Some people call them weeds, I call them medicine, and my yard is full of medicine!
Many of our common weeds did not start out as the nuisance plants that so many homeowners these days spend big bucks and harsh chemicals trying to get rid of.
Our ancestors brought many of these plants to the U.S. in the form of seeds because they were nutritious and medicinal. These were planted in the early gardens and escaped into the prairies. For instance, Plantain, which can be found in almost anybody’s lawn, has the nickname White Man’s Foot, because it made its way from New York to California following the settlers.
In the old days, you might be days of travel away from any doctors, so homesteaders needed to know how to treat illnesses with the plants that were easily accessible to them. Some of these herbs were referred to as pot herbs and were grown in a pottager garden. This means that they grew these to eat and were thrown in the cook pot along with the other vegetables that grew in the pottager garden. Other herbs were made into teas, plasters, poultices and salves. Today you too can harness the medicine of these great weeds that grow right in your own backyard.
Let’s start with one that we all know:
Dandelion~Taraxacum officinale~ all parts are edible, from spring leaves in our salads, to dandelion wine made from the flowers, dandelion is a great spring bitter tonic because it detoxes the liver and the blood. In the old days this was important, because in the days of no refrigeration, the pantry was getting to be slim pickings by the end of winter and harvests may have not been adequately preserved. Spring was a great time to renew the body. Today we do the same thing. Dandelion roots are particularly medicinal and are used today for detox.
Plantain~Plantago major~ This is a great little (less than 6” tall) herb for any insect bites or bee stings you may get while mowing the biggest weed of all (most people call it grass). Simply pluck off a leaf, (make sure there are no chemicals used on the lawn), chew it up a bit, and put the wad right on the bite! The seed (Psyllium) are used today to make the modern medicine Metamucil.
Lambs quarters~Chenopodium album~ When young, these make great salad and vegetable herbs.
Burdock~Arctium lappa~(ABOVE) This pesky plant is the bane of owners of dogs and small children because of the Velcro like burrs that are the seed tufts in the fall. With its giant leaves some people mistake this plant for rhubarb. First-year roots and second-year stems can be cooked by boiling for about 20 minutes, then season to taste. Before cooking however, the stems should be peeled, and roots scrubbed in order to remove the bitter rind. Immature flower stalks may also be harvested in late spring, before flowers appear. Some people pickle Burdock, and herbalist use it as a detoxifying herb.
Chickory~ Cichorium intybus~ This is a pretty blue roadside flower. If you have the muscle to dig the taproot out, you can have yourself a cup of coffee. Roasted Chicory Root was used as a coffee substitute and is still mixed with coffee in the southern states today. Some people add dandelion root to it also to make a nutritious warm tea or “coffee”.
Chickweed~ Stellaria media~this is a low growing plant that many look past, but it is great in a salad, and good to make a poultice or a salve out of for numerous skin conditions.
Red Clover~ Trifolium pretense~ (BELOW) Harvest the flowers, let them dry and make a tea out of them for cold symptoms and menopause
Pick up a good field guide or take one of the Plant ID classes available at Aurora’s Apothecary to correctly identify all of the plants in your own back yard. Happy plant hunting!!!
*please correctly identify any plant you plan to ingest or use medicinally
*please check with your doctor before taking any herbs for any ailments
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