Written by: CeAnne Kosel, St. Fiacre’s Farm
July, 18th, 2017
When we first moved from our duplex in town to our two acre farm it was a big mess because of the new construction on the house. Being winter in Oregon there was mud evvvvvery where, because of, well… rain. A good portion of our two acres was disturbed, wet, muddy… with not much of a yard to look at, but plenty of opportunity awaiting us. As our first year on our micro farm progressed the greenery started to come back in abundance. Soon we had weeds of every kind in our yard.
Then it happened. A horrible cough hit me that turned into bronchitis. Being a fan of herbal medicine, after years of failed antibiotics, I went looking for something that would help me in my situation. I purchased some mullein leaf tea. It helped so much that I decided to learn more about this wonderful plant. Only then did I discover that that very plant was growing all over our yard. As it turns out that it likes to grow in newly disturbed areas and that we had plenty of!
My experience with mullein got me thinking about the other “weeds” in our yard. Which is why I’m here today, to share with you five common weeds that may be used as teas as well as for other medicinal purposes.
My husband and I, with our four adopted children, hand blend artisan loose leaf tea on our small 2 acre farm in the foothills of the Cascade mountain range. We grow some of the herbs ourselves, next we source from local farms and lastly from large organic herb suppliers. We have a passion for supporting local business and farmers and also in educating others on the wonderful usefulness of plants, herbs, flowers and berries. Everyone can be their own local farmer! Even with just the weeds in your yard.
Tea blending can be complicated or as simple as going into your own yard or even foraging on a hike. It all just depends on the reason and purpose of your tea! As a precaution please note that we discourage people against foraging for plants on the sides of roads or other heavily sprayed and high traffic areas as they may not be suitable for use. Today we are going to look at five common weeds that you can use in tea, how to use them and what ailments they help with.
Before we begin, please remember this is for educational purposes only. We do not intend to treat, cure or diagnose any disease. Please consult with your health care provider before using any of these plants as they could interfere with prescription medications, may be unsuitable for pregnant or expecting women or the incorrect herb for your situation.
Now that we dealt with the fine print lets move on to those useful weeds!
First up on the list is that very well known yellow flower that seems to defy all chemical treatments, and lawn care tactics aside from digging them out by hand. The Dandelion. Here I think we might apply the old adage, “If you can’t beat them, join them.”
That’s right, its time to embrace the dandelion as a wonderful, WANTED herb rather than the despised lawn weed. Dandelion is great when the root is roasted and used as an herbal tea that tastes similar to coffee. The leaves and the flowers may be used in salads. Dandelion holds many medicinal qualities including but not limited to: a diuretic, liver tonic, assists with high blood pressure, mild appetite stimulant, helps upset stomach, supports blood sugar levels, assists with detoxification, kidney function. As well as great in the skin care department for eczema, acne and sensitive skin. The roots make great tea while the leaves and flowers really shine in skin care preparation.
Next up on the list, weed number two, is called yellow dock and/or curly dock. We had tons of this in our pasture before we had goats to graze it down. It gets very tall with large stocks that have dark colored seeds in the summertime. This weed also has many medicinal properties including assisting with anemia, a mild laxative (in some), aides in the digestion of fats, assists skin conditions such as itching and sores, helps to purify the blood, detox the liver and gallbladder and is considered an antioxidant. When using the leaves as tea you might consider adding some vanilla, rose hips, hibiscus, holy basil and licorice root to the mix for a tasty tea. You will want to harvest in later summer after the seeds have arrived and they turn red. Steamed leaves may be used in salads and frittatas. The seeds can be ground and made into crackers.
Next up, plant number three, numero tres, plantain. No we are not talking about the banana looking plantain, this is the medicinal plant. Plantain leaf is usually found down low to the ground in either a broad or narrow leaf variety. It has stocks that shoot up from the middle and have seeds on the top of them. We have both on our farm. In fact we may have more plantain than grass. It is in our lawn, in the pasture, in our greenhouse and in the orchard. No shortage here!
Plantain also makes a great tea, not a tasty tea but a very helpful one in the medicinal word. Back when I discovered that usefulness of mullein leaf with my bronchitis, plantain was also another contributor on my path back to good health. The two together were fantastic. You will want to harvest this lovely plant in the spring or the fall. It is known as natures band aid when used as a spit poultice or in a salve, its great at helping to stop bleeding. And at taking the sting out of bee stings! (A great thing to have growing everywhere!) It also assists with IBS, rashes, burns, calms the bowels, bug bits, allergic rashes, indigestion, helps with kidney and bladder infections, assists cholesterol and diabetes. The leaf and stem may be used in salads, a tea made from plantain is great for easing sunburns, it can also be used as a mouth wash. Other great ways to use this plant are in the forms of compresses, tinctures and salves.
Weeeeed number four! Yet another I purchased before realizing that it was growing in our yard! Chickweed! If you have ever gone romping through an tall field and had some weed stick to you like crazy then you have met chickweed! Also known as catch weed…. sticky willy…. goose grass…. barweed… cleavers and Galium Aparine for those of you who know your Latin. (That’s not me by the way!) Though I must admit Latin has its place, and the meaning of galium aparine is to layhold and seize! Yes … cleavers/sticky weed is just that!
After you are done untangling yourself from this highly medicinal weed its great for things like helping your lymphatic system, the immune system, it’s a great tonic for fevers, a blood purifier, works as a urinary stringent, assist the liver and gallbladder, speeds healing with wounds and burns and helps an array of skin ailments such as eczema, psoriasis, as well as being a mild laxative. Along with dandelion, chickweed has also been used as a coffee substitute and medicinal tea. It may also be used in tincture form to assist the above issues, used freshly as a poultice and preserved into a salve.
And last but not least, weed number five. Five. Five. You didn’t realize you had such a medicine cabinet in your yard did you? Its just the beginning or rather here is the end but on we go. White clover. Yep, that little white flower, usually growing amongst your lawn that the bees love creating an active ground cover as they bumble around their favorite food. They make fantastic clover honey out of it too I might say! (Which goes great in tea, wink wink) White clover acts as yet another blood purifier, assists in detoxing, helps the lymph to flow, assists with gout, reduces arthritis, aides the digestive system as well as the liver and respiratory ailments, it acts as a decongestant and expectorant, helps with hormonal functioning and assists with skin disorders. It would work fantastic as a tea, leaves a slight vanilla flavor to cakes and acts as a nitrogen fixer (green manure) in the garden.
That brings us to the end of those wonderful medicinals in your yard. Thanks for hanging out in the weeds with us today! We hope with these tidbits that you find yourself out in the yard collecting those weeds and putting them to good use. After all, a weed is just an unwanted plant in an unwanted space… turn those weeds in to medicinals! For more herbal goodness, gardening tips and local teas you will find us blogging at www.StFiacresFarm.com, teaching at www.GrowCreateSip.com and vlogging on Youtube under St. Fiacre’s Farm. We will see you next time! Cheers!
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