Chickweed, Plaintain, Cleavers Fight Bites, Burns

By Heather Housekeeper, Guest Blogger and Author

DSCF9863 Common Plantain leaf (Plantago major)It is a sunny summer morning in the herb garden. Your Bee Balm is in full fuchsia flower, the flat-topped white-flowered Yarrow mimics the fluffy clouds passing overhead, and the numerous dainty faces of your Mints provide a dappled pastel backdrop.

However, amidst this serenity are the ever-encroaching weeds. Once again, you don your gloves and get to pulling, piling up the weeds for compost.

Far later than expected, you’re back inside and aware that the pollinators visiting your garden paid you a visit as well, leaving itchy bug bites in their wake. Not to mention, you hadn’t bothered with the sunscreen during this surprise attack on the weeds, and the back of your neck and bare arms are now feeling red hot.

Good thing you just harvested all the medicine you need.

Some of our most common weeds are our most useful herbal medicines. They reduce the inflammation of an itchy bug bite as well as the pain and heat resulting from a sunburn.

Plantain (Plantago major), a common backyard weed is highly mucilaginous, anti-inflammatory, and anti-bacterial. It begins as a basal rosette of spoon-shaped leaves that will grow larger than the size of a hand. In midsummer it sends up a slender spike of densely clustered, tiny, greenish-white flowers. The leaves are what you want to use in this case, so be sure to gather a large handful.

DSCF9337Common Chickweed (Stellaria media), another well-known garden inhabitant is also anti-inflammatory and generally soothing to tissue. Each plant begins small with just a couple pairs of opposite egg-shaped leaves on a weak stem, but soon gains length, trailing and winding around its Chickweed neighbors, creating a loose green mat. Its delicate star-shaped flowers are white with conspicuous dark-tipped stamens at their centers. Retrieve a small handful of this plant, taking all but the roots.

DSCF9290Lastly, you most likely found Cleavers (Galium aparine) stuck to your gardening gloves. Cleavers offers cooling astringency to inflamed tissue as well as a host of phyto-nutrients. This square-stemmed plant with fuzzy whorled leaves also tends to be mat-forming, although it may also grow tall, forming knee-high thickets. Its long-stemmed white flowers will turn to cleaving fuzzy nutlets happy to hitch a ride on passerby in autumn. Grab up yet another small handful of Cleavers, gathering all but the roots for your use.

Back indoors, bring a large pot of water to a boil, remove from heat and toss in your Plantain, Common Chickweed, and Cleavers. Replace the lid and allow these herbs to steep for 10 minutes. Then, strain the infusion, reserving the liquid and discarding plant matter. Allow this infusion to cool before drenching a clean wash cloth, gently wringing and applying to sunburned or itchy areas for five to 10 minutes. Place remaining infusion in a sealed container in the fridge to use again, for up to three days. Apply this cooling infusion as generously as needed or even add to a bath for full-body relief.

Turns out those weeds weren’t so bad after all.

It is the policy of The Herb Society of America not to advise or recommend herbs for medicinal or health use. This information is intended for educational purposes only and should not be considered as a recommendation or an endorsement of any particular medical or health treatment

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