Weeds: Gems Hidden in Plain Sight
by Cheryl Hewitt
So many people think that everything they see is truth, especially when it is in the form of an advertisement or on the news. One of the biggest purveyors of the local plants being dubbed as weeds are the owners of agrochemical companies like Bayer who not too long ago bought out the company Monsanto and the brand herbicide Round Up! I have seen with my own eyes the very nutritious herb plant Lamb’s Quarters on an advertisement for the product Round Up! and when I asked them why they would use a nutrient rich herb in their ad they replied that the plant is invasive to some farmers and their crops. These are most likely corn crops; did you know corn is nutritionally void? Well, it is. I am not here to talk about the woes of inconsiderate companies but to enlighten you with some herbs which are gems hidden in plain sight. Those that may be sitting in your back yard reaching their green leaves toward the sun. I will introduce you to these human friendly plants and hopefully by the end of the talk you too will have an appreciation for what some dub as weeds and see how much they really are gems. As I go through you may have questions, please feel free to post your questions in nearby and I will come back to them after I go through the workshop. We have a good amount of detailed ground to cover. Please note that for the sake of time that I have had to cut a good amount of the Science behind the actions and I am bringing you the highlights. Thank You.
Dandelion Taraxacum officinale – All Regions, this very common weed is in the Asteraceae family, also known as the sunflower family. This is the largest of the families with 23, 000 species and are found anywhere on the globe. The flower head is made up of many little flowers in a compact fused form, this family has one of the three styles: ray flowers, disc flowers, or a combo. This is the most advanced family for the sole reason of the fusing of the flowers together to form what looks like single petals. Dandelion has only ray flowers and the fruit are the pappas which is the downy poofs that we blow off, they carry the seed and float on the wind. If you look under you will see what looks like green sepals, they are actually bracts (modified leaves) and it is said that they have a “whorl of involucral bracts”. (Brae) It seems to cap off the flower on the bottom as if it stems from them.
It is often confused with “Cat’s Ear Hypochaeris radicata, which does not have a hollow stem and comes out at the driest part of the year and can be identified by the rough low-lying leaves. Each stem of a dandelion holds a single flower head and does not branch off of others like the Cat’s Ear.
The roots are best harvested in the Spring or fall of a two-year plant. Many people use them as a replacement for coffee after they roast them in an oven. They do in fact contain caffeic acid at no less than 8.3 mg which is comparable to decaf coffee (depending on the bean) and is also soluble in water as well.
It is known in France as pissenlit (“pis-en-lie”) or “water in the bed,” due to its diuretic action. (Petersen, 2017, p. 243)
Dandelion has the highest amount of potassium in any medicinal plant, which replaces what a synthetic diuretic normally takes away. Synthetic diuretics also cause constipation and cramping in the stomach. Chronic constipation over time can lead to build up in the colon and cause major problems. Instead you could use the dandelion as a gentler diuretic which would not strip away the potassium. Dandelion also stimulates bile and gastric juice flow as well as the kidneys, bladder, liver, spleen, and pancreas. All of these organs are filters and like our air conditioners, they too need to get cleaned so there is no build up. If someone has gout then this is the medicinal herb for them as the sulfur content will help the body to flush out the urea and uric acid.
Acne, anemia, arteriosclerosis, arthritis, breast problems (lack of milk, congestion), bronchitis, bruises, cellulite, circulatory problems, cirrhosis (early stages) constipation, diabetes, eczema, eye troubles (night blindness), fevers, gallbladder tonic, gallstones, gout, heartburn, hepatitis (infectious), hypoglycemia, indigestion, jaundice, joint stiffness, kidney complaints, liver troubles, muscular rheumatism, edema, premenstrual fluid retention, psoriasis, sluggish digestion, and skin problems. (Petersen, 2017, p. 247)
Root: Do not use if you have blocked bile ducts, gallbladder inflammation, or
There are several potential drug interactions noted for dandelion in the Natural
Medicines Comprehensive Database.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W70D1A4umJk&vl=en-US How to say Asteraceae
Plantain (Broadleaf) – Plantago major, All Regions, it is in the Plantaginaceae family originally this plant was found in Europe & Asia but was naturalized here in the U.S.A. in the 17th century. This plant is highly fond of people and can be found in the areas where there is activity of humans. In actuality this plant spreads as people walk through areas and was dubbed “White Man’s Foot” as Europeans traveled across the states and took it with them.
On a medicinal aspect this plant is very loving to the body. All of the parts of Plantain can be used from the spike to the root. They are most effective when dried fast but not in the sun and lose their potency if left to dry at a slow rate.
The spike has fruit which holds the psyllium seeds and for ispaghula husks, which are most sought after in the natural food market. They are used as a fiber and can be found in any psyllium fiber supplement. The whole plant has mucilage and this mucilage aids in cleansing as it has astringent properties, which will clean anything to a squeaky-clean state yet still gentle enough to not harm as some astringents may do.
It contains seven flavonoids, beta-carotene, crude fiber, dietary fiber, fat, protein, and carbohydrates. It also contains vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, C and K. Plantain also contains calcium, chromium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, and zinc. (MomPrepares)
Young leaves are easy to eat raw but when you want to eat the older leaves you will need to at least blanch them to make them tender as they have stringy fiber strands within them.
My favorite use for this plant is the first aid purposes when you are in the woods. If you get a cut, an insect bite, boil, bruise, burns, diarrhea, ringworm, scalded, scratch, stings, toothache, uterine infection, water retention, wounds, and worms. (Petersen, 2017, p. 46) The vitamin K within the weed stops bleeding with its styptic action. It has an anti-viral action glycoside acubin will help stop infection right away. It is said that the top of a leaf will draw while the bottom of the leaf will heal. It is an effective blood cleanser and antibiotic as well. It is not to be used during pregnancy due to its uterine actions.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9WdbKGpd61s How to say Plantaginaceae
Purslane – Portulaca oleracea- Zones 8-10, Easily grown this annual herb can be propagated by seed or cutting and once it is sprouted you can forget about it as it is used to taking care of itself. It likes clear ground with partial to full sun and does not have a soil preference per se but it tends to like drier soil. When propagating never cover the seed or cutting with soil as it needs light in order to germinate. (Robinson) Harvest regularly so as to avoid its invasive personality and if needing to control it harvest before it flowers. This herb is a huge source of non-meat or fish Omega 3 fatty acids, contrary to the fact it is a “fatty acid” it is an essential need for the body and must not be confused with animal fats. Purslane is easy to grow and is so nutrient rich that it contains six times more vitamin E than spinach and seven times more beta carotene than carrots.
As if this was not impressive enough it contains 15 times more Omega 3 than iceberg lettuce! It’s also rich in vitamin C, magnesium, riboflavin, potassium and phosphorus. (Robinson) Deficiencies in Omega 3s have been linked to heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s.
Other wonderful therapeutic actions of purslane are antibacterial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, anti-fungal, neuroprotective, hepatoprotective, and a bronchodilator. As far as the taste goes it is a bit crunchy with a slight lemon flavor, it is similar to watercress or spinach, and it can substitute for spinach in many recipes. Young, raw leaves and stems are tender and are good in salads and sandwiches. They can also be lightly steamed or stir-fried. Purslane has a high level of pectin (known to lower cholesterol) like apples and is used to thickens soups and stews. (Robinson)
Shepherd’s Purse- Capsella bursa-pastoris-Zones 4-7, it is in the Brassicaceae family (aka mustard) Originally from Asia and used medicinally for centuries, this herb contains the isothiocyanate compound sulforaphane. This organic compound is found in the tangy herbs such as onions, mustard, horseradish, and of course shepherd’s purse. Herbs with isothiocyanate are known to prevent Cancer in humans. In a study published in the Korean J Physiol Pharmacol. 2014, the researchers bring forward the results of their study of the sulforaphane compound which they isolated in order to prove or disprove that is has anti-inflammatory and anti-super-bacterial therapeutic actions. This same study also discussed other therapeutic benefits of Shepherd’s Purse such as anti-coagulant, anti-cancer, anti-thrombin, wound-healing, and anti-oxidant activities as well as having a potentiality as a therapeutic agent for treating diabetes and fever. Shepherd’s purse also has the most proliferate superoxide radical-scavenging activity seeking out the anions (aka an ion which has lost one or more electrons) and devouring them. The contraindications of the herb are that it should not be used during pregnancy due to its contraction inducing actions, only a medical professional would be able to advise on using this herb in any stage of pregnancy. It thrives in moist, fertile soils or dry, sandy areas in lawns, barnyards, roadsides, and waste areas. (Hayes) It is highest in vitamin K which is needed in the body for the controlled binding of calcium in bones and other tissue types. K also helps coagulation which helps stop bleeding. Preliminary research suggests that a vitamin K deficiency may indeed cause osteoporosis and the calcification of arteries and other soft tissues. Calcification of arteries will cause a heart attack or a stroke. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VhgORv27_SE HOW TO SAY Brassicaceae
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VxglusZj9Hc HOW to say isothiocyanate
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fo6mSPzQ6w How to say sulforaphane
+This information is not intended to treat or cure any illness or disease and you must see a physician if you have a medical issue. One final note on any of the medicinal weeds, never wild harvest unless you know which plant you are harvesting and never harvest from the side of a road as they absorb the toxic substances from vehicles such as lead and cadmium. +
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