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Wondrous Weeds

October 10th, 2011 by Patricia Whitfield from Patricia Whitfield

Spring is upon us with the buzzing of bumble bees, blossoms on trees and the need to do spring cleaning, not only in the home, but also the mind and body.

Enjoy the longer warmer days. Go into the garden and start weeding, but spare a thought… a weed is only a plant which the gardener does not wish to be in the garden, even a rose could be considered a weed by some. There is more to the humble weeds than you may think. The ever present dandelion, chickweed and nettles, are not just a nuisance but also have medicinal properties.

The humble dandelion, which is not fussy where it grows, whether it be in the garden or the lawn, is actually a medicinal herb. Young fresh dandelion leaves can be used in salads and sandwiches. Dandelion leaves are not only high in vitamins A, B, C, D, and minerals potassium, iron and copper; they activate the body’s digestion and waste processing. Dandelion leaves have a diuretic effect aiding the removal of wastes via the urinary tract, and have a bitter taste which stimulates digestion, through the release of bile from the liver and gall bladder.

The intrusive dandelion’s root also has medicinal properties. Not only can the root be slowly roasted in the oven and ground to make a tasty coffee substitute, it is also high in vitamins and minerals. Dandelion root is considered to be liver tonic, as it too stimulates the release of bile from the liver and gall bladder. This effect increases metabolic potential and improved removal of wastes from the body via the intestines. The delightful dandelion is a great ally in spring cleansing of the body!

Chickweed, another old favourite found in the garden, is another highly nutritive herb. It is high in vitamins B-complex, C, D and rich in iron, copper, sodium, and zinc. The young chickweed plant harvested just before flowering can be used in salads, sandwiches or used to make a tasty pesto (see below for recipe). Rich with vitamins and minerals chickweed is a must for the spring diet.

Chickweed Pesto
Ingredients: 2 cups chickweed, 5-6 cloves garlic, ½-1 cup walnuts, ½-1 cup olive oil, ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese.
Method: Place chickweed, chopped garlic and chopped walnuts in processor and bleed thoroughly. Add sufficient oil to make soft paste. Add cheese. Enjoy on crackers, toast, in soups etc.

Another wondrous weed is the nasty stinging nettle! Young nettle plants can be harvested in early spring before the stingy silica crystals develop. The shiny silica crystals give the nettle its sting and make the nettle tops taste gritty. Nettles are traditionally used as spring tonic. They are highly nutritious, containing vitamins A, C, E, K and minerals iron, calcium and potassium salts. The young nettle plants may be used to make soup or eaten as green vegetable. However take care that you correctly identify the stinging nettle, which is not to be confused with the larger and toxic New Zealand Nettle. If you are unsure get someone who knows to correctly identify the plant.

Parsley and Rosemary, which are much more present in the kitchen, are also ripe for the picking at this time of year. Parsley is highly nutritious high in vitamins and also has diuretic properties. Parsley isn’t just that great garnish! It can be added to salads, fish, lamb or poultry dishes to add a burst of flavour. Rosemary has carminative, anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and also stimulates the nervous and circulatory systems. Rosemary’s medicinal properties protect the body from free radical damage and strengthen and tone both the circulatory and nervous systems. Rosemary also improves memory and concentration.

These wondrous weeds are a great complement to your spring cleaning regime, but it is vital they are identified properly! Start your spring cleanse today with the medicinal herbs from your garden or have a consultation with a herbalist so a spring tonic can be prescribed for you.

By Patricia Whitfield, Medical Herbalist.

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