No matter how well you grow your native herbs, or how great the garden, the first principle of Cherokee herbal medicine is based on the principle that native and wild grown plants are best. This means gathering the plants from areas that are legal, open to you, and free from the gardeners care. The thinking is that the earth herself is their gardener and thus they will have the wealth of earth in them.
Never take a plant, cutting of a plant, or gather seeds from plants that are protected or are not legal to gather. Unless you have a permit that allows you to gather some plants, it is very illegal to gather them and they are in danger of disappearing from the planet. If a plant is protected or you cannot gather a wild plant in your area due to legal needs, then the best way is to grow them in your own garden and gather them from there.
Okay, so how much do you take from the wild plant? The simple rule of thumb practiced by everyone I talked to was no more than 1/3. This leaves the plant or group of plants to grow on and grow more. Thus you will have a place to gather the plant again year after year with no worry of them being gone. Once lost to an area it may be impossible to find them again.
Early in the morning is the best time to gather plants for herbs. Our culture tells us to take the time and leave a gift for the plant we are taking from. Leaving this "thank you" is part of the whole system. It can be anything from a simple bead at the base of the plant to some compost for the plant to grow on.
So What Do I Gather?
This is the hard part. Elders will never share their herbal knowledge with just anyone. Any site or place you find that offers "native" remedies will, at best, have the few little pieces that can be gathered and will be shared by the elders of any tribe. If you do not know the herbs and how to use them without having a list for you to pull from, then you do not need to be out gathering and trying to mix the herbs to begin with. Many of these plants can be dangerous if not used in the right way. They can be lethal or cause severe lifetime problems in the hands of anyone not trained in their use. The best way to use any fresh herb for healing and health is under the supervision of a much older and wiser person who learned under another older and even wiser person. This passed-down history is among the rarest and most valuable jewel left in the crown of the proud native peoples.
Image is of Sequoyah, a great Cherokee Hero and is in the public domain.