As we vigorously and delicately tend to our gardens this season, don’t forget your weeds can be plant allies, too! Yes, they are often aggressive and take up precious soil space, but I invite you to take a closer look at the uninvited plant guests in your yards or gardens.
Dandelions are notorious for invading well-manicured lawns or sneaking into gardens, but could they do more good than harm? Pollinators need an early spring food source, and bright Dandelion flowers provide just that. Therefore, waiting to dig up those pesky plants is important. (This is also the idea behind No Mow May!) I wait until after the flowers show their colors and my perennials make their appearance for the season. Who knows, you might just love watching the honeybees gracefully hover over your area.
Dandelion is one of the most giving medicinal plants, because you can use its leaves, roots, and flowers! You can find Dandelion flowers in salads at many farm-to-table style restaurants, as they are delicious and upgrade any dish!
In herbalism, we treasure Dandelion leaf, or Taraxacum officinale, for its ability to move excess water in the body and provide high amounts for potassium. Dandelion roots support optimal health and are a great coffee replacement when used in hot tea. One important plant compound found in the root is inulin, an important soluble fiber source for optimal health. The root also contains dense amounts of vitamins like A, C, niacin, and choline, especially during springtime harvests.
Traditionally, Dandelion is prepared fresh from the garden in early spring when your body needs the most nutrients after a long cold winter. You could make a delightful hot tea infusion or simply lightly roast the delicious roots.
Here is an easy DIY Dandelion Root Tea recipe to drink your weeds:
- Harvest your Dandelion root in springtime.
- Wash your roots thoroughly.
- Chop the leaves off and set aside.
- Chop the roots up in cubes.
- Roast the roots for 30 minutes at 200 F, until they turn dark brown!
- Make your hot tea infusion in a French press or mason glass jar. Note: Strain the root material if using a mason jar.
- Enjoy your coffee replacement with milk and honey or drink as herbal tea!
I find plants with thorns or spikes can be the most helpful for our health. Take Rose for example: its thorns hurt, but it is highly treasured across the world for its intoxicating aromatics and health benefits.
Wild lettuce, or Lactuca virosa, has little spikes on its mature stalks, and the leaves are extra serrated as well. Because of this, it's best to pull the bottom of the stalks in late spring before the spikes get super sharp! When you break open the stalk or mature leaves, you will find a white, milky liquid which can be freshly squeezed on burns or taken internally with some hot water in very small amounts. The dried milky white substance (or latex) of Wild Lettuce is known as Lactucarium and is traditionally prepared in dried rectangular reddish-brown cakes. The cakes were mostly made in Europe; however, some were imported to the USA. During this time, Wild Lettuce became known as “Little opium,” because it was popular for its non-addictive sedative qualities.
Modern-day pharmaceuticals have taken the place of those little cakes, but you can still find Wild Lettuce in traditionally crafted liquid formulas like Serious Relaxer. Drink your weeds with Serious Relaxer by placing the appropriate amount into sparkling water, kombucha, or your favorite evening tea. Wild Lettuce supports restful moments and a healthy inflammation response, making it helpful for those sore muscles after pulling weeds in the yard.
Here in the southwest region of the United States, we pull large amounts of local garden Marshmallow root! It’s similar to the Marshmallow root, or Althaea officinalis, commonly used in herbal formulas like Hoarse Whisperer, an herbal throat spray for hoarse voices. Althea is taller than your typical garden Marshmallow root and looks similar to hollyhocks. It’s demulcent or slimy nature is due to the polysaccharides (plant compounds) found mostly in the roots.
Our local garden Marshmallow root here in Colorado likes to establish similar roots and overpopulate most gardens. It takes a special tool to uproot it just like Dandelion.
Soaking plant material with polysaccharides in water is best, because this plant constituent is water soluble. For example, soaking a tablespoon of chia seeds overnight in the refrigerator may help support digestive health when drinking in the morning, and the same goes for Marshmallow root. It ccan be chopped, soaked, and/or used as hot tea infusion.
Weeds Are Sustainable
If the health benefits from our weeds aren’t enough, perhaps looking into their sustainable nature may sway your opinion of uninvited plant guests. Here at WishGarden Herbs, we think it’s important to source sustainable medicinal plants, therefore utilizing easily grown plant allies like Dandelion, Wild Lettuce, and Marshmallow Root in our formulas makes sense. After all, plant biodiversity should be respected, because plants sustain our way of life — weeds included!
Lauren Ann Nichols attended The Colorado School of Clinical Herbalism and received her certificate in medical herbalism. She is the owner of Herbal Vice, a small-batch skincare company, and organically grows the herbs used in her products. She is currently the Sourcing & Purchasing Manager at Wish Garden Herbs.
For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, or sell any product.