By Ash Stevens
We could all use a little pick me up when it comes to coping with colds and fine lines. Plenty of creams and supplements promise to deliver us the results we’re looking for, but they come with a hefty price tag. And so many of them just don’t deliver! Lucky for you, you’ve got some herb buddies that can help you out. You may not have to walk any farther than your backyard!
Call it Yellow Dock, Curled Dock, or Curly Dock — either way, it’s a fabulous plant. This herb is recognized for its ability to break down gallstones, treat acne, and enhance immunity. It also aids the bowels by acting as a laxative for natural constipation relief, and it eases ulcerative colitis by strengthening the walls of the intestines.
It has just as special a place in women’s hearts thanks to its ability to raise iron levels. While it isn’t actually a high iron source, it seems to be able to improve the body’s absorption of iron. Make a tea by using 1 tablespoon of Yellow Dock root per cup of water. Rather than letting the root steep as with tea leaves, let the roots simmer for 20 minutes over low heat. Roots and bark are denser than leaves, thus they require more time and heat to release their compounds.
This plant is cursed by landscapers because it pops up in garden beds as much as driveways and sidewalks. And lucky for you! This herb will have you loading up your purse and pockets every time you spot a patch.
Purslane is the richest source of Omega-3’s that the world of salad greens have ever known. Health professionals like Dr. Axe recommend healthy adults get a minimum of 50-100g a day to maintain health. Purslane will get you all that and then some since it packs 300-400 mg of ALA per 100g. Omega-3’s are proving to be powerful anti-inflammatories that can reduce pain and inflammation, so that’s reason alone to eat it. This plant can boost mental health as well as physical since purslane contains the antidepressant mineral lithium
This lemony plant earns a place in salads, but it also has a long history in traditional healing and medicine. Naprapath and Maya healer Rosita Arvigo uses purslane to treat minor back aches. She mashes purslane (leaf and stem) into a paste. Health and fitness writer Porter Shimer says that Native Americans used purslane juice to soothe pains from burns, bites and stings, and earaches.
If you’re not yet sold on purslane, then you should know Shimer also cites purslane to be an astringent cleanser that both refreshes the skin and… Reduces the lines of aging. Give it a try yourself by chopping up a cup of purslane, and mashing it down with a cup of cool water (the ideal is a mortar and pestle, but gentle pulsing with a blender would work too). Once the mixture is well mashed, it can be applied to the face and left on for five minutes. Store any remaining purslane concoction in the fridge where it will keep up to 5 days.
There’s a good chance you already know of plantain seeds (aka psyllium) — but chances are even higher that you’ve stepped on this herb thinking it was nothing but a noxious weed.
Like purslane, plantain is high in a slippery compound called mucilage (note how similar the word mucilage is to the word mucus). The seeds are especially mucilaginous. So much so, that psyllium has been the topic of study in treating everything from IBS to diabetes. It’s also been studied for it’s ability to help weight loss.
The leaves are just as handy! Chewed up plantain leaves have been used the world over as an instant poultice for rashes, bites, stings, and bleeding. The herb has also been a traditional treatment for coughing, heavy menstruation, eczema, urinary tract infections, and even bedwetting. Plantain also has a reputation for easing inflammation, so an herbalist may recommend it for hemorrhoids and toothaches as much as arthritis. Try it yourself by making plantain tea; simply steep two teaspoons of herb in a cup of boiling water for 10 minutes.
It used to be that dandelion was the most despised weed in all of North America. Farmer’s markets and bee advocates have helped change the way American homeowners see this yard invader, but dandelion still isn’t getting the credit it deserves. This wild edible is incredible!
Dandelion comes from the French word “tooth of the lion.” And does that every fit! Dandelion is a powerful and nutritive herb, be it root, stem, or flower. Dandelion’s milky sap can be used to banish obnoxious corns and warts, and tea made from dandelion’s leaves have been shown to relieve respiratory problems as serious as pneumonia and bronchitis. And while dandelion greens never make their way into salads because of their bitter taste, this quality is what makes them so worthy of our dinner plate. The bitter compounds that make our tastebuds recoil in terror actually provoke the production of digestive juices and hormones that help our bodies break down fats and proteins. Thus, dandelion’s popularity with matters of indigestion, colitis, and liver regeneration.
Dandelion is also turned to as a natural diuretic, and it may offer mothers-to-be a safe and natural way to reduce or avoid the high blood pressure and water retention that precedes preeclampsia. The roots are also used to help the body absorb iron, which makes it yet another pregnancy-friendly herb (though you should get this confirmed by your healthcare provider before you start chopping dandelion on everything). Dandelion can be boiled or baked like other root vegetables, and leaves can be eaten raw or cooked like any other salad green. If you’d like to use the leaves to make your own tea, the general herbal consensus is to use one teaspoon of dried herb per cup of water (fresh leaves will be closer to two teaspoons).
Given chamomiles use as a bedtime tea, it’s no wonder this dainty flower is an herbal sedative. The benefits of chamomile go far beyond sleep though. This incredible anti-inflammatory has been used to alleviate everything from hemorrhoids, varicose veins, asthma, allergies, menstrual cramps, pains and sprains. It’s ability to decrease stomach acid makes it an effective herbal remedy for indigestion, heartburn, and stomach ulcers.
Chamomile is obviously a cupboard must for soothing pains and upsets. It yet another herbal go-to for matters of beauty and healing. The herb’s antiviral and antibacterial properties enable it to help heal wounds and reduce infections by increasing white cell count. It’s can also improve dry skin by encouraging oil production and reducing irritation. Even couperose skin benefits from chamomile thanks to its strengthening effect of skin capillaries.
Maya healer Rosita Arvigo recommends drinking chamomile tea to help break down gallstones. She also recommends using it in combination with aloe vera and cayenne pepper to create a mouthwash that wards off gingivitis.
The flower of love is known for it’s exquisite floral aroma, but a bouquet doesn’t do the rose justice. The incredible scent of rose promotes calm and contentment for frazzled nerves, making it a very helpful flower for dealing with stress and depression. Not surprisingly, rose is just as gentle and soothing to the skin, and it can be used to soothe everything from acne to eczema. Make your own rose water by steeping ½ cup of fresh rose petals in 1 ½ cups of hot water for 24 hours. Strain the petals from the infused water and you’ll have a rose water worthy of your face (and even desserts!).
The flower of rose benefits health as well as beauty. Rose hips are especially high in the immune-boosting and age-fighting vitamin C. That makes for one powerful cup of tea during cold season. But be it petals,hips, or root –they’re all potent antibacterials. Make room for rose power in the kitchen by using the herbal flower to make rose-infused jam, butter, and vinegar. They come with an incredible smell plus bonus health perks. The kids won’t need to be convinced though. Flower food is just plain fun!
Now that you have an idea of all the great ways wild herbs can be used, take some time to get to know them. Herbs contain powerful and healthful compounds, so they may require special considerations when health conditions and medications are involved. Plants may contain compounds like oxalic acid (a contributor to kidney stones), and some act as diuretics or laxatives. It stands to reason that a chat with an expert would be a smart move. So, hurry up and get the go-ahead! There’s a whole new world of DIY teas, tinctures, and salves that awaits your next Pinterest board!
Ash Stevens is a gardener, a writer, and a fan of all things green. Her love for health and sustainability began with her journey into motherhood, and it’s grown exponentially ever since. She’s passionate about living a healthy lifestyle through gardening, cooking, and spending time outdoors. If she isn’t writing or reading up on exciting green trends, she’s probably playing Connect Four or swimming in the river with the kids. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter.