Unfortunately many folks care more about how their yard appears to the neighbors than the treasure chest of medicinal plants that might be flourishing out back. Many plants that the general population have been told are just weeds, are in fact, much more. Many help to treat external wounds or are paramount in helping to flush chemicals and free radicals from our digestive systems. The most unfortunate part is we were lead to believe that it was ok to spray Round Up or other pesticides on the lawn to prevent overgrowth of these said “weeds.” This in fact, has affected our own immunity all for the importance of a stellar looking front yard. Here are some valuable weeds that pack a powerful punch in the natural medical world.
1. Stinging nettles: Careful when picking this plant. Wear gloves! Despite its “sting”, this plant is edible! When steamed or dried, the thorns fall off the leaves naturally. Stinging nettles are an excellent source of vitamins A, B and C, as well as minerals like calcium, magnesium and zinc. They have been used to treat conditions like eczema, gout, arthritis and seasonal allergies for many years.
2. Plantain: This common weed has many health benefits. You can eat leaves steamed or fresh in a salad (the seeds are also edible.) Plantain leaves have been used medicinally both internally and externally for centuries. Internal consumption can aid in the treatment of cholesterol, constipation, diabetes, indigestion, irritable bowel, kidney/bladder inflammation, liver problems, mouth ulcers/canker sores, liver problems, uterine tonic. External usage: bites/stings, eczema/psoriasis, cuts/bleeding wounds, rashes/contact dermatitis, toothaches, ulcers/cold sores, varicose veins.
3. Purslane: Contains more Omega-3 fatty acids than any other leafy vegetable. It is also high in vitamins A, C and E, and minerals like iron, magnesium, calcium and potassium. You can enjoy it in a salad, stir-fried, or cooked like spinach. It has also been used to relieve cuts, sores and insect bites.
4. Ground ivy: Ground ivy has long been used in traditional medicine for inflammation of the eyes, tinnitus, as well as a natural diuretic and astringent. It can be used in herbal tea and is high in vitamin C.
5. Chicory: It’s a blue flower frequently seen alongside roads or paths and provides the main source of the compound inulin. Patients take inulin to fight high triglycerides. Some studies on Inulin suggest it may stabilize blood sugar spikes post prandially and influence the growth of bacterial strains in the intestines. Be advised though-while many believe this can help digestion, others may get indigestion when the inulin-fed bacteria build up. Some people add the dried root to hot drinks like coffee or tea.
6. Milk Thistle-essential ingredient for liver detoxification. Modern research has looked at thistle extracts as a treatment for alcohol-induced liver damage. The compound silymarin found in milk thistle, protects the liver from damage after a person drinks too much alcohol on top of unsafe levels of Tylenol. Together they can overload the liver and mil thistle has shown great promise in reversing this in animal studies.
7. Dandelion – Remedies made from dandelion roots, leaves and flowers to treat fever, boils, eye problems, diabetes and diarrhea. It is an essential ingredient in liver cleanses. Ancient healing techniques use dandelions for stomach ailments, as a diuretic, and as a blood purifier. Dandelions are bitter and contain vitamins A, B, C, D and K, along with iron, potassium and zinc. I love dandelion tea!
8. Burdock – Burdock is used to clear toxins from the blood and biliary tract/liver. The plant also is used to treat skin ailments, like eczema and psoriasis. The leaves and roots of burdock are edible and contain chicory, so they may aid digestion and/or cause a nasty case of indigestion depending on one’s innate bacterial gut disposition. Burdock also contains high amounts of antioxidants and is found in tea.
9. Horsetail – Ancient cultures used horsetail to stop bleeding, heal ulcers, cuts and wounds as well as kidney problems. It’s also been known to help in metabolism and weight loss. The tea has a mildly bitter flavor. However, doctors recommend taking a multivitamin when drinking significant amounts of horesetail tea, because it can flush nutrients, such as vitamin B1, thiamine and even potassium, out of one’s system as it is a diuretic.
10. Lamb’s Quarters-It’s loaded with calcium and protein, as well as vitamins A, C and K. More than spinach! Clean the greens well with ACV and then sauté them in olive oil. Add a dash of salt, garlic, pepper and a squeeze of lemon to taste!
Most of these weeds can be sautéed in olive oil or placed in a salad for a great addition to your well rounded diet plan. Always be sure to correctly identify the plant and be smart about what is safe. Consult your healthcare provider. Happy backyard weeding!