb is used as a secondary treatment, to help wounded characters regain strength. Use four fresh leaves steeped in boiling water to make a potent tea which can be drunk three times a day. This helps reduce inflammation associated with wounds, and restores strength. Also, an ointment can be made by boiling cut leaves in hog’s fat and then straining out the sediment. This ointment is soothing and promotes rapid healing, so much so that it has been called the green oil of charity.

Game effect: A character recuperating from injuries normally receives one hit point per level per day with eight hours of uninterrupted rest. However, convalescing with the aid of adder’s-tongue tea will allow a wounded character to regain 1-3 hit points per level per day with eight hours of uninterrupted rest (roll separately each day). Using the ointment made from adder’s-tongue will restore 1d6 hit points immediately per application, but it can only be administered to the same character once a day.

Birthwort (DC 14 Herbalism check to find, DC 14 Heal check to administer)
Scientific name: Aristolochia clematitis

Appearance: Birthwort is a bushy climbing vine that can grow to about three feet in height. The leaves are rounded and heart-shaped with a deep cleft at the top; the leaves are set on long stems. The flowers are thin and yellow, and tubular in shape.

Location: Birthwort grows wild along hedges and fences, and in thickets exposed to the sun. It flowers in midsummer.

Uses: This herb has been used frequently all over the world. Herbalists value it highly, using the leaves and roots, boiled briefly, to make a poultice which they placed on wounds that were healing poorly. Snake charmers claim that the juice of the birthwort will instantly kill a snake, and if the juice is rubbed into a snake bite, it will help neutralize the venom.

Game effect: If the leaves and stems of this herb are crushed to make a juice, and this juice is promptly (within 1 round) applied to a poisonous bits or sting, the character receives an additional +4 circumstance bonus on his saving throw against the poison. This effect only works once on any particular poison attack. Using a poultice made from birthwort will insure that wounds will heal properly, without complications; the wounded character will regain one extra hit point per level per day with eight hours rest for the first two days after application, and then will heal normally thereafter.

Comfrey (DC 14 Herbalism check to find, DC 12 Heal check to administer)
Scientific name: Symphytum officinale
Other name: Healing Herb

Appearance: Comfrey has large, hairy green leaves, and hairy stalks which can grow to 2-3 feet in height. The stalks are hollow, and the leaves have a gummy resin which is apparent if the leaves are chewed gently. At the tops of the stalks are small, bell-shaped flowers of a violet, or occasionally white, color that bear tiny black seeds. Comfrey has a large root system; its roots are black on the outside and white on the inside. The roots are brittle and are filled with a clear, nearly tasteless sap.

Location: Comfrey grows by ditches, watersheds, and moist fields. The plant flowers in midsummer and goes to seed in late summer.

Uses: This herb can be employed as both an immediate first aid and a secondary treatment. Almost all the parts of this “wonder weed” can be used. The root is most effective on fresh wounds—clean one root, bruise it so that the clear sap flows out, then bind it up against the fresh injury. This will cause rapid healing. Similarly, the root dried and powdered can sprinkled on a fresh wound. To use the herb as a strength-restorer, boil a dozen flowers (either fresh or dried) along with the leaves to form a tea, or mix the flowers and several leaves with wine, and drink the liquid twice a day.

Game effect: If comfrey root is applied to a wound within one round of the injury, roll ld4 to see how many hit points the wounded character “never lost in the first place” and subtract this number from the damage done. If comfrey is used as a tea or mixed with wine during recuperation, it has the same qualities as adder’s-tongue (see above).

Garlic (No check required, DC 12 Heal check to administer)
Scientific name: Allium sativum

Appearance: Garlic has long, hollow leaves, dark green in color, on top of which appear large, spherical clusters of tiny white flowers. The entire plant has a very strong smell, which becomes doubly apparent if the leaves are crushed. Garlic is so well known and so easily identified by its distinctive smell that characters will always locate and identify it correctly if they search for it in an area containing suitable terrain.

Location: Other than in its garden habitat, garlic often grows on damp grounds, in meadows, and in sparse forests. The cluster of flowers appears in early to midsummer.

Uses: Crushed garlic cloves, or diluted garlic juice, makes a strong antiseptic—so potent that garlic was used, along with sphagnum moss (see below), in field hospitals during wars when other supplies ran short. Garlic also eases bites and stings from venomous creatures, and it can act as an insect repellent.

Game effect: The antiseptic properties of garlic are such that a wound will heal more rapidly, and without chance of infection. Wounded characters will recover 2 hit points per level per day with eight hours of uninterrupted rest for the first three days after application. If garlic is used as an insect repellent, the juice must be rubbed generously over exposed body parts. This repellent has a 50% chance of working against attacking insects, giant or otherwise. If used to ease bites and stings, garlic juice can be used one time per injury to restore 1d3 hit points that was lost from either the bite/sting or the poisonous effect of that attack.

Precautions: Garlic has a bad reputation among herbal healers. Some claim it is a dangerous plant with many supernatural properties. But if garlic is used for any remedy, especially as an insect repellent, the strong odor may give away the presence of the character using it and increase the chance of attracting wandering monsters.

Henbane (DC 12 Herbalism check to find, DC 15 Heal check to administer)
Scientific name: Hyoscyamus niger

Appearance: Henbane has large, thick, soft leaves covered with hair and deeply cut. These leaves lie near the ground. Henbane also has many short and thick stalks, spread with branches bearing smaller leaves. These stalks have hollow yellow flowers with large sepals covering much of the petals; the petals are laced with purple veins. The flowers bear tiny gray seeds. The root is thick and branched, much like a parsnip root. The plant has a heavy, offensive smell.

Location: Henbane grows in clearings and along paths. It flowers throughout most of the summer.

Uses: This herb is a potent painkiller, deadening virtually all discomfort from a wound. Boil the leaves, seeds, or roots together in a small amount of water and apply as a poultice.

Game effect: Henbane applied to an injured character will immediately gain 1d6 temporary hit points, similar to the effect of Aaron’s rod; however, only 1d4 of these hit points will “wear off” two hours later (along with the painkilling effects), so the character has a chance of regaining more than just temporary hit points. If a character attempts to fight or engage in other strenuous activity while being affected by henbane, he will do so as if he were moderately intoxicated (1d4 temporary wisdom and dexterity damage) because of the numbing effects of the drug. When used against a character afflicted by a disease, henbane provides a +4 circumstance bonus to saving throws to resist the disease and will restore 2 extra points of lost strength and constitution per day with eight hours uninterrupted rest; this treatment can be used daily until the victim has fully recovered.

Precautions: Henbane is very poisonous if taken internally: if ingested in raw form or immediately after preparation (within 3 rounds), the herb will cause 2d12 points of poison damage (DC 30 Fort save; save for half damage) in the round following ingestion, and the affected character will be unconscious for 1d4+2 hours thereafter (DC 35 Fort save for secondary effect, onset 2 rounds after first save). This herb also has hallucinogenic properties that may affect the character who prepares a poultice. While boiling the henbane plant, the character has a chance of inhaling fumes that will act as a hallucinogen (DC 14 Will save or suffer from Mania/Phobia, p. 250-251 GMG). If this happens, roll d6 to determine what happens: 1-2, the character sees imaginary enemies in the distance and runs off to fight them; 3-4, he becomes unaware of his surroundings and refuses to respond to any stimulus; 5-6, he sees other party members as enemies and attacks them immediately. The hallucinogenic effect will last for 1d6x10 minutes.

Herb True-Love (DC 16 Herbalism check to find, DC 12 Heal check to administer)
Scientific name: Paris quadrifolia
Other names: Herb Paris, One-Berry

Appearance: Herb true-love has a small creeping root just below the surface of the ground, from which spring clusters of leaves, some of which have one star-like white flower or one blackish-purple berry. A leaf has four leaflets set at right angles to each other, in a cross pattern.

Location: Herb true-love grows in woods and copses, sometimes on the borders of fields. Clusters of leaves appear in mid-spring; berries are ripe in late spring.

Uses: This herb is useful as an antidote for poisons and as an antiseptic. If poison is suspected in a wound, the victim should eat at least three berries of herb true-love, or somehow ingest several leaves, either by eating them raw or (more effective) mixed with wine or as a tea. To speed healing and prevent infection in a wound, crush the leaves and use them to clean wounds, or boil four leaves in a small amount of water and use the broth so obtained as an antiseptic wash to rinse or soak wounds.

Game effect: The use of herb true-love will add a +2 circumstance bonus to saving throws vs. poison, +4 for dwarves, if it is ingested or applied to the affected area (depending on the type of poison) within 2 rounds of when the poisoning took place. As an antiseptic wash, herb true-love can be used once per injury to restore one hit point to a wounded character.

Precautions: If a character searches for herb true-love and fails by 5 or more on the check, he has found another plant that looks very similar but is deadly: nightshade. If a poisoned character ingests nightshade as a remedy, he must make a DC 16 Fort save vs. poison (in addition to the saving throw that was already required). Failure to make the save vs. nightshade means death; making the save means no damage. Nightshade will be harmless and ineffective if applied externally.

Juniper Berry (No check required)
Scientific name: Juniperis communis

Appearance: Juniper is a bush with thick branches bearing short, scale-like needles similar to pine needles. The bark is rough and has a shredded appearance, and the entire bush is very fragrant. Clusters of berries are green in the first year of their growth, and turn dark purple when they ripen the following year. Each berry has a strong, distinctive taste. Like garlic, juniper is so well known that characters will automatically be able to locate it and identify it properly if they are searching for it in appropriate terrain.

Location: Juniper grows upon heaths and in sparse forests. It is an evergreen.

Uses: Juniper berries help to counteract all forms of poison, but not so effectively as herb true-love (see above). Most importantly, juniper is a powerful stimulant for those who are severely wounded and near death. If a character is able to, or can be forced to, eat two juniper berries, he may gain the strength to fight off some of the effects of shock.

Game effect: If a character is brought to zero or fewer hit points, and is unconscious, the stimulant effect of juniper berries will immediately stabilize the character and removes all bleed effects. A character revived in this manner cannot fight or engage in any other strenuous activity until he has rested long enough to regain enough hit points to being him back to 1 hit point. If used as an antidote to poison, juniper berries will add +1 to a victim’s saving throw if they are eaten within 2 rounds of the poisoning.

Precautions: Juniper berries may have a strange effect on elves and half-elves. If a member of either of those races eats even one juniper berry, that character must make a DC 14 saving throw vs. poison or be affected by an uncontrollable attraction to the first member of the opposite sex that the character sees. The object of the character’s attraction may be of any race as long as the elf’s or half elf’s normal preference for that race is not hostile to begin with. This effect will wear off in 2d4x10 minutes, and does not negate the other, beneficial effects that the juniper berries will bring. An infatuated character may be too weak to do anything about the feeling, but will feel it nonetheless.

Marsh-Mallow (DC 13 Herbalism check to find, DC 14 Heal check to administer)
Scientific name: Althaea officinalis
Other names: Mortification Root, Sweet Weed

Appearance: The marsh-mallow has soft, hairy white stalks that can grow up to 3-4 feet in height and have many branches. The wide leaves are soft and hairy, with serrated edges. The plant has many large pink flowers with purple centers, and an extensive system of long roots that are pliant and tough, whitish-yellow in color. The roots are filled with a clear, slimy juice that thickens like jelly when mixed with water.

Location: Marsh-mallow grows abundantly in salt marshes, and in damp meadows near the seashore. It flowers during all the summer months.

Uses: This herb is effective both as an immediate treatment for burns, and also as a secondary cure for those severely weakened from loss of blood. The root is used for both applications: smash it, then dip the pulp into boiling water and use it as a poultice, binding it up against fresh burns. Or, crush the root and boil it in a pot of water until one third of the original water in the pot has boiled away, then drink this decoction once a day to help recovery from severe blood loss.

Game effect: Used as a poultice for burns, marsh-mallow speeds healing to such an extent that a character will receive 2 hit points per level per day with eight hours of uninterrupted rest each of the first three days of rest following application, and will recuperate normally-thereafter. When the decoction is used to help counter the effects of blood loss, the victim will regain l-3 hit points per level per day with eight hours of uninterrupted rest (as with adder’s tongue and comfrey) instead of the usual one hit point.

St. John’s Wort (DC 14 Herbalism check to find, DC 15 Heal check to administer)
Scientific name: Hypericum perforatum
Other name: All Saints’ Wort

Appearance: St. John’s Wort grows about knee-high, on hard, wood-like stalks. The leaves are smooth and oval, appearing in pairs from opposite sides of the stems so that they form a shape similar to a figure-eight. The leaves have very tiny holes, like pin-pricks, in them, which are visible only when the leaf is held up to the light. St. John’s Wort bears large yellow flowers with five petals; the petals, when bruised, yield a reddish, resinous juice. The flowers bear small blackish seeds. The root is hard and wood-like and brownish in color.

Location: St. John’s Wort is found in shady woods and copses, and also at the edges of forests. It flowers in mid-summer, and bears seeds by the end of the season.

Uses: The oil from fresh flowers is especially good for healing wounds; boil a dozen flowers in wine to make a tincture to be applied to injuries. This will help close wounds and help heal bruises. A teaspoon of powdered seeds drunk in a broth helps to combat the effects of venom.

Game effect: If a tincture of St. John’s Wort is applied immediately (within 2 rounds) to a wound, roll ld6 to see how many hit points the victim “never lost in the first place” and subtract this number from the damage suffered. When the broth is drunk as an antidote to venom within 2 rounds of the time of poisoning, the powdered seeds will add +1 to the victim’s saving throw against the poison.

Sphagnum Moss (DC 17 Herbalism check to find, DC 16 Heal check to administer)
Scientific name: Sphagnum cymbifolium
Other names: Bog moss, peat moss

Appearance: Sphagnum moss is a pale green in color, although it may turn yellowish or reddish. It consists of many tiny branches of leaves tangled into a clump of moss which grows into large cushions. It has no roots, but absorbs water directly through its leaves; this absorbent quality makes it almost as effective as a sponge.

Location: Sphagnum moss is found in wet, boggy spots. Sometimes the moss is so thick that it may appear to be solid ground—until someone steps on it and gets wet feet.

Uses: When sterilized, this moss is an ideal dressing for wounds; two ounces of it can absorb up to two pounds of liquid. Sphagnum moss must be collected beforehand to be used, then cleaned and dried, and stored loosely in cloth bags.

Game effect: Getting a proper dressing on a wound is one of the most important steps in healing. If an injury is bound up with clean sphagnum moss, the victim will heal twice as fast; that is, lost hit points will be regained at the rate of 2 hit points per level per day of eight hours uninterrupted rest. The dressing must be changed after three days and replaced with fresh moss in order to keep receiving this quick-healing benefit.

Woundwort (DC 13 Herbalism check to find, DC 12 Heal check to administer)
Scientific name: Stachys palustris
Other names: Clown’s woundwort, downy woundwort, marsh woundwort

Appearance: Woundwort has rough, slender green stalks, up to two feet high, bearing long and narrow dark green leaves covered with fine hairs. The leaves are pointed, with jagged edges. The flowers of woundwort are large and purplish-red, with white spots. The roots are long and stringy with small tubers growing among them. The plant has a strong, acrid smell.

Location: Woundwort grows in or near ditches, or by the sides of paths and in fields. The marsh woundwort, identical in healing properties, grows in marshy areas. The plant flowers in midsummer.

Uses: This herb is very effective as an immediate treatment for all wounds, especially deep cuts such as those produced from sword thrusts. Woundwort is a remarkable styptic, staunching bleeding almost immediately and quickening the coagulation of blood to form scabs. To use it, bind enough fresh leaves up against the wound to form a dressing, or steep the leaves in hot water and apply them as a poultice.

Game effect: If applied immediately (within 2 rounds) to an injury, woundwort will stop bleeding and prevent further weakness from blood loss. The wounded character will immediately regain 20% (round down) of the hit points he would have lost from the damage of the injury, reflecting the blood loss that “never took place.”

Precautions: While woundwort will always stop bleeding and benefit its user as described above, dwarves will sometimes suffer an adverse reaction to it. If woundwort is used on a dwarven character, he must make a DC 25 Fort save or become temporarily (2d6x10 minutes) blinded.

Healing Herbs

Horror Unheeded halfogre