[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 75 – Learning About Gumweed

A huge thank you to Angela Willard for all the great photos of Gumweed!

learning-about-gumweed

To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves.

– Mohandas K. Gandhi

Gumweed is also known as Gumplant and Resinweed, Rosinweed, Tarweed, Stickyheads and Curlytop Gum Plant. The Blackfeet Native Americans refer to Gumweed as “akspeis” which translates to Stickyweed. See a theme in his name? Gum, tar, resin and rosin all describe a common characteristic to the plant that goes by the botanical name of Grindelia. Gumweed was officially recognized in the Pharmacopoeia of the United States from 1882 – 1926.

Let’s take a look at Gumweed’s energetics. If you were able to taste Gumweed, you would notice a pungent taste, followed by some bitterness. Gumweed is considered to be cooling and moistening. The resinous flowers are most often used medicinally but the leaves have been used as well.

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I have been unable to find any nutritional information on Gumweed. Gumweed contains a variety of constituents including resin containing diterpenoid acids, including grindelic acid; phenolic acids, flavonoids and small amounts of saponins. The resin acids appear to be similar in physical properties and in chemistry to the diterpenoid resin acids founds in pine trees.

Medicinally, Gumweed is alterative, antiasthmatic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, aromatic, bronchospasmolytic, demulcent, diuretic, expectorant, hypotensive, sedative, stomachic and vulnerary. Let’s take a look at what we can do with Gumweed…

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Most commonly, Gumweed is used for respiratory ailments, specifically hot, dry coughs with stuck mucus. Gumweed’s antiasthmatic, bronchospasmolytic, anti-inflammatory, and expectorant actions assist in bringing up the mucus while soothing the bronchial tubes, especially in cases of a tight sore chest, dry hacking cough, asthma, pertussis, bronchitis, and emphysema. Not only will Gumweed help to bring up stuck mucus, but he will also soothe the smooth muscles of the lungs, relaxing them and helping the bronchioles to open, allowing for more air flow. Gumweed is often found to be helpful for asthma when it is accompanied by tachycardia and is listed as so in the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia 1983.

As I mentioned, Gumweed is useful for tachycardia, helping to slow down a rapid heart beat, including a nervous rapid heart beat and can be useful for palpitations too. Gumweed is also hypotensive, lowering blood pressure and should be used with caution under the care of a qualified herbalist or other healthcare professional for those with weak or damaged hearts. We can attribute his hypotensive actions to his diuretic actions which help to drain fluid from the heart and lungs. Gumweed is best supported by cardiac stimulants, especially when working with left-sided heart failure.

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Gumweed can be very stimulating on the kidneys and should not be used long term or by those who have acute kidney infection (nephritis). At the same time, Gumweed can be helpful as a diuretic and antibacterial herb for bladder and urinary tract infections.

Externally, Gumweed has been found very effective for a variety of chronic and acute skin conditions, especially those that are hot and dry. His demulcent action combines with his vulnerary, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory actions to soothe eczema, including those suffering from atopic terrain (asthma alternating with eczema), skin ulcers, blisters, burns, rashes and inflammation including those from poison ivy and oak, as well as insect bites and stings.

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Gumweed for dull pain in the right or left hypochondrium, the area at the base of the ribs on the the corresponding side of the body, which is often accompanied by a sallow, pallid complexion, lethargy and malaise, weakness and indigestion, enlarged spleen or liver, eye pain, chills and fever. This can be a side effect of malaria. Gumweed is useful for those who are having pain in their spleen or liver regions as well.

Mathew Wood uses Gumweed for sleep apnea as well.

As an anti-inflammatory, stomachic and aromatic, Gumweed is beneficial to the digestive tract, calming minor inflammation and is best combined with other herbs such as Fennel, Ginger, Plantain and Spearmint.

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As stated before, Gumweed needs to be used with caution for those with acute kidney infections, and high blood pressure. Do not exceed the suggested doses or use long term. Gumweed is best used in occasional small doses and in combination with other herbs.

Gumweed is easily grown in zones 3-7 and is fascinating to see and touch due to the high amounts of resin that can accumulate in the head of the flower, which reminds me of excessive sticky phlegm in the lungs, nose and throat. The stickiness of the resin is similar to that found on Pine. If you have space in your garden, consider growing some Gumweed as he is a delightful plant that will bring color and pollinators into your garden.

Do you have Gumweed growing in your area? Have you ever used it medicinally? Tell us your stories about Gumweed!

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One Response to “[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 75 – Learning About Gumweed”

  1. 1

    The other day, an herbalist friend of mine pointed out “Grindelia” on the beach where we were walking, and said he was making a honey with those flowerheads to help soothe the throat and coughs. I thought to myself: I need to find out more about this plant! … And here’s your post. Thanks, Kristine!


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