In the Weeds

May Newsletter: Taurus Season

May Newsletter

Happy May! This month’s newsletter takes inspiration from the plants in my new native garden. If you’ve been thinking about starting a garden (it’s never too late), here’s your sign to do it. Taurus season encourages us to build material wealth and resources, and there’s nothing more abundant and supportive than your own garden. Start small, start indoors, it’s worth it.

Medicinal Weeds

I recently converted a turf lawn into a native garden. I started by sheet mulching the grass with cardboard and mulch, waiting several months for the grass to die before planting. Nature does not like undisturbed land, and a surprising amount of weeds pushed their way through 4 inches of cardboard and wood mulch in the early spring. Since this is a native garden, I approached the early garden arrivals with curiosity. So many of the plants we refer to as weeds contribute immensely to biodiversity by adding soil nutrients, nourishing wildlife, protecting the ground from erosion, and aerating the soil. And many are medicinal for humans. So, here are a few of the medicinal weeds I encountered in my garden.

Plantain (Plantago rugelii)

Blackseed Plantain is native to North America and is a common lawn weed (not to be confused with the Plantain in the banana family). It has broad, dark green leaves that grow in clumps and tolerates poor soil quality. It is often one of the earliest plants to arrive in disturbed high-traffic areas. It provides food to many native birds, mammals, insects, and pollinators.

The leaves and seeds of Plantain are edible and medicinal, and the young leaves can even be eaten raw. Plantain leaves are commonly prepared as a first-aid poultice for insect bites, wounds, poison ivy, and Ringworm. Internally, Plantain leaves can be prepared as tea or tincture to alleviate inflammation and toxic buildup, particularly in the digestive system.

Violet (Viola sororia)

Common Blue Violets are native to the eastern United States. Their small, attractive purple flowers and heart-shaped leaves make them one of the lesser offensive lawn weeds. However, Violets are not just an attractive ground cover, they provide food to butterflies and bees and have medicinal properties. Violet is cooling and moistening. Externally, it can be used as a poultice, wash, or oil to soothe hot and inflammatory skin conditions like psoriasis. Internally as a tea or syrup, violet can soothe ulcers, sore throats, and asthma.

Dead Nettle (Lamium purpureum)

Dead Nettle is another common lawn weed in the mint family. It is unrelated to the similarly named, Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica), and the hairlike projections on its leaves and stems do not produce the iconic sting of true Nettles. Dead Nettles are Native to Eurasia, and because of their aggressive growth habits, it is considered invasive in some parts of North America. Luckily for us though, Dead Nettles have medicinal benefits, so if you’re going to remove them from your garden, you can give them a second life before throwing them in the compost. Dead Nettles are anti-inflammatory and astringent and can be used as a first-aid remedy to stop bleeding for minor cuts by applying as a poultice. Dead Nettles are also a versatile spring green and can be added to salads, smoothies, pestos, and stir-fry dishes. Internally, Dead Nettles contain flavonoids like quercetin and antioxidants for cardiovascular and immune health.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

Dandelion is one of the most well-known lawn weeds, and although it was originally native to Eurasia, it is considered naturalized in North America. Dandelion is such a formidable weed because of its taproot, which can grow up to 6 feet deep. It can grow in compacted and low-nutrient soil and its long taproot aids in reducing soil compaction and drawing up nutrients. As if soil improvement wasn’t enough, Dandelion is one of the first plants to appear in spring and provides food to early pollinators.

Its presence in the lawn rarely inspires joy, but all parts of this hardy weed are edible and medicinal. Dandelion roots support the liver in detoxification and can address psoriasis, Diabetes, hepatitis, and jaundice. The leaves are very high in iron and can be used as a diuretic. Unlike many prescription diuretics, Dandelion is less likely to negatively impact potassium levels because it is so high in potassium.

Recipe: Weed and Wildflower Oils

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