[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 24 – Five easy to identify herbs that are in your backyard

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Let children walk with Nature, let them see the beautiful blendings and communions of death and life, their joyous inseparable unity, as taught in woods and meadows, plains and mountains and streams of our blessed star, and they will learn that death is stingless indeed, and as beautiful as life.

-John Muir

One of the biggest concerns (understandably so) I hear when embarking on the herbal journey with children is the fear of them eating a poisonous plant. I am working on a post on how to ease those fears and wildcraft safely but for today, I wanted to touch on something a bit simpler, starting identification with 5 plants that grow just about everywhere. There is a lot to be learned with just these 5 plants, they are versatile and offer many healing actions while building plant identification confidence.

 

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Plant #1 – Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
The most cursed weed of the manicured lawn, Dandelion grows all around the world! He is one of the most nutritious plants found, offering more vitamins and minerals than just about any plant on this great planet of ours. 1 cup of dandelion leaves contains 1 1 / 2 times the recommended USDA daily requirements for vitamin A alone! It also contains vitamins B-1, B-2, B-5, B-6, B-12, C, E, P, and D plus biotin, inositol, iron, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and zinc. It’s like taking a multi-vitamin every time you eat a salad full of dandelion greens! This alone is enough for anyone to love Dandelion but his virtues don’t stop there.

All parts of Dandelion can be used medicinally. The leaves are an alterative, anodyne, antacid, antioxidant, aperient, astringent, bitter, decongestant, depurative, digestive, diuretic, febrifuge, galactagogue, hypotensive, immune stimulant, laxative, lithotriptic, nutritive, restorative, stomachic, tonic, and vulnerary. Roots are alterative, anodyne, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antirheumatic, aperient, astringent, bitter, cholagogue, choleretic, decongestant, depurative, digestive, diuretic, galactagogue, hepatic, hypnotic, immune stimulant, laxative, lithotriptic, nutritive, purgative, sedative, stomachic, and tonic. The flowers are anodyne, cardiotonic, emollient, hepatic and vulnerary. Even the sap of the flower stem is used, being an anodyne, antifungal and discutient.

Learn more about Dandelion in the May 2009 issue of Herbal Roots zine.

 

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Plant #2 – Plantain (Plantago spp.)
Though Plantain is native to Europe, this plant has popped up just about everywhere on the planet. In my back yard I have 3 species: Plantago major, P. lanceolata and P. rugelii. They can all be used interchangeably. This is the first plant most my children learned to identify because of it’s great uses for all things first aid: bee stings, bleeding, inflammation, allergies, bruises and more. Plantain is easy to identify by his “ribs”, the many veins that run through each leaf, giving him the nickname of Ribwort. When you harvest a leaf, you will see “strings” hanging from the end of the stem.

Plantain can also be eaten and contains calcium, magnesium, sodium, phosphorous, zinc, copper and cobalt and vitamins A, C, and K. Medicinally, Plantain is alterative, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, anthelmintic, antivenomous, astringent, expectorant, decongestant, demulcent, deobstruent, depurative, diuretic, expectorant, febrifuge, hemostatic, kidney tonic, ophthalmic, mucilaginous, refrigerant, restorative and vulnerary.

Learn more about Plantain in the June 2009 issue of Herbal Roots zine.

 

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Plant #3 – Violet (Viola spp.)
This harbinger of spring grows abundantly throughout the world. The best time to spot her is in the spring when a carpet of deep purple covers the yard. Her heart shaped leaves are easy to find as well.

Violet is very nutritious. She has lots of ascorbic acid (vitamin C), vitamin A, rutin and iron. In fact, 1 oz. of Violet contains almost double the amount of the RDA for vitamin A and C. Both the leaves and flowers are edible and can be added to salads. Medicinally, Violet is alterative, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antiscorbutic, astringent, demulcent, diaphoretic, diuretic, emollient, expectorant, febrifuge, laxative, nutritive, pectoral, restorative and vulnerary.

Learn more about Violet in the April 2009 issue of Herbal Roots zine.

 

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Plant #4 – Chickweed (Stellaria spp.)
Chickweed is a cool weather plant. She prefers to make her appearance during the fall, winter and spring months, disappearing back into the ground during the heat of summer. It’s not uncommon to find a lush patch of Chickweed growing under leaf cover with a blanket of snow overhead. Find your Chickweed patches before the snow flies and mark them for easy location during the winter months.

Chickweed is another salad favorite, giving a mild spinach flavor to them. Chickweed can also be added in place of lettuce on sandwiches. Chickweed contains vitamins A, C, thiamine (B1), riboflavine (B2), niacin (B3), aluminum, calcium, chlorophyll, chromium, cobalt, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum (an essential element), phosphorus, potassium, protein, silicon, sodium and zinc. Medicinally, Chickweed is alterative, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, astringent, carminative, demulcent, diuretic, emollient, expectorant, febrifuge, laxative, liver cleansing, mucolytic, nutritive, pectoral, refrigerant and vulnerary.

Learn more about Chickweed in the March 2009 issue of Herbal Roots zine.

 

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Plant #5 – Pine (Pinus spp.)
One cup of Pine needle tea contains as much vitamin C as 5 – 6 lemons. That’s a lot of vitamin C! Pine trees grow all around the world and are often a popular landscaping tree due to being evergreen and making a great natural privacy shield. Spruce and Fir trees all have similar properties to Pine and can be used interchangeably.

Besides being high in vitamin C, Pine is used medicinally as well. Generally the needles and pitch are used though the inner bark can be used as well. Pine is analgesic, anticatarrhal, antiseptic, antiviral, demulcent, diuretic, expectorant, rubefacient, stimulant and tonic. The bark can be powdered and used in a tea and is antioxidant, demulcent, diuretic and expectorant.

Learn more about Pine in the December 2009 issue of Herbal Roots zine.

All 5 of these plants are in the 2009 archive, which is given free when you purchase an annual subscription to Herbal Roots zine!

How many of these plants do you have growing in your back yard?

2 Responses to “[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 24 – Five easy to identify herbs that are in your backyard”

  1. 1
    Greta

    We have all and much much more!!! Is there any use for Smartweed?

  2. 2
    kristine

    Hi Greta,

    Several plants can be referred to as Smartweed, which one do you have?


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