By Savayda Jarone, Herbalist
On a walk through any given yard, county, or city, I will find a dozen or more medicinal weeds growing on the lawn or in and around the garden. Many are also wild edibles, offering a boost of variety and nutrition to the diet. Having an awareness of the many uses for these “weeds” is transformative – you can appreciate your yard in a whole new way. The following are some of the most common:
Plantain – Plantago major
My favourite summer first aid remedy for drawing out pus, poison, dirt, splinters, and stings from the skin. A simple poultice can be made by chewing a few leaves, making them pulpy and moist, and applying the green mass directly to the area in need. It is highly effective at easing the itch and swelling of bug bites. Make a simple tea of the fresh or dried leaves for an irritable bowel or cough.
Yarrow – Achillea millefolium
This common wildflower blooms from late June – September. It is a powerful wound healer, both internally and externally and is especially effective at stopping excessive bleeding. It has a long history of use as a fever remedy. Its bitter, aromatic taste stimulates digestion. It is a vascular tonic and remedy for high blood pressure. The leaf and flower can be used as a tea, tincture, compress or salve.
Self-heal - Prunella vulgaris
This one likes to grow on lawns; it has an unusual flower head, surrounded by many little purple flowers. Like most herbs, it has many uses; diuretic, laryngitis, anti-tumour, antioxidant, eye strain, and high blood pressure. The leaf, stem, and flower are used as a poultice, eyewash, tea, tincture, and gargle.
St. John’s wort
This popular herb is consistently among the top ten best-selling herbal supplements in the US and Canada. It is a simple weed, growing wild throughout NS. It has a deserved reputation as an effective remedy for treating mild to moderate depression. It is a general nerve restorative and brings relief to anxiety and nervous tension. It is used topically to treat shingles, cold sores, sunburn, and sciatica. It can be used as a tea, tincture, and oil.
Dandelion – Taraxacum officinale
Dandelion greens are a rich source of vitamins A, B, C, and D, potassium and iron. Eat the greens raw in salads or steamed and sautéed as you would spinach. The leaf tea is helpful in the case of urinary infections and sluggish digestion.
Warm weedy salad
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 garlic clove minced
- ¼ cup sliced apricots
- 1 cup sliced mushrooms
- 6 dandelion flowers, petals only
- 3 cups dandelion leaves washed and torn
- 3 cups plantain leaves washed and torn
Heat olive oil in a large skillet and sauté garlic and onion 3-5 minutes, until soft. Add mushrooms and cook another 5 minutes. Add dandelion and plantain leaves, stir to coat with oil, cover pan and steam about 3 minutes, until leaves have wilted.
Add vinegar, apricots, and dandelion petals. Stir and cook 1 minute. Serve immediately. Garnish with whole dandelion flowers.
I recommend getting a field guide to identify these and other wild herbs in your yard. My favourite is the Peterson Field Guide, Medicinal Plants and Herbs – Eastern/Central by Steven Foster and James Duke. Or join me for an herb walk in and around my garden in Head of Jeddore on July 12, 7-8:30 pm, I’ll demonstrate how to make an herbal infused oil and salve. Email to register: [email protected], free to readers of the Cooperator (mention this article).