Earth to Ethereal
H. A. O'Connor

About the author : Earth to Ethereal: Eclectic and Eccentric, Spiritual and Sublime When it comes right down to it, I guess I just really enjoy sharing the human experience, whether through writing stories and poems which, hopefully, resonate with readers or by following the path to a simpler, more earth-friendly lifestyle. Thanks for sharing the experience with me!

A Wealth of Weeds

Earthy, Living Sustainably, Natural and Noteworthy, Neighborhood Homesteading 1 Comment

Have you heard the one about the weird lady who walks around her yard, staring at the ground? Hey, wait a minute. That’s me. As if I didn’t already have my share of quirk, this is my new favorite hobby–except I’m not staring at the ground, I’m staring at lawn weeds. Much more normal, you see.

Why the sudden interest in weeds? Well, first off, it’s not sudden. Happily, a few years ago, a friend mentioned a name to me: Rosemary Gladstar. (Thanks, DMC!) Unhappily, I forgot this all-important name until a few months ago, when I came across a video of Gladstar discussing Elderberry. (I’ve since become addicted to her herbalism teachings and would like to grow up to be her one day.)

If I could pick one of Rosemary Gladstar’s most meaningful lessons regarding common weeds, it would be this. When the colonists left their homelands to come to North America, they only carried their most valuable possessions with them. As Gladstar says, “A prize that always went was seeds…. So, the plants that we are out there digging frantically to get out of our gardens were carefully brought over because of their edible and medicinal properties and because they had a tenacity–they would grow. So, some of our most valuable plants are our weedy species.” (Abridged quote taken from Gladstar’s video on History of Herbalism in America.)

If for no other reason, this marks weeds as something to be celebrated. Still not convinced? Here are a wealth of other reasons: (I’ll alphabetize the following list of common lawn weeds, because I’m also that kind of weird.)

*Note: Some weeds are poisonous, so you should never consume or use any weed medicinally if you aren’t completely sure of its identification. Also, I’m not an herbalist or medical professional of any kind. I’m offering this information purely to help develop an appreciation for weeds. If you’d like to learn more, I’d suggest checking with an herbalist and, also, discussing any new herbal/weedy habits with your doctor.

Broad leaf plantain (Plantago major)

By H. Zell – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
httpscommons.wikimedia.orgwindex.phpcurid=10887031

Hazards: none known

Medicinal uses: draws toxins from body, liver stimulant, blood purifier. As a poultice, can be used to treat wounds and infections, rashes, bug bites/stings, burns. Can also be used to draw out splinters/slivers. Can help check bleeding, internally or externally. Root is said to be a remedy for rattlesnake bites(!), used in equal portions with White horehound.

Edible uses: seed, root, leaf. Can be eaten raw (in salads, smoothies, etc.), cooked (soups, stews, etc.) or made into a tea. Seed can also be harvested and ground into a meal.

(Edible) health benefits: mucilage, fatty acids, protein, starch, B Vitamins, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, allantoin, bitters

Chickweed (Stellaria media)

Hazards: leaves contain saponins. These are toxic, but are poorly absorbed by the body and usually don’t cause harm. They are also broken down by cooking. Still, not advisable not to eat large quantities. *Not to be consumed by pregnant or breastfeeding women; also not to be used medicinally by pregnant women.

Medicinal uses: (whole plant) as a poultice, can treat any kind of itching skin condition, cuts or wounds, or eye inflammation. Can be added to a bath (fresh or dried) to help reduce joint and other inflammation and to encourage tissue repair. Taken internally, can aid in chest complaints, circulation, kidney or liver issues, and digestion. Believed to help with water retention and to stimulate metabolism; used in weight control.

Edible uses: leaves and young shoots–can be added raw to salads, sandwiches, and/or drinks; also cooked into soups. If cooking, stems and flowers can also be added. Fresh leaves can be steeped in water to relieve coughs, hoarseness, etc. Similar in flavor to spinach. *I also have it on good authority–from my girls–that chickens love it (as the name suggests)!

(Edible) health benefits: chlorophyll, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, iron, phosphorus, and potassium, Vitamins C, A, and B Vitamins.

Creeping Charlie/Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacea) 

Hazards: none known

Medicinal uses: appetite stimulant, useful in treating inflammation (helps with joint and muscle pain) and respiratory infections, said to be helpful in promoting kidney function; works as an astringent and to help stop bleeding.

Edible uses: member of the mint family, said to have a mild mint flavor; young leaves can be eaten raw or cooked. Tea is made from fresh or dried leaves. Also, can be added to beer in place of hops.

(Edible) health benefits: High in Vitamin C and other vitamins, minerals

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

Hazards: some people may experience an allergic reaction to the latex in the flowers and stems.

Medicinal uses: effective diuretic–while acting as such, replaces potassium instead of depleting this important nutrient. All parts of the plant, but especially the root, can be used to help promote liver health, purify/detoxify the body, help with digestion. Roots can be used fresh or dried, but the dried root will have a weaker effect. Leaves are harvested when the plant is in flower and can be dried for later use. It has some antibacterial and anti-yeast action.

Edible uses: tea can be made from the leaves, roots, or flowers. Leaves and flowers can be used raw or cooked (less bitterness is found in younger leaves or leaves harvested during the winter); roots can also be eaten raw or can be dried to be used in herbal teas or roasted to make dandelion coffee; dandelion wine can be made from the flowers–no greens should be used, to avoid bitterness.

(Edible) health benefits: very nutritious, containing protein, carbohydrates, calcium, phosphorous, iron, sodium, potassium, magnesium, Vitamin A, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Vitamin C.

Hairy bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta)

Hazards: none known

Medicinal uses: none known

Edible uses: leaves and flower stalks–can be eaten raw or cooked, added to soups or salads like other greens; root–grated and used as flavoring. Said to have a peppery flavor, similar to broccoli rabe, but milder (not overly bitter).

(Edible) health benefits: Vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, beta carotene, antioxidants, glucosinolates–help remove carcinogens from the body, also said to contain lutein

Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule)

Hazards: none known

Medicinal uses: poultice can be used to reduce swelling or for bug bites/stings. Helps with joint aches, used to induce sweating and reduce fever.

Edible uses: Can be eaten raw or cooked; member of mint family, but is said to have a mild, kale-like flavor. Apparently, another favorite of hens!

(Edible) health benefits: high in vitamins, iron, antioxidants, fiber

Indian Mockstrawberry (Duchesnea indica)

By Tubifex – Own work, Public Domain,
https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7767002

Hazards: none known

Medicinal uses: Used as a purifier and fever reducer and antiseptic; also used to treat stomatitis, laryngitis, tonsillitis. Poultice can be used to treat skin conditions, including eczema, burns, infections, insect bites/stings, swellings.

Edible uses: leaves and berries, very mild taste.

(Edible) health benefits: contains Vitamin C, protein, etc.

Lady’s Thumb (Persicaria maculosa)

By Bouba at French Wikipedia – photo by Bouba, CC BY-SA 3.0,
httpscommons.wikimedia.orgwindex.phpcurid=1652454

Hazards: none known

Medicinal uses: poultices can be used to help stop bleeding and promote healing of wounds, also to treat joint pain. Crushed leaves are said to help treat poison ivy rash. Can help relieve stomach ache.

Edible uses: leaves and young shoots can be eaten raw or cooked

(Edible) health benefits: assorted vitamins and minerals

Lamb’s Quarters (Chenopodium album)

Hazards: saponins in the seeds are potentially toxic and should not be consumed in excess. Lamb’s quarters contain some oxalic acid. Small quantities recommended if consuming raw; cooking removes the acid.

Medicinal uses: poultice can be used to treat bug bites/stings, minor wounds, and minor burns. Also used to treat swelling and inflammation. Can also help with stomach aches and digestive issues.

Edible uses: Leaves, shoots, seeds, flowers. Lamb’s quarter can be eaten raw in salads or added to smoothies and juices. Steamed or added to soups, etc., treated like spinach.

(Edible) health benefits: Niacin, Folate, Iron, Magnesium and Phosphorus, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, Calcium, Potassium, Copper and Manganese.

Oxalis/Yellow Woodsorrell (Oxalis stricta)

By Rasbak – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
httpscommons.wikimedia.orgwindex.phpcurid=203108

Hazards: leaves contain oxalic acid, which although fine in small quantities, should not be eaten in large amounts since oxalic acid can bind up the body’s supply of calcium, leading to nutritional deficiency. The quantity of oxalic acid will be reduced if the leaves are cooked. People with a tendency to rheumatism, arthritis, gout, kidney stones or hyperacidity should avoid adding this plant to their diet.

Medicinal uses: helpful in treatment of fevers, stomach cramps, nausea; poultice can be used to treat swelling

Edible uses: leaves can be eaten raw or cooked; flowers and young seedpods can also be eaten raw. Mildly sour, resembling lemons in flavor. Leaves can be used to make a lemony drink or tea.

(Edible) health benefits: high in Vitamin C, also contains other vitamins and minerals

Purple dead nettle (Lamium purpureum)

Hazards: none known

Medicinal uses: fresh, bruised leaves can be applied to cuts or wounds to help stop bleeding and promote with healing (astringent and styptic properties). Can also be used to stop internal bleeding; used to induce sweating (diaphoretic), also diuretic and purgative. Can be used as an anti-inflammatory and to reduce allergic reactions. Has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties.

Edible uses: leaves–raw or cooked. Leaves can be added to smoothies, etc. Also useful as a tea to help treat chills. *Since writing the draft of this post, I have braved a single, purple dead nettle leaf. I plucked it in a safe, non-dog loo area and gave it a try. It tasted all right, actually. Sort of salad-y and fresh, a little furrier than my usual salad ingredients.

(Edible) health benefits: High in antioxidants (especially flavonoids) and Vitamin C

Purslane (Portulaca oleracea)

By Forest & Kim Starr – httpwww.biolib.czenimageid52483, CC BY 3.0,
httpscommons.wikimedia.orgwindex.phpcurid=11046442

Hazards: a similar-looking plant, named “Hairy-stemmed spurge,” (click to see photo and info) is poisonous. They often grow near one another. The hairy-stemmed spurge has (as the name suggests) hairs on its stems and also leaks a milky white substance when stems are broken. (*Note: a milky substance like this is often nature’s way of warning us that something isn’t safe to consume.)

Medicinal uses: helps treat insect bites or stings, skin ailments such as psoriasis. Immune booster, supports heart health and may help prevent headaches. May also be useful in treating Asthma and Type II Diabetes (helps support the body’s insulin supply).

Edible uses: Leaves, stems and flower buds. Pectin makes it work well as a thickener in soups, etc.

(Edible) health benefits: contains more omega-3 fatty acids than any other leafy vegetable. Rich in vitamins A, C, E; also, magnesium, calcium, potassium, iron

Red clover (Trifolium pratense)

By Ivar Leidus – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,
httpscommons.wikimedia.orgwindex.phpcurid=50430032

Hazards: blood thinning properties; should not be taken by anyone on heart medications or with blood thinning problems; also should not be used for two weeks before or after surgery. *Not recommended for pregnant women or nursing mothers.

Medicinal uses: used as a blood and lymphatic cleanser; can help treat skin conditions, such as eczema and psoriasis (whether used externally or taken internally); helpful in treating respiratory infections; helps regulate menopause in women. There is growing evidence that it may be helpful in preventing cancer. Also being studied for anti-diabetic and anti-Aids potential.

Edible uses: flowers and leaves. Flowers are more potent and should be used during their prime (before browning occurs). Can be eaten raw or cooked and in teas.

(Edible) health benefits: calcium, chromium, magnesium, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, thiamine, and vitamin C.

Slender Speedwell (Veronica officinalis)
Hazards: none known

Medicinal uses: leaves and roots–anti-inflammatory, astringent, mildly diuretic, also used to induce sweating, mildly expectorant. Can be used to relieve some types of allergies. Externally used in treatment of wounds, skin irritations, eczema, and to help heal burns and ulcers. Leaves can be dried for later use. Some believe it can be used to treat gastrointestinal troubles, rheumatic issues, to reduce vertigo, increase memory and treat depression.

Edible uses: a bitter tea can be made from fresh or dried leaves, or used as a tonic

(Edible) health benefits: antioxidants, vitamins, minerals

Wild Violet (Viola sororia)

Public Domain, httpscommons.wikimedia.orgwindex.phpcurid=640482

Hazards: none known

Medicinal uses: help stimulate lymphatic glands to purify body of toxins, strengthen immune system, reduce inflammation, and treat respiratory infections; can be used to treat minor injuries; poultice was used by Native Americans to treat headaches

Edible uses: leaves and flowers can be eaten raw or cooked, added to salads, soups, teas; flowers can be made into jellies or candied

(Edible) health benefits: high levels of Vitamins A and C, minerals and other nutrients

 

So, there you go. Not a complete list, by any means, and only a teaser of information about each, but I hope it demonstrates just how worthy weeds can be. As for my lawn, I’ve decided I’ll no longer hang my head in embarrassment when the weeds show up. It’s much more fun to celebrate their arrival.

 

Sources (and recommendations for additional reading):

Medicinal Herbs, by Rosemary Gladstar (Storey Publishing, 2012)

The Green Pharmacy, by James A. Duke, Ph.D. (St. Martin’s, 1997)

3.Foragers

Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine

Eat the Planet

Edible Wild Food

Healing Weeds

Natural Medicinal Herbs

Organic Authority

Plants For a Future

United Plant Savers

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