Now is the time of year when our yards are coming back to life and are filled with an abundance of delicious and useful herbs that many people see as pesky “weeds.” Here are a few to look for and experiment with. Of course, please consult a medical professional before taking any herb, especially if you take other medications or have health issues.
Dandelion Taraxacum officinale
Dandelions are considered an unwanted weed in Canada and the United States, yet European and Asian nations have greatly benefited for years from the incredible nutritional value that this herb contains. Dandelions are a rich source of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Dandelion leaves and flowers can clear obstructions in the body and stimulate and aid the liver to eliminate toxins from the blood. Dandelion leaf tea is a powerful but gentle diuretic that can be taken for fluid retention, cystitis, nephritis and even for weight loss! Dandelion root can help regulate blood sugar, lower high blood pressure and treat anemia, and is also roasted and brewed as a coffee substitute.
Dandelion leaves and flowers are also tasty and healthy when added raw to salads and sandwiches. One cup of raw dandelion greens contains 112% of your daily required intake of vitamin A and 535% of vitamin K!
Chickweed Stellaria media
Chickweed is one of the earliest herbs to appear in our yards in the Spring! This wonderful plant grows close to the ground with dark green, tender, oval leaves and tiny, white, star-shaped flowers.
Chickweed is a soothing, demulcent herb that contains saponins, which exert an anti-inflammatory action similar to cortisone but which is much milder and without the harmful side effects. Chickweed oil and chickweed poultices are applied to skin rashes and eruptions, such as poison ivy, eczema and psoriasis. The herb also has an antipyretic (cooling) effect which helps treat blood toxicity and fevers.
Chickweed tastes great, has a lot of health benefits and is full of vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients. Chickweed leaves and flowers can be added raw to salads and sandwiches and tossed into soups and stews as well.
Common Plantain Plantago species
Everyone has seen Common Plantain in their yard,in cracks in sidewalks, and along the side of the road. But you probably didn't know that if you are stung by a bug or bee, you can mash up plantain leaves and apply them to the bite to relieve the itch or sting! It also works for minor scrapes, wounds and burns because its astringent properties help stop bleeding and promote healing. Plantain can be used to alleviate urinary tract infections and internal inflammations, as it has diuretic and anti-inflammatory properties.
Plantain is also packed with nutrients and can be eaten raw, although it can be a little bitter, or cooked. There are two varieties of plantain, broadleaf (P. major) and narrow-leaved (P. Lanceolata), and it is one of the most common plants in the world. Broadleaf Plantain has oval or egg-shaped leaves that grow in a rosette. Narrow-leaved plantain has thin, lance-shaped leaves. A long, green stem grows from the middle of the rosette of leaves with small green flowers that house a pod with dark seeds. Try plantain in teas, tinctures or poultices for external application.
Sources: www.ediblewildfood.com; The Way of Herbs by Michael Tierra, L.A.c, O.M.D.
Jeanne Latshaw has been growing and studying herbs for the past six years. She is an avid gardener and just loves being involved with nature whether its cultivating and drying herbs, cooking or camping. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband of seventeen years.