Many plants that are considered garden weeds are packed with nutrition. In fact, many also have medicinal properties and are great for DIY herbal infusions and tea blends. When picking wildcrafted herbs, pick from non-polluted areas – avoid busy roads or areas where chemical fertilizers have been used.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
You can use all parts of dandelion: leaves, flowers and roots. It stimulates the liver and the kidneys, and helps with digestive problems including constipation. Dandelion is a great natural diuretic. The leaves are full of vitamins, and the young leaves are great in salads. Both flowers and leaves can be used in homemade detox infusions. The roots can be used in soups and stews.
Nettle (Urtica dioica)
Stinging nettle is full of iron, vitamin C and other vitamins and minerals. It is a blood purifier and a good addition to homemade detox tea. It helps circulation in the capillaries and boosts metabolism. Nettles are a good alternative to spinach in many recipes. Nettles are cooked quickly before eating to remove the stinging effect, or you can dry them for tea blends, although they lose nutrients in the drying process. Pick the top leaves, and use gloves when handling nettles.
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
Yarrow infusion/tea is used for many health complaints: to heal infections, the flu, fever, constipation, piles and women’s problems such as period pain. Yarrow also stimulates the liver and the digestive system. Yarrow flowers should be picked at the beginning stages of blossoming almost without the stem. You can then dry them and add to herb tea blends.
Try adding a few green leaves from a yarrow plant to salads; they contain lots of minerals, such as magnesium. Don’t use yarrow for long periods of time. It is not recommended as an herbal remedy during pregnancy, and it may cause headaches in some people.
Plantain (Plantago major)
When I was a kid, we would use plantain leaves on cuts and small grazes to stop the bleeding, like a natural bandaid. You can also use plantain internally and make tea to relieve stomach problems. Check out Get Prepared — Edible Weeds for tips on cooking with plantain.
Clover (Trifolium repens, Trifolium pratense)
White clover (Trifolium repens) is said to promote general health, and white clover tea is a traditional remedy for menstrual problems. Red clover (Trifolium pratense) tea is helpful during respiratory infections, to relieve digestive problems and to prevent infections. You can also add clover flowers to homemade tea blends to add flavor and color. The green leaves can be used in salads.
Do you use wildcrafted herbs or edible weeds in cooking or in herbal remedies?
Jekka McVicar: The Complete Herb Book (Firefly Books, 2008)