The medicines that we see today, including the heavy antibiotics and the normal syrups, never existed century ago. However, people since inception have been taking a different form of medications for illness and other health problems. The power of herbal medicines cannot be overlooked at point time – prior to all the modern medicines, these herbal medicines even cured deadly diseases.At this time of year, weeding is one of our most important gardening chores. Weeds, those unwelcome trespassers, can grow rapidly, choking out our tender hybrid flowers and vegetables. Although we spend so much of our time fighting them, comparatively few of us actually know much about weeds.
Medicinal Weeds That You May Grow In Your Backyard
The quintessential garden and lawn weed, dandelions have a bad reputation among those who want grass that looks as uniform as a golf course, but every part of this common edible weed is tasty both raw and cooked, from the roots to the blossoms. Dandelion leaves can be harvested at any point in the growing season, and while the smaller leaves are considered to be less bitter and more palatable raw, the bigger leaves can be eaten as well, especially as an addition to a green salad. If raw dandelion leaves don’t appeal to you, they can also be steamed or added to a stir-fry or soup, which can make them taste less bitter. The flowers are sweet and crunchy, and can be eaten raw, or breaded and fried, or even used to make dandelion wine. The root of the dandelion can be dried and roasted and used as a coffee substitute, or added to any recipe that calls for root vegetables.
This common lawn weed (not to be confused with the tropical fruit also called plantain) is not only a great medicinal plant that can be used topically to soothe burns, stings, rashes, and wounds, but is also a great edible green for the table. The young leaves of plantain can be eaten raw, steamed, boiled, or sauteed, and while the older leaves can be a bit tough, they can also be cooked and eaten as well. The seeds of the plantain, which are produced on a distinctive flower spike, can be cooked like a grain or ground into a flour, and are related to the more well-known psyllium seeds, which are sold as a fiber supplement and natural laxative.
You’ll definitely know if you accidentally brush against this plant in the wild with your bare skin, as the leaves are covered in thousands of tiny stinging hairs. But don’t let that scare you away. Stinging Nettle, which thrives along shady trails and riversides, has edible leaves, stems and roots, and contains more protein than beans and 29 times more calcium than spinach. Cooking and drying neutralizes the sting. Steep the tender young leaves in hot water for an iron-rich tea, or use them like an herb in all sorts of dishes.
Curly dock (also called yellow dock) leaves can be eaten raw when young, or cooked when older, and added to salads or soups. The stems of the dock plant can be peeled and eaten either cooked or raw, and the mature seeds can be boiled, or eaten raw, or roasted to make a coffee substitute. Dock leaves are rather tart, and because of their high oxalic acid content, it’s often recommended to only eat them in moderation, as well as to change the water several times during cooking.
Both the leaves and flowers may be eaten raw, and the leaves are also good cooked. I like to make infusions with them. Lemon balm (also known as Melissa) is a very popular herb– I like to drink the tea when I am feeling stressed or wired, as it’s a good nerve calmer.
This is by far the most prevalent plant in my back yard, and tends to strike fear in the heart of every gardener. This culinary plant is extremely invasive, and will take over everything if you let it. One of my best methods for controlling it is to eat it. The flavor is very herbacious– it tastes like celery and parsley, and I think it’s really delicious! I love to add it to salads and blend it into herbal marinades for meat. I intend to find a lot more ways to use it this year, and hopefully share those recipes with you.
This plant is best eaten before it flowers, and should be cooked first because it contains protaonemonin, which is a toxic compound that is destroyed by heat. It was popular in the past for providing vitamin C to otherwise scurvy-prone people.
Once known as Soldier’s Wound Wort, yarrow is still made into an ointment for wounds in Scotland to this day. Others around the world have learned of its benefits, chewing the leaves to relieve toothaches, making tea of it for colds and using it in a poultice for hemorrhoids. Learn more about how to use it at Wellness Mama.
It contains chemicals known as isoflavones. These chemicals can act like the female hormone estrogen in the body. Doctors have examined the clover chemicals as a treatment for hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause. However, doctors warn that women with a history or risk of breast cancer should avoid isoflavones, since estrogen-like chemicals have been associated with the increased incidence of some cancers.
Native Americans used the milkweed (Asclepias sp.) as a contraceptive, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The milky white sap that gives the plant its name, served to remove warts. However, milkweeds also contain chemicals known as cardiac glycosides. These chemicals can cause severe illness in humans and livestock. Monarch butterfly caterpillars eat milkweed and build up high concentrations of glycosides, which makes the insects nasty tasting to predators.
Like many of the medicinal weeds in this list, purslane (Portulaca oleracea) also makes a healthy snack. The plant contains a high content of omega-3 fatty acids. I ate some that grew in my yard and found it was somewhat sour. A little bit was good, but too much would be overpowering in a salad. In traditional Chinese medicine, purslane treats genito-urinary tract infections. Research published in Phytomedicine found that the plant reduced problems with cognition in older mice.
It has a 2,000 year history as a liver medicine. Modern research has looked at thistle extracts as a treatment for alcohol-induced liver damage. Substances in milk thistle, particularly the chemical silymarin, may protect the liver from damage after a person takes an overdose of other medications, including acetaminophen (Tylenol). Milk thistle may also be an antidote to poison from the deathcap mushroom (Amanita phalloides). Animal studies found that milk thistle completely counteracted the poison if given within 10 minutes of poisoning, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.