Healing Weeds - Getting a closer contact with the healing world of herbs and wild plants.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Lady's Thumb

Persicaria maculosa

NL: Perzikkruid / F: Renouée persicaire

Very strong plant, from the family of  buckwheat. Edible parts are leaves and young shoots, which can be eaten raw or cooked.

It is traditionally used in poultices to relieve rheumatic pain, to heal wounds, to arrest bleeding or in infusion to help relieve stomach ache.

There is a variety of persicaria very similar to this one, known as smartweed. It is also edible, but it is very hot in taste, so you might want to try first a tiny small piece before putting it a lot in your mouth.

Another family member of the persicaria family that I love to use in dishes is the Persicaria odorata, also known as Vietnamese coriander. It is very easy to cultivate and makes every dish taste divinely good.

Here are some helpful videos with more information on Persicaria maculosa:

Edible & Medicinal Lady’s Thumb
Lady’s Thumb - LuminEarth

As we are talking about persicarias, in the link below you will find some information on culinary uses of persicaria odorata, which looks pretty similar to Lady's Thumb, but it tastes much better:

Persicaria odorata -Kruidwis

Wild Rocket

Diplotaxis tenuifolia
NL: Grote zandkool / F: Roquette sauvage

Wild rocket is another super food that you can find growing spontaneously on your garden or even on sidewalks. From the family of broccoli and cabbages, it has a great taste and it can perfectly be eaten raw, in salads or pesto. In its raw form it preserves most of its antioxidant phytochemicals which protect the liver, help the body to detox from chemicals and heavy metals and it enhances our immune system and our protection against cancer, Alzheimer and other degenerative diseases.

I’ve always been a big fan of this salad green but what inspired me to post this now was to find a large amount of it growing healthily through a crack on the sidewalk near where I live.

 One could write an entire book about the health benefits of this plant and its nutritional richness. It contains, for instance, a lot of vitamin C, A, K, calcium, magnesium, iron and copper. This is indeed one of the healthiest vegetable one can ever find in nature (or easily grow it yourself).

My favorite recipe with it is to blend a large portion of wild rocket with apple juice, fresh mint and pineapple.

More on arugula:

5 Things you need to know about the health benefits of arugula

Healthy Cooking: Arugula

Green smoothie with wild weeds

This is our favorite way to consume these superfoods, by making delicious green juices and smoothies.

We use the juicer mainly for leaves that contain too much fibers, such as winter kale, old dandelion leaves, (wheat or oat or other type of) grass or plantain. Otherwise we use all the greens with fruits to make smoothies. The best smoothies are made in a high speed blender, such as Vitamix, Magimix or Omniblend.

It is pretty simple and you don't really need a recipe to make delicious smoothies. Just add the greens of your preference together with fruits that are growing in that season. Here are some guidelines.

1. Get a full bowl of some:
- young dandelion leaves
- young fresh tops of stinging nettle
- young leaves of ground ivy
- young plantain leaves
- wild mint or lemon balm
- whatever else green you can find depending on the season

2. Rinse the greens carefully.

3. Put some fruits in your blender and add water or fruit juice

4. Add the wild weeds

5. Blend and enjoy !

You can also make these green smoothies using any cultivated greens if they are more easily available at some point - such as rocket greens, watercress, purslane or young kale.

Sometimes the richest parts of the plant, such as radish, turnip and carrot greens, are thrown away when they could be perfectly used in juices or smoothies. In fact if you have natural, non sprayed grass in your back yard you can just harvest every day a bit of that grass and juice it.

If the greens you are using are very fibrous and you don't have a (good) juicer, you can blend the leaves first with water of fruit juice and strain them in a fine sieve or cheese cloth before drinking.

A very easy and simple combination is to blend your greens with appel juice, sieve it or not, depending on the greens used and on the personal preference, and add some freshly squeezed lemon juice at the end.

Next to vitamins and minerals boost that we get from drinking green juices, the chlorophyll content in it has strong energizing, detoxifying and general healing properties.

Here is a video where Valya Boutenko teaches us how to improve the taste of green smoothies, making it more appealing to those still unfamiliar with high amounts of greens at once:

How to Make a Tasty Green Smoothie

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Healingweeds Newsletter 1

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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Galinsoga (or Gallant soldiers)

F: Galinsoga - NL: Knopkruid

Galinsoga parviflora
Originally from South America, one can see this plant growing in all kinds of grounds and countries. In temperature zones its green and flowery parts grow from May to October and it can yield large amounts. That makes it a very helpful plant to think of in case of food shortage. It can be eaten raw, in salads and green juices or cooked, having a very mild flavor, which some dare comparing to the taste of artichoke or topinambur.

It can be found from June to October in temperate zones

In South America it is used to spice soups. It can also be dried for winter use, being sprinkled over meals to enrich them.

As a first aid herb it can be used to help treat wounds, cuts, and bites. It can also ease nettle stings. The essential oil extracted from the leaves has shown some antimicrobial activity.

More information and cooking tips on galinsoga and how to differentiate it from a possible toxic look-alike, you can find in the link below:

Galinsoga's Gallant Soldiers

Here is a video where you can have a look at this plant in a more extensive way:

Edible Plants: Galinsoga

Thursday, October 4, 2012


Artemisia vulgare
Artemisia vulgare - NL: Bijvoet - F: Armoise

Mugwort is a powerful medicinal plant, that has been traditionally used for thousand of years. In China it is commonly used even as food and to make moxabustion - an important part of the Chinese Traditional healing methods. Its most famous healing properties are related to troubles in the digestive tract, strengthening the stomach, and as a general tonic of the women’s reproductive system, relieving menstrual cramps and helping to balance the hormonal cycle. Besides, it also works well as expectorant, tonic of the nervous system, antispasmodic (it can be used to help in treatment of ashtma), antihelmintic and antiseptic. The leaves have been studied for their antibacterial action, being effective against several harmful bacteria.

It works as insect repellent, also in the garden. For that a diluted tea obtained by infusion of the aerial parts is enough to used as spray. The fluffy down-looking thing that grows around the leaves can be harvested and kept in a first aid emergency kit to help light up fires.

It relieves sore feet just by placing the leaves inside the shoes.

It works stimulating the uterus, so this plant must be, at all times, avoided during pregnancy.

Here's a nice video where Lieve Galle, from Wildfoodforager.com explains how to recognize Mugwort:

video (2:05 min): What bitter plants can do for your health


Wild Rose

Rosa canina
NL: Wilderoos/Hondsroos - F: L'églantier (fruits: cynorrhodons)

This shrub is another great attraction for wild life. It can be seen in flower from May to September, its lovely scent being spread all around. The flower of this rose is used in preparation of the Bach Flower “Wild Rose” prescribed to help dispel apathy and increase life motivation.

The fruits are ripe around July and can be eaten raw or preserved by drying. They can also be part of delicious jams or compote - a great source of vitamin C for use in winter time. The dry fruits are regularly used in herbal infusions, usually sold as “rose hips”. The rose leaves can also be used in herbal teas that can even replace coffee. Fruits are very rich in vitamins C, E and betacarotene.

Make sure to remove the hairs in the seeds and of some fruits, as they can be irritating to the throat. When making compote, at the stage of sieving the cooked pulp the hairs will be removed anyway, so the attention should be taken only when eating the rosehips raw.

Rose petals - non sprayed - can be eaten raw, in salads, juices or used into cooked dishes. It is also used to make some delicate jam or syrup.

You can watch a nice video with plenty of information on the various uses of Wild Rose, here:
Many uses of rose- Veria Living

More on Wild Rose:
Plants for a Future: Wild Rose
Wild Rose in the Bach Flower Remedies
Lief, from Wildplantforager.com on rosehips 


Nasturtium officinale
NL: Waterkers - F: Cresson

This incredible plant can be found plentiful near water regions, growing all year round. It is amazingly rich both for its nutritional value as for its medicinal applications. The leaves can be eaten raw or cooked. It tastes great in green smoothies, sandwiches and salads, adding some pungent taste to any culinary creation, similarly to ruccola and mustard - which are by the way from the same family.

It is considered a great source of calcium, iodine and iron and its high content of vitamin C makes it a great boost to the immune system to prevent and treat chronic conditions. Traditionally it has been used to prevent and treat colds, bronchitis and even to treat tuberculosis.

 tiny cresses on a grass field near a lake
It is also a powerful cleansing herb and it is also employed as auxiliary in the treatment of toothache, chest and kidney illnesses, both its internal and external use. It is also used externally to heal skin inflammations, swellings and as hair tonic.

When harvesting it near waters that can be polluted by animal pastures one must be careful not to eat this plant raw. Wash it thoroughly and cook it to avoid parasitic contamination. It can be added to soups, stews, etc.

Here is a great video on recognizing watercress and its properties:

Watercress - Boost immunity and brain function

In the link below, you'll find extensive information on watercress:

Nasturtium officinale: Survival Plants Memory Course

If you are not yet convinced to include watercress in your daily smoothies, here's a very good article from Life Extension Magazine to help you with that:

Watercress Benefits for Cancer Protection, Vision and Heart Health


Malva sylvestris
 NL: Kaasjeskruid - F: Mauve

This plant is again one of the great pioneers that comes in quickly to cover the soil when it has been left bare. Its leaves and flowers can be found from March to October, and they are delicious to eat raw, but you may also cook them. Personally I always prefer to leave the flowers to the bees, who simply love them!

After the flowers have lost their power and are about to fall on the ground, I gather them, let them dry in the shade and use them in my first aid kit to prepare salves or poultices for healing wounds, insect bites, bruises, skin inflammations. Of course, if one needs a remedy for wounds, bruises, bites or cuts and can find fresh mallow available, even better!

Malva parviflora
Mallows are a great source of calcium and magnesium. They also contain potassium, iron, selenium, and vitamins A and C.

Mallow’s healing qualities come mainly from the mucilaginous substances present in leaves, flowers and root. Seeds are also edible and have a nutty taste. I prefer to use them to get new plants, but it is good to keep in mind that they can also be great source of protein, in case of emergency.

All parts of the plant, fresh or dried, are suitable for teas, having a very mild taste. It has great expectorant and emollient properties and can therefore be a good remedy to treat coughs, colds, bronchitis and inflammation of the throat. It also helps to relieve problems in the digestive tract, improving intestinal function, even acting as a mild laxative.

The young leaves

The disciples of Pythagoras considered this as a holy plant.

Great videos on youtube to help recognize mallow:

Growingyourgreens - video on recognizing and eating mallow.

Feralkevin shares his knowledge on edible mallow.

Difference between mallow and ground ivy

Here you will find a detailed course on this plant:

Malva neglecta: Survival Plants Memory Course

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


Equisetum arvense

NL: Heermoes - F: Prêle

Field horsetail, often considered intrusive, is another richness that we must learn to value. It offers protection to other garden plants and helps enrich the soil. It can be used in natural garden spray helping to strengthen plants to withstand plague attacks, as well as to eliminate some, being particularly effective against fungal infections. It is a great addition to compost heaps and it can take part in a green liquid "compost"  - very easy to make - fermented with other plants, such as nettle.

It is a rich source of silica. It has been used in many expensive food supplements sold as "liquid silica", to help improve one's mineral balance, helping to repair tissues, fractures and to strengthen the bones, tendons, hair, skin and nails.

Young horsetail shoots
It is also used in folk medicine to increase immunity, as blood cleanser, to heal chronic bronchitis and emphysema, to help mineralize the body and as tonic.

Field horsetail can be dried and ground to be used a food supplement sprinkled over a meal. There are some toxic substances in this plant, so in case of using it internally as food supplement tiny amounts are advised.

Horsetail is also used to help restore tooth health. It can help tooth enamel to get back to how it should be. For that purpose, it can be used in small doses, internally, but also as a tooth powder, mixed with other herbs, such as myrrh, eventually mixed with essential oils such as rosemary, sage, fennel or peppermint. You can use this powder to brush your teeth instead of regular toothpaste.

Horsetail is also used to efficiently clean up water and soil, as bio-remediation. In nature, it grows spontaneously along river beds, and it removes toxic pollutants and heavy metals present in the water and soil. That means that we must only harvest horsetail for medicinal when we are sure it grows in clean soil. Ideally, the higher up toward mountain tops one can harvest this plant, the better.

One must learn to distinguish between Field Horsetail from Marsh Horsetail (poisonous) !

Here is a video on horsetail that can be useful:

Horsetail - Equisetum arvense -by theutahherbwalker

Here is an extensive and interesting article, for the Dutch speakers:

De Geneeskrachtige Heermoes

Shepherd`s purse

Capsella bursa-pastoris
NL: Herderstasje - F: Bourse de capucin

This little plant is another cosmopolitan. I have found it growing in many places throughout Europe, from warm and dry Spanish hills to the chilling plateaus in Norway. It is considered to be a top herbal remedy against haemorrhages (bleedings) of all kinds, internal and external. A tea made from the whole plant is antiscorbutic, haemostatic, hypotensive, stimulant and vulnerary. It is also used to relieve premenstrual syndrome, wounds and burns.

Rich in iron, calcium and vitamin C, the young leaves, harvested before the plant comes into flower, make a delicious addition to salads. The young flowering shoots can be eaten raw or cooked.

They can be available at most times of the year. Its seeds can also be consumed, raw or cooked. It can be ground into a meal and used in soups. The seedpods can be used as a peppery seasoning for soups and stews. The fresh or dried root is a nice ginger substitute.

Its internal use should be avoided by those suffering thyroid problems, by those with high blood pressure as well as during pregnancy.

Here you can watch a useful video on identifying Shepherd's Purse:

Wild Edibles - Shepherd's Purse, by Survival Circle

In the video below you get detailed information on Shepherd's Purse:

Capsella bursa-pastoris: Survival Plants Memory Course

In the following video you'll get more information on how to use to stop bleedings:

Stop Bleeding with Shepherd's Purse - WitchOdaWoods


Calendula officinalis
NL: Goudsbloem - F: Souci - E: Calendula

This beautiful garden plant usually spreads its seeds all over, growing in all possible empty spaces it finds around in the vicinity.

Leaves and fresh petals are very rich in vitamins (such as beta carotene and vitamin C) and minerals, having its nutritional content compared to Taraxacum officinale (Dandelion). They can be eaten raw in salads, smoothies, sandwiches. The dried petals can be used in recipes to replace saffron, giving a yellowish colour to desserts, soups, cakes, risotto, etc.

It is a top first aid remedy for skin problems, having great antiseptic properties. Applied externally it speeds up the healing of bites and stings, sprains, wounds, burns, sore eyes, varicose veins, etc. The dried petals can be easily carried in a first aid kit. Pour a bit of hot water just to cover the petals and let it soak for 5-10 minutes for emergency poultices to help disinfect and heal wounds and burns when other resources are not readily available.

Calendula leaves - delicious in green juices!
It is also a cleansing and detoxifying herb and can be taken internally to reduce fevers, inflammations and chronic infections. A tea of the petals tones up the circulation and, taken regularly, it can ease varicose veins. An application of the crushed stems to corns and warts may help render them easily removable.

It is very easy to grow, even in a not too sunny garden, such as the one we started our first calendula field (North-West oriented garden). It yields a lots of petals and the more we harvest the more new flowers are produced. The highest amount of healing substances are supposed to be present in the fresh flowers, but I love leaving it for the bees and other lovely insects that come visit our garden. I prefer then to harvest only the petals that start getting a bit down and it still works wonders! I use them in salves for healing wounds, cracked skin, to disinfect cuts and relieve itching from insect bites. Just remove the petals, leaving the rest as it is, as the seeds will still get ripe and you can harvest them, let them dry properly and keep them in a paper bag. Even if you do not keep the seeds to plant again next year, the seeds that fall on the ground will make new plants in the coming spring time.

An instructional video on identifying calendula can be seen here:

Calendula: A Healing Herb - by learningherbs.com

For extensive information on calendula, check out this great article with stunning pictures, by Juliet Blankenspoor.

Calendula - Sunshine Incarnate - an edible and medicinal flower


Plantago major

NL: Weegbree - F: Plantago

Plantago major
Plantains can be found growing all over the world, particularly along paths, but also in grass fields. This is another magical herb to think of in first aid emergencies: abundantly available and with great anti-bleeding, wound healing, skin regenerating properties. Internally, they are used in the treatment of a wide range of complaints including diarrhea, gastritis, peptic ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, hemorrhage, haemorrhoids, cystitis, bronchitis, catarrh, sinusitis, asthma and hay fever.

The leaves are used externally, freshly squeezed or heated, in poultices to treat skin inflammations, malignant ulcers, cuts, stings, swellings, etc.

The seeds are used in the treatment of parasitic worms.

Plantago lanceolata

Even though they are not the most palatable plant in the world, having a bitter taste, they are also edible. Its strong leaves can be eaten raw, blanched or cooked. First remove the fibrous strands before use. The seeds are also eaten raw or cooked. The dried seed can be ground and mixed with flour. The whole seeds can be boiled and used like sago to thicken sauces, soups and desserts. Plantago seeds have 17.4% (highly digestible) protein, 6.7% fat, 24.6% total dietary fiber. The oil from plantago seeds had a high percentage of linoleic acid (40.6%) and oleic acid (39.1%) and a minor proportion of linolenic acid (6.9%).

Both most commonly found types of plantain, the one with long leaves (P. lanceolata) and the one with one with rounded leaves (P. major) have strong medicinal properties and can therefore be used in similar way.

Here are two videos on identifying and using plantain:

Broadleaf Plantain - by LuminEarth
Ribwort Plantain - Plantago lanceolata

The link below takes you to a very nice video on how to recognize and use plantain:

The Plantain - Nature's miracle healer

Here is a great article from a herbalist who is apparently just as passionate about plantains as myself:

One of the most useful medicines on the planet - by Jess Smith
P. lanceolata's gorgeous flower

And here you'll find detailed info on plantains:

Plantago lanceolata - Survival Plants Memory Course
Plantago major - Survival Plants Memory Course

I found this a very useful cooking tip for plantain:

Cooking broadleaf plantain - Wild Food Lab

On harvesting plantain seeds:

Harvest Greater Plantain Seeds - Mungo says bah!

* Last but not least, an extensive article in Dutch / En een uitgebreid artikel in het Nederlands:


Achillea millefolium

NL: Duizendblad - F: Achilée Millefeuille

This versatile and powerful medicinal plant appears in most soils and it withstands all kinds of situations in many parts of the world. Yarrow improves the health of the plants growing around it, helping to increase their content of essential oils, making them more resistant to insect attacks. The whole plant repels beetles, ants and flies, but attracts bees. It also improves the soil fertility, making it an excellent plant for growing in lawns, meadows, orchards etc. It is also great addition to compost piles, speeding up bacterial activity.

Yarrow has a high reputation and is widely employed in herbal medicine, administered both internally and externally in the treatment of a very wide range of disorders. It is used for healing wounds, stop bleeding, treating colds, fevers, menstrual pain, tooth ache.

The herb is antiseptic, antispasmodic, astringent, carminative, cholagogue, diaphoretic, digestive, stimulant, bitter tonic, vasodilator and vulnerary.

Leaves are abundant before the plant is in flower

"In order to effectively treat disease we have to be able to decongest blood associated with inflammation, thin stagnant, congealed blood, tone the veins, stimulant the capillaries and arteries, and move the blood to or from the surface. Yarrow, the great ‘normalizer’ of the blood does all these things." (Matthew Wood, one of the more knowledgeable herbalists of our time)

The young leaves are also a nutritious addition to the diet and can be eaten raw or cooked in moderate amounts. It may increase photosensitivity in some people when used extensively in high amounts.

Not advised during pregnancy, as it can stimulate uterine activity.

here you see clearly why it is called "1000 leaves" in some languages

It fights its way in grass fields, as a true survivor

Here is a video from Learningherbs.com on identifying yarrow:

Yarrow herb: Achillea millefolium

Rosemary Gladstar shares with us her experiences on using yarrow medicinally:

Rosemary Gladstar Garden Wisdom's: Yarrow

And here you can get detailed information on yarrow:

Common Yarrow - Survival Plants Memory Course


Stellaria media
NL: Vogelmuur - F: Mouron des oiseaux

Also these ones can be found in most parts of the world, sprinkled over grass fields with their little cute flowers. It is available all year round in regions of mild winters. Young leaves  can be eaten raw in salads and smoothies. The cooked leaves function very well as spinach replacers in recipes.

It is rich in beta carotene and vitamin C and it contains also rutin, para amino benzoic acid (PABA), niacin, riboflavin (B2), thiamin (B1), magnesium, iron, calcium, potassium, zinc, phosphorus, manganese, sodium, selenium, and silicon.

Its richest part though are the seeds, containing 17.8% protein and 5.9% healthy fats. Very rich in GLA (gamma linolenic acid), a fat acid that is suggested to help relieve many conditions such as skin problems, hormonal imbalances, inflammatory diseases and rheumatic complaints. The seeds can be ground into a powder and used in making bread, pancakes or to thicken soups.

It is also a superb first aid plant, being used to treat cuts, wounds, and even to relieve the itching of bites and of psoriasis and eczema. It is also famous to help in weight control and water retention, probably by regulating thyroid function and balancing the metabolism. It is also known as liver tonic and it is said to reduce the negative effects of alcohol abuse.

Want to learn more about Chickweed? Here are some videos and links with more info:

Edible plants: Chickweed

Feral Kevin on Miner's Lettuce and Chickweed

Stellaria Media - Chickweed - Survival Plants Memory Course

Chickweed - Weekly Weeder

Chickweed - Wild Food and Medicines

Chickweed: a mid winter hero, from Return to Nature

Chickweed is a Star, by Susun Weed

5 Facts about Chickweeds - by JustBotanics