Tag Archives: medicinal garden

7 Medicinal Weeds & How to Use Them

Dealing with weeds may be one of the worst parts of gardening. No matter how diligent you are or how much you cover crop and mulch there will always be a few that get by you and mature. While I’ve often heard gardeners refer to edible weeds with the positive motto, “if you can’t beat them eat them.” It doesn’t always work for me. When I’ve worked hard to nurture a late crop of heirloom lettuce onto our plates, a salad of wild greens just doesn’t have the same appeal. However there are medicinal uses for some of the pesky garden weeds that plague your summer chore list. Here’s a list of common medicinal weeds and how they can be used.

Ground Ivy/Creeping Charlie

Ground Ivy is edible but not exactly tasty. It has been used medicinally treat a variety of ailments. It’s astringent, anti-inflammatory, and very high in vitamin C. It was once used to treat scurvy. Today you can make it into an immune boosting tea or tincture.

Plantain

There are two common types of plantain, Plantago major (left) and Plantago lanceolata (right), and both share the same medicinal properties. Plantain leaves and seeds are edible and full of important vitamins but the leaves are most frequently used externally. The leaves have anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties and can be crushed and placed on small injuries and insect bites to help soothe and heal.

Chickweed

This plant is often used to treat stomach conditions including constipation. It’s also high in vitamin C and can be made into a tincture or eaten fresh.

Dandelion

Flowers, leaves, and roots, all parts of the humble dandelion are medicinal. Though it hasn’t been well studied dandelion is believed to help support liver function and balance hormones. The leaves and flowers can be dried as tea, made into a tincture, or eaten fresh. The roots are sometimes ground and dried as a coffee substitute.

Cleavers

Also called goose grass or bedstraw, this plant is most commonly used as an herbal tea to treat urinary infections and promote kidney health. It is extensively used in products like chanca piedra which ensure the smooth functioning of kidneys and the gall bladder. The plant and its seeds are very good at sticking to clothing.

Wood Sorrel

Wood sorrel was once commonly believed to a blood cleanser. It has also been used to treat stomach ailments including vomiting and a poor appetite. Juice from wood sorrel plants is believed to helpful in treating ulcers when used as a mouth rinse. It’s also thought to help treat sore feet when added to a tub of warm water, a perfect use for the busy gardener! Though tasty, it should be consumed in moderation as it is high in oxalic acid which can inhibit calcium absorption.

Lambsquarters

Lambsquarter actually is quite tasty but it can also be used medicinally. Traditionally it was used internally, either eaten fresh, cooked, or made into a tea to treat rheumatic pains and chronic wounds. It’s can also be crushed and used as a poultice to help soothe eczema, sunburns, and insect bites.

Using a few herbal remedies won’t eradicate the weeds from your garden or replace your costly health insurance but maybe it will help you connect with nature. Maybe it will make you a little less sad to see weeds popping up in your garden. What weeds have you utilized from your garden?

I’m not a medical practitioner or herbal medicine expert. Please consult a doctor before trying to use herbal remedies to treat any ailment. Some plants may interact with certain prescriptions or pre-existing conditions.

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Direct Sowing Roselle

Now that the hot weather has really begun to set in it’s time to focus on heat loving crops. While many people will be setting out peppers and seeding melons there’s another summertime crop that deserves a place in your garden, roselle. The roselle plant is a member of the hibiscus family grown for its flavorful calyxes (part of the flower). It’s not as showy as ornamental hibiscus varieties but it is extremely useful.

It offers a citrus flavor earning it another common name, the Florida Cranberry. Roselle can be used for candies, syrups, or jam but it’s probably best known for its use in making delicious, bright red tea called Red Zinger. The tea has more going for it than just being tasty though. Roselle has long been used to safely lower blood pressure and is full of vitamin C.

The young leaves and stems of the roselle plant can also be used as salad or cooked greens or be made into jam as well. The leaves are naturally high in pectin, prefect for jam.

While Roselle is technically a perennial it is extremely frost sensitive so here in Virginia (zone 7a) it’s grown as an annual. Roselle can be started early and transplanted, much like tomatoes, or it can be direct seeded during hot weather. It requires temperatures between 75°- 85°F to germinate but germinates readily outdoors making it an ideal candidate for direct sowing.

Roselle will do best in well-drained, fertile soil. Compost amendments are fine but beware of over-fertilizing. Too much nitrogen can cause it to put energy into growing a very large plant instead of many calyxes. Be sure to keep your roselle plants well weeded until they’re established and can shade out weeds by themselves.

Tips for Direct Sowing

  • Plant extra seeds and thin later choosing the best looking plants to keep. This will ensure you get a good crop of healthy, hardy plants.
  • Water, water, water! Do not forget to water your roselle especially while the seeds are germinating.
  • Watch the weather and make sure your area has warmed up enough!

If you’re going to direct sow and thin your plants (or have plants ready to set out) it’s important to give Roselle a lot of space. Plants should be thinned to 3 ft apart in rows 5 ft apart. It sounds like a lot but plants with less space will produce less calyxes.

Pests aren’t typically a big problem with roselle though it can be susceptible to stem and root rot. Both are easily avoided by planting in well drained soil and carefully monitoring watering to avoid over doing it.

Thai Red Roselle, the variety grown at Southern Exposure, should begin flowering in the mid summer. Calyxes can be harvested after the blooms drop off and are most easily harvested when full grown but still tender. If they’re not tender enough to break off by hand you can use clippers.

For high quality tea calyxes should be removed from the seed and dried out of direct sunlight. A dehydrator can be helpful especially in very humid weather. Once completely dry they can be stored in airtight jars for making tea throughout the year.

If you’d like to try your hand at growing roselle there’s still time to direct sow! Find Southern Exposure’s Thai Red Roselle seed here.