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

Friday, December 27, 2013


Crataegus spp
The various species of Hawthorns are probably the best cardio tonic herbs known in the Northern hemisphere. It nourishes and restores the health, function and rhythm of the heart. It regulates heart beats, it relaxes the blood vessels helping to bring blood pressure to its normal. Its work is really in balancing the heart function by either stimulating or containing its activity when needed. It also increases the heart’s ability to cope with lack of oxygen in case an artery that supplies blood to the heart is (temporarily) clogged.

Crataegus monogyna leaves
Hawthorn extracts have been employed in herbal - but also in conventional - medicine around the world to treat a wide spectrum of heart conditions including congestive heart failure, mild angina pectoris, palpitations, cardiac arrhythmia, etc.

Hawthorn helps to strengthen not only the heart muscles and tissues, but it supports the entire cardiovascular/circulatory system. It improves blood circulation, it strengthens the arteries but at the same time it relaxes the blood vessels helping to bring blood pressure to its normal. It helps to reduce the hardening of the arteries, as it seems to help dissolve cholesterol and calcium deposits, healing the blood vessels’ walls. It also has a role in decreasing peripheral vascular resistance, which means that it helps the blood flow more easily, reducing the effort the heart needs to undergo in order to get the blood pumped and well flowing  into all the body tissues. It is a great herbal remedy for intermittent claudication, Bueger’s disease or Reynaud’s disease.

Also the emotional aspect related to heart issues can be greatly helped with the use of hawthorn. Its tincture, syrup or infusion can help to relieve and treat anxiety, restlessness and insomnia.

There are also indications of hawthorn as folk remedy to relief menstrual problems and to improve digestion, anxiety related stomach issues and intestinal infections. 

External usages of hawthorn, as in wash can be helpful to treat skin ulcers, sores, boils, as well as itching and frostbite. 

The entire plant can be used medicinally: berries, leaves and flowers. 

The berries, harvested from the end of summer until mid winter (in some places), are edible and can be prepared into jams, syrups, candies, jellies, tinctures, or fruit leathers. Hawthorn berries are a great source of vitamin C and it also contains a long list of essential minerals and vitamins. Hawthorn berries are particularly rich in powerful antioxidant substances, which help to maintain the bodily functions up and running, keeping ailments at bay. 

Hawthorn is a pretty safe herb to take and it can even be used as preventative medicine. But anyone with heart conditions - and certainly those using beta-blockers or other prescription drugs - should first talk to a knowledgeable health practitioner before using hawthorn. 

Note (valid for all herbal supplements, not only for hawthorn): The quality of store or internet bought herbal products vary greatly and some herbal supplements are found to have harmful substances added to them. Please check out for high quality products. 

For more information on this amazing and powerful plant, check out the links below:

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


Verbascum thapsus - Family:  Scrophulariaceae

Common names: Great Mullein, Common Mullein / NL: Koningskaars / F: Molène

Mullein is probably one of the most ideal herbs to treat a wide range of conditions of the respiratory tract. The reason for this is that it contains equally balanced medicinal properties that are required to treat the most common respiratory ailments: antiseptic, astringent, demulcent, emollient, expectorant, pectoral, vulnerary and mild sedative. In short, Mullein tones the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract, stimulates expectoration and reduces inflammation. Its entire aerial parts can be used in infusions or tinctures to help relieving coughs, bronchitis, asthma and and other respiratory conditions. Native Americans smoked this herb, as part of the treatment in spasmodic coughs or asthma. Some claim that smoking Mullein has helped them quitting tobacco smoking - especially if combined with Lobelia. 

When preparing the herb in infusion or tincture for internal use (also the flower infused oil if used in the ear), make sure to filter it finely, through a coffee filter or cheese cloth, so as to get rid of all the fine bristles, which could cause throat irritation.

Mullein is also very helpful to heal various intestinal conditions, including hemorrhoids. It has the property to strengthen the intestines.

An oil infused with Mullein flowers make an external remedy with bactericide action. This oil can be used to help healing bites, wounds, eczema, frostbite or to relieve earache. In fact this oil helps to relieve various types of ear problems, including otitis media, deafness resulting from mucus accumulation or ear mites in animals.

In poultices, used externally, it helps to draw splinters and boils. It also helps to speed up the recovery of broken bones.

One amazing use of Mullein - both as poultice as internally - has been shared recently by herbalist Jim McDonald (see link to his website below): to help re-align the spine. He quotes Matthew Wood's Book of Herbal Wisdom on this particular property of Mullein, which I will re-quote here: “It has a moistening, lubricating effect on the synovial membranes… so that it is hydrating to the spine and joints. It is often indicated in back injuries. People think they are untreatable and incurable, but an increase the synovial fluids will make the spine more pliable and comfortable. The vertebra will slip back into place more readily, pain and inflammation will decrease and the condition will get better."

Since Jim McDonald made this information available, Mullein has been widely tested with great results by several herbalists and their closed ones - as one can read in various herbal blogs and forums. It is really worth trying it!! Thank you, Jim!

Mullein helps to relieve various conditions where lymphatic congestions are involved - also (glandular) swellings - in which case it can be used both internally as externally.

One can still find indications for Mullein in the treatment of ringworms, erysipelas, toothache, cramps, blood-shot eyes (external compress), urinary inflammations, urinary incontinence and it can even help to treat certain types of convulsions and migraines. It contains sterol substances that reduce inflammation processes, working as a mild painkiller.

Another folk use of Mullein is to place one leaf inside each of the shoes to stimulate circulation, relieve foot-ache and keep the feet warm.

Other uses for Mullein: one can make a hand drill for making fire or a torch with the stalk, the flowers give a yellow or green dye, its dried leaves and fluffy hair serve as insulation material and can also be made into candle wicks. 

Mullein seeds has insecticide properties, meaning that they contain toxic substances. The seeds should therefore not be ingested or employed in preparations for internal use.

Verbascum nigrum
There are other species of Verbascum that have similar medicinal properties as the Verbascum thapsus. One of them is Verbascum nigrum, pictured on the side.

Want to know more about Mullein? Here is a selection of articles with more extensive details:

Verbascum thapsus, by Survival Plants Memory Course

A Golden Torch: Mullein’s Healing Light, by bearmedicineherbals.com

Mullein, by Jim McDonald

Mullein & Lobelia, by Dr Christopher’s Legacy

Mullein Benefits and side effects - Natural Alternative Remedy.com

Helpful videos on Mullein:

Plant Portrait - Common Mullein, by IdentifythatPlant.com

Mullein: video with Elindria

Mullein: Harvesting tips and how to make syrup, with Linda Bostock

Katrina Blair on some extra uses of Mullein

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


Conyza canadensis
Horseweed / Canadian Fleabane
NL: Canadese fijnstraal / F: Vergerette du Canada

Native from North America, this plant made its way all over Europe and many other parts of the world. It may not be the prettiest plant one would choose to keep in the garden, neither is it among the most popular plants in modern herbalism. Nevertheless Horseweed, or Canadian Fleabane, as it is also called, was used by most Native North Americans tribes to treat various illnesses, including diarrhea, fever, running nose, rhinitis, but also used to arrest bleedings or to relieve stomach aches, earaches or headaches. Externally, it was made into poultices to treat burns and sore joints. Roots were used in decoction teas to treat menstrual complaints. Dried and burned as incense it was used to ward off insects.

In today’s herbalism Horseweed is mostly employed where an astringent is required: diarrhea, internal hemorrhage, nosebleeds, hemorrhoids, etc. It has been recently researched for its antioxidant, antibacterial, antiviral and anti-fungal properties, including against candidiasis - looks promising!

Further one can still find references of folk usages of this plant to treat cholera, rheumatism, tuberculosis, bronchitis, inflamed tonsils, diabetes, menopausal symptoms, kidney and bladder conditions, eczema and ringworm.

It is an edible plant, especially the young leaves, cooked, can be prepared as potherb, or used in the same way as other dark greens. Because of its powerful medicinal properties, it should be eaten sparingly, not in large amounts. It can also be dried and used as food spice - it gives an aromatic flavour to dishes.

Warning: Skin contact with the plant can cause dermatitis in some people.

More information on Conyza canadensis:

Plants for a Future: Conyza canadensis

Antiviral activity of Conyza canadensis (L)

Antibacterial, antioxidant and cytotoxic activities of extracts of Conyza canadensis

Antimicrobial activities of Conyzolide and Conyzoflavone from Conyza canadensis

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


Solidago canadensis
F: Verge D'or  - Solidage / NL: Guldenroede

Goldenrods can be seen in flower all over the fields, gardens, in most places in Europe from August till October, depending on the region. Its flowers show all their glory when most other plants are no longer in flower, to the joy of the bees, which are delighted to feast on them.

Luckily for Goldenrod's lovers, this plant has been studied by the scientific community and some of its properties have been already recognized - by the German Commision E - for its effectiveness when used in the treatment of illnesses of the urinary tract. Its restorative, anti-inflammatory, tonic and cleansing properties make it one of the top herbs to aid in any kidney and bladder condition, including kidney stones, nephritis and cystitis.

Next to that Goldenrod also has anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, diaphoretic, antiphlogistical, astringent, spasmolytic, hemostatic, anti-mucus, expectorant and anti-oxidant properties. It has been used in folk medicine for centuries to help in the treatment of a wide range of conditions such as seasonal allergies, asthma, colds and flu, tuberculosis, capillary fragility (e.g. varicose veins, hemorrhoids, hemorrhage) and even diabetes mellitus.

Externally it can help disinfecting and healing wounds and various skin problems. It can also be “soaked” in oil to be used in ointments or salves to relieve pain - both muscular and rheumatic pain.

On the top of all these healing properties, Goldenrod has also high amounts of antioxidants - more than green tea!! Its antioxidants work scavenging free-radicals, cleaning up the body, helping to heal and prevent a great deal of illnesses. It is also a delicious tea to use.

Its leaves and flowers are edible, raw or in soups and stews.

There are more than hundred species of Solidago and the most commonly found types (S. virgaurea, S. gigantea, S. canadensis) can apparently all be used in a similar way. Their medicinal properties will surely vary in potency though, depending on the species, on where it grows, etc.

a happy bee feasting on its flowers

In the links below you will find enriching information on Solidago plants:

How to identify Solidago / Goldenrods - LuminEarth

Edible and Medicinal Plants - Goldenrod - Sigma 3 Survival School

Goldenrod: A Torch of Healing - Methow Valley Herbs

Glorious Goldenrod - Susunweed.com

Of Solidago Canadensis: phenolic composition and biological activity

Antioxidant and Radical-Scavenging Activity of Flavonoids From Solidago canadensis

Antibacterial and antimutagenic activity of extracts aboveground parts of three Solidago species.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Guidelines update

Our guidelines page has been updated !   Click here to go to the online page

This page contains important information on using plants as food or treatment.

===== extract on 2013-08-22  ======



Before you get all adventurous on foraging or harvesting medicinal herbs, make sure you can identify the plants you wish to gather properly. Do not rely on this website only for that, nor should you rely on one single book, blog or website. Ideally, in your first time with each wild plant, you should have someone around who can absolutely tell you which plant that is. Next to that, keep with yourself a good flora plant guide and at least one book with also pictures of the plants. Learning to identify is really crucial!

Living in Europe, I like a lot the Black's Nature Guides, such as the Medicinal Plants of Britain and Europe. It is portable, full of nice pictures and also has some drawings with details of the plants. Each country has their own local flora books, so take one of those in your backpack when going for a wild plants exploration.

Ethics & safety issues

I wanted to write a set of suggestions concerning the ethical aspect and the safety of harvesting plants in the wild, but I came across a great and well described text from Mark Angelini, on the Eat There Now blog. So I will limit myself to placing the link below so that you can read these useful tips directly from their website:

Guidelines and Practices for Ethical Foraging - eattherenow.org

Herbal Medicine

When choosing to use herbs for healing, try to keep in mind that herbal healing goes far beyond simply addressing the symptoms, as it is usually done in conventional medicine. Just to give a quick example, there are hundreds of herbs that could help the work of the liver, but there may be only one or two plants that can make a huge difference to someone's health. A good herbal healer should have knowledge on the general properties of the plants, their nature, energies and possible interactions. The healer should also have a background that allows for some level of diagnose, so as to be able to know what herb each person really needs. That knowledge might have come from being trained in Holistic Herbal Medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, Anthroposophical Medicine or others schools. 

The information we offer in this blog is pretty general and it is meant to offer a summary of the main folk uses of each plant. We choose to mention the properties of the plant that have been reported in most trustworthy herbal books. To have an accurate view on what one particular plant can do for you it is a good idea to have a few good herbal books at home. The more we learn about plants, the more we feel we still have so much to learn from them. 

The Universal Edibility Test

1 - Test only one part of a potential food plant at a time.

2 - Separate the plant into its basic components — leaves, stems, roots, buds and flowers.

3 - Smell the food for strong or acid odors. Remember, smell alone does not indicate a plant is edible or inedible.

4 - Do not eat for eight hours before starting the test.

5 - During the eight hours you abstain from eating, test for contact poisoning by placing a piece of the plant part you are testing on the inside of your elbow or wrist. Usually 15 minutes is enough time to allow for a reaction.

6 - During the test period, take nothing by mouth except purified water and the plant part you are testing.

7 - Select a small portion of a single part and prepare it the way you plan to eat it.

8 - Before placing the prepared plant part in your mouth, touch a small portion (a pinch) to the outer surface of your lip to test for burning or itching.

9 - If after three minutes there is no reaction on your lip, place the plant part on your tongue, holding it there for 15 minutes.

10 - If there is no reaction, thoroughly chew a pinch and hold it in your mouth for 15 minutes. Do not swallow.

11 - If no burning, itching, numbing, stinging or other irritation occurs during the 15 minutes, swallow the food.

12 - Wait eight hours. If any ill effects occur during this period, induce vomiting and drink a lot of water.

13 - If no ill effects occur, eat 0.25 cup of the same plant part prepared the same way. Wait another eight hours. If no ill effects occur, the plant part as prepared is safe for eating.

CAUTION: Test all parts of the plant for edibility, as some plants have both edible and inedible parts. Do not assume that a part that proved edible when cooked is also edible when raw. Test the part raw to ensure edibility before eating raw. The same part or plant may produce varying reactions in different individuals.

Source: http://dsc.discovery.com/survival/plants-animals/how-to-test-plants-for-edibility.html

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


Althea officinalis

NL: Echte heemst /
F: Guimauve sauvage

Marshmallow is a powerful medicinal herb that has been proven to soothe and heal inflammations an irritations in mucous membranes of the respiratory, urinary and digestive tract. That covers quite a lot of conditions: bronchitis, peptic ulcers, gastritis, cystitis, mouth and throat inflammations, etc.

All parts of the plant are edible and can be used medicinally.

Externally, as poultices or in creams, it promotes cellular healing. It is therefore employed in the treatment of skin inflammations, burns, insect bites, bruises, sprains... its fresh leaves can be lightly crushed between the fingers and rubbed into insect bites and stings to relieve itchiness and to reduce allergic reactions. It can be also infused in oil to be used after shower to keep skin’s health. Just a side note on this: our skin is our major “defense” organ, protecting our body against undesired organisms, so it is a good idea to treat our skin with a thin layer of (herbal) oil after shower.

Old time healers used marshmallow to prevent and heal degenerative conditions, including plagues, tuberculosis and blood losses. Dioscorides prescribed it to neutralize intoxication in the body: “The decoction of the roots and leaves helps all sorts of poison, so as the poison be presently voided by vomit”

The powder of the leaves or roots is used to help to drag pus and inflammatory liquids from gangrenous wounds, tumors, (painful) swellings, boils, abcesses. It is also used to draw out stings, splinters or thorns.

It has a cooling effect and it can help reduce hot flushes during the menopause. It also helps to boost milk production in lactating mothers.

Its demulcent and emollient properties make marshmallow a very popular supporting herb in formulas, as it combines well with many other herbs. The root powder is even used to bind with other medicinal herbs in pills and capsules.

Our ancestors used mallows also as a food source. Its richness in mucilage makes it not as palatable to everyone, so those who are less keen in slimy dishes might consider mixing it with other leafy vegetables, instead of using it pure.

Here are some interesting links to extra information on marshmallow:

Soothing Marshmallow & Marshmallow Infusion - Learning Herbs

Slimy and Sweet - a closer look at Marshmallow - Methow Valley Herbs

Marshmallow (Althea officinalis) - Avena Botanicals

Marshmallow | University of Maryland Medical Center

Friday, August 16, 2013


Typha latifolia
NL: Grote lisdodde / F: Massette

Cattail is another versatile plant considered as the wonder of survivalists. One can indeed basically survive from this plant only if needed. It can be used as nutritious food, it filters and purifies waters, it offers material for building shelters, boats, baskets, cordage, clothes, hats, beds, mats, pillows, insulation and it can also be used as a fire starter or fire torch. The more creative you are , the more applications you will find for cattails. 

Before we get to how nutritious this plant is, it is worth noting that cattail is a wetland plant, growing in swamps, ponds and along rivers and lakes. One of its important ecological functions is to purify and detoxify water, removing even pollutants and heavy metals from the waters where it grows. The thing is that it cannot get rid of those toxic products or neutralize them right away, so it accumulates them. When thinking of harvesting cattails to be used as food, make sure it grows in a non-polluted environment.

the plant can be used in natural water treatment systems

As food source, it can provide enough calories, from carbohydrates, fats and proteins - a complete survival meal. Its rhizomes and roots can be harvested and prepared during autumn and winter, exactly when most other plants are not available. The white part of the leaves are also delicious when cooked. In the springtime, its shoots can be harvested and eaten raw or cooked and its pollen can be added to meals, adding extra vitamins and minerals.  With this plant one can have food all year round, in all seasons.

Before we can see the typical cattail seed heads, it is possible to confuse cattails with members of the iris family, which grow also in wetlands but are toxic, not edible. Still it is possible to identify cattail by its leaves growing around a very round stalk at its basis. The leaves of the iris grow around a flat-fan formation, very different from the cattail.

leaves grow around a round stalk
Cattail is also a popular folk medicine as diuretic. Its roots can be used as poultice to heal wounds, burns, insect bites, skin inflammations and it helps boils and pustules to get out. Dried and burned, its ashes work as a great first aid antiseptic for wounds or toothache. 
Listed below you will find a selection I made of the best videos and articles I could find on cattails, full of practical information worth checking out: 

Harvesting and preparing cattails (6 videos from Learningherbs.com)

Making a pillow from cattails - Simply Homemaking

Cattail pollen lessons - From: Hunger and Thirst Food, like life, is best when it's wild and free

fluffy parts: pillow filling, insulation, fire starter
roots and rhizomes can be harvested even during winter

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

St John’s Wort

Hypericum perforatum
NL: St Janskruid / 
F: Millepertuis

St John’s Wort (SJW) is another powerful herb with a long history as folk medicine. In our days St John’s Wort got great media attention for aiding in the treatment of those suffering from depression, being known as the “natural prozac”

Long before SJW got to be used to treat depression, it was considered to be a “herb that chases the evil spirits away” as it was used to treat various types of insanity attacks. Paracelsus was whom mentioned it for the first time for treatment of a wide range of psychotic symptoms. Even though it is not yet clear to modern medicine how exactly SJW works on the nervous system, its nervine action is recognized by herbalists around the world.

Its most widespread use in herbal medicine is in healing wounds, bruises, sunburn, herpes, skin ulcers and inflammations. Most of its skin healing abilities are attributed to its properties as analgesic, antiviral, antibacterial, antiseptic and astringent. In poultices, oils, salves and ointments it is used to heal many skin problems. 

As expectorant it is also employed to treat conditions of the respiratory tract. It is also used to help healing bladder problems, such as urine incontinence.

SJW should not be used by pregnant women. People using St John’s Wort are advised to avoid direct exposure to sunlight SJW, especially during summertime when the U.V. levels ar emuch higher, as it increases photosensitivity. 

Another word of caution goes to people taking prescription drugs: SJW contains chemical compounds that may block or alter the effect of several drugs. For a more extended list of interactions between some prescription drugs and SJW, click here

The (fresh) flowers are the most active part of the plant and they can be harvested from June to August. They can also be dried for further. Fresh or dried flowers can be prepared as teas, tinctures or in infused oil. 

The famous St John’s Wort oil can be used for healing skin conditions and to reduce pain and inflammation in the muscles and articulations - as in bruises, arthritis and even sciatica. To prepare the infused oil, gather the mature flowers around noon (after the morning dew has been evaporated) and place them in a clean, dry glass bottle (transparent). Cover the flowers with vegetable oil (almond, olive oil, sunflower oil, etc). Cover with a paper towel and a rubber band to avoid dust and insects from falling in. Leave it in a sunny window for 2 to 3 weeks, depending on how much sun you have. If you prefer to leave the oil under direct sunlight outside, even better. You must only care to bring the bottle every day to a sheltered place, where it can remain free from (condensed) moist or rain. You may keep adding new flowers to the oil every new harvest, so that the oil becomes more concentrated. When the oil gets a bright reddish color, it is ready to be used. Sieve the flowers with a clean cheese cloth into a dark glass bottle. Close the bottle tightly and label it with the date of bottling. Keep it in a cool, dark and dry place. 

In the links below you will find more practical information on identifying, harvesting and preparing St John's Wort. There is also a list of drug interactions that might occur with the regular use of SJW.

Hypericum - St Joan/John's Wort - with Susun Weed

Monday, June 24, 2013


Sambucus nigra
NL: Vlier / F: Sureau Noir

Elder is a great pioneer shrub or small tree that can come to help when replanting woodlands or in a forest garden project. It grows very quick, it is resistant and helps to shelter and support larger, slow-growing trees, protecting them from harsh weather. It is a great garden-guardian, protecting the neighboring plants against undesirable insects. 

Elder leaves can be prepared in a decoction to be used as  insect repellent spray as well as to treat plants from fungal infection, leaf rot and powdery mildew. It improves fermentation of compost piles when growing near it. In fact, the plant can activate composting processes when added to compost heaps.

The only edible parts of the plant are the flowers and the very ripe berries, like in when they are really dark purple-black. Even then, the berries are safer to be consumed when cooked, as the possible traces of cyanogenic substances are then destroyed by cooking. Red-brownish berries should absolutely be avoided. All other parts of the plant, leaves, twigs, stems, contain poisonous cyanide-containing substances.

Medicinally speaking one could write an entire treatise on the possible healing applications for elder. Its most popular use is as anti-inflammatory and expectorant, used to treat coughs, common cold, flu, bronchitis and various affections of the respiratory tract. It also helps to relieve fever that might result from these conditions. Both flowers and berries are common ingredients of herbal anti-cough syrups. 

An infusion of the flowers is also used in cleansing cures, as general tonic and to treat eye inflammation. For its great emollient and astringent properties, the flowers can be used in various creams and lotions to help heal skin problems, burns, wounds, itchiness. Elderflowers are also part of some natural beauty creams.

Elderflowers are popularly used to prepare refreshing beverages in many countries. I love making my own elderflower lemonade by soaking the flowers with mineral water in a covered glass container exposed to sunlight (when available, otherwise, just at the window waiting for the sun to show up) for an entire day and one evening (24 hours). Then I strain it with a coffee filter, add freshly grated lemon zest and lemon juice and sweeten it with stevia. I leave it cool down in the fridge for a few hours before drinking it and I make sure it is consumed within two days. The flowers (only the flowers, not the stems!) from the strained drink I try to use in other culinary creations, not to waste these precious nature gifts.

Want to know more about elder? Check out the links below: