When is a weed a weed NOT a weed? To paraphrase my mother – a weed is a plant that is growing where YOU do not want it to. So if you have wild onions growing in your yard are they weeds? What about cultivated onions? Really the question of what a weed is depends on who you are and how tolerant a gardener you are. Herbs are defined a plant that is valued for flavor, scent, or other qualities. Herbs are used in cooking, as medicines, and for spiritual purposes. By this definition many common lawn/yard weeds are actually herbs.
Weeds on the other hand are simply defined but lawn care experts as
- a valueless plant growing wild, especially one that grows on cultivated ground to the exclusion or injury of the desired crop.
- a plant that is unattractive or troublesome
- a plant with vigorous growth that may choke out the desired plants
When I did a search of common weeds I was surprised to see that so many of them are or where at one time considered useful plants, or herbs Many of them are edible and have a long history of use.Some of the plants considered to be weeds in the United States are being cultivated or at least gathered in other parts of the world
Among the useful plants considered to be weeds are in no particular order;
Dandelion – is best known in herbal literature as a liver cleanser, and tonic. It detoxes the liver and strengthens the kidneys . An infusion of the root encourages the steady elimination of toxins from the body. Dandelion is a powerful diuretic but does not deplete the body of potassium. As an early spring “green:” it is widely used in salads, cordials and is known for its wine.
Chickweed Traditionally ,chickweed is used in an ointment form for skin conditions but is also used for inflammatory conditions such as rheumatism, psoriasis and joint inflammation. Like Dandelion it is also used in salads & cooked as a vegetable. Internally as a decoction this herb is used as a postpartum as an emmenagogue, galactogogue and circulatory tonic.
Wild Onion Of course it goes without saying that the wild onion is edible and tastes like onion. Wild onions are common in the spring. They grow freely in my garden and easily in my yard. We pull them and use them as you would green onions. Eating large quantities of any member of the allium family will give your body an odor that will help to repel insects. Garlic juice works as an antibiotic on wounds
Lambsquaters (or Goosefoot) besides being regarded as one of the most delicious of wild vegetables. It is in the same plant family as spinach and beets. It has also been dried and used as a flour by Native Americans.
Plantain is a jack of all trades herb, a true panacea, commonly found just about everywhere. I find it in my yard and gardens all the time. Because of its antibacterial properties it is commonly used to treat cuts received while gardening. Simply crush the leaves and place on the cut. To name just a few properties it is antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, , diuretic, expectorant, . It has been used to treat asthma, emphysema, bladder problems, bronchitis, fever, hypertension, rheumatism blood sugar control. peptic ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, cystitis, bronchitis, sinusitis, coughs, asthma and hay fever
Sorrel has a distinctive lemony flavor. It has a been used as an antiseptic, and to treat fluid retention. Because it is high in Vitamin C it has a history of use to treat Scurvy.Young, tender spring leaves can be used as a salad green.
Speedwell (also known as Veronica) was known as healthy, relaxing, herbal tea and tonic in the past. Recent studies have shown Speedwell tea may be an effective preventative treatment for ulcers. Historically it has most often used been used for coughs and congestion.
Violets besides looking pretty violets have a long history of use to treat respiratory problems like bronchitis, colds, and coughs. Evidence also exists that violets may have an action like aspirin.
Clover the plant is a vegetable so it fixes nitrogen and hinders the process of erosion and is planted as a cover crop Red clover extract has been used as a blood purifier and steps-up the output of urine and mucous.
Purslane is packed with omega-3 fatty acids. A whole cup of it contains a mere 7 calories. One cup will also you provide you with 11% of your daily requirement of vitamin A and 15% of vitamin C. It has lots of other healthy nutrients as well. Low carb, no fat or cholesterol. It is healthier than spinach and is a dieter’s dream. In the past it has been used to treat fever, female disorders, stomach aches, hemorrhoids Hippocrates used it to heal wounds and to combat the common cold.
Feverfew Scientific studies have shown the use of feverfew may ebb the frequency and severity of headaches. It may be more efficacious than other NSAIDS (nonsteroidal antiinflammatories) , like aspirin.
Resources for more information
Alternative Nature Online Herbal