Natural Remedies Found in the Backyard
Nature provides a bounty of medicinal plants in every part of the world, and when spring arrives, natural remedies can often found proliferating right in your back yard. Foraging for “common wilds” is one way to enjoy your environment, maintain wellness, and save pennies as well.
It is in the early spring, right after the ground thaws, that wild edibles first appear and are tastiest when eaten or used in making natural remedies. What one person may consider a valuable medicine another often regards an obnoxious weed. Because of this, springtime is also when pesticides are used to prevent and control weeds. When foraging for natural plant medicines, always avoid plants treated with toxic pesticides, which, for anyone interested in foraging, is a valid reason for never using pesticides that are not natural. Also, be sure to wash your hands and your plants thoroughly before use.
List of Herbs Possibly Growing in the Backyard
The following is a list of wild-growing herbs and their medicinal benefits commonly found in back yards of Asia, Australia, Europe, and South America, and The United States.
Aloe Vera (Aloe barbadensis miller), also known as the “true” aloe, is typically found in arid climates. In California and parts of Mexico, it grows wild and spreads quickly. The gel found in the innermost parts of aloe leaves is commonly used topically to treat burns and irritations of the skin. It is also used internally to treat digestive disorders and inflammation.
Burdock (Arctium lappa), also known as Burdock Root, has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine as a blood purifier. It is commonly used to make a vinegar tonic that acts as a digestive aid. It is also a natural diuretic and, therefore, a kidney cleanser. Some say it has the same health benefits as Apple Cider Vinegar. Burdock is a prickly plant best used before it flowers as a vegetable eaten with meals.
Blue Violet (Viola sororia) is thought of as a weed because it has been around for so long. Its popularity in Europe and the United States arises from its mucilage content, which can soothe dry, hacking coughs. It also helps to relieve swollen lymph nodes. The leaves are high in vitamins A, C, and rutin. Rutin is anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and blood thinning and can help with varicose veins and hemorrhoids. Flower petals can be sprinkled on salads or used in pesto.
Chickweed (Stellaria media) is used to rejuvenate all manner of skin complaints. It is able to cool and dry out oozing-type wounds and relieve inflammation when used as a salve. Chickweed is also placed in salads. It is high in vitamin C, is mineral-rich, and has a mild flavor.
Daisies (Bellis perennis) are known to ease coughs, relieve back pain, and slow bleeding. Although a bit bitter, the leaves and flowers of the Daisy flower can be eaten whole or added to recipes.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is likely the most popular backyard weed on earth. Dried leaves and roots are often used to make a tea to treat a myriad of symptoms, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, calcium deficiency, and to detoxify the liver. The “milk” in the stem is used to treat warts. Younger leaves tend to be less bitter and high in vitamins A, C, and K.
Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacea) has been popularly used in Europe for thousands of years to treat eye inflammation, Tinnitus (ringing of the ears), and as an expectorant. Ground Ivy has a square stem differing from other types of Ivy. It has a minty sage-like flavor and goes well in teas, broths, and stews.
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) is a member of the mint family, which is slightly sedating and commonly used for anxiety and a mild relaxant. It is also the number one recommended herb to use to combat the Herpes Simplex Virus. Lemon Balm leaves are used to make a delightful tasting tea while Lemon Balm waters and salves are applied topically to relieve cold sores and genital herpes.
Broadleaf Plantain (Plantago major) is not the plant that grows a banana-like fruit. Instead, it is a groundcover that is native to Europe, is similar to Dandelion, but now grows just about everywhere. Plantain is high in minerals and vitamin K. It is commonly used for cleansing and detoxification. It has anti-bacterial properties that help to relieve mouth ulcers and a sore throat. Plantain also draws out infection and toxins from a variety of ailments – even a snake bite. Plantain tastes slightly nutty. However, older, larger leaves tend to be bitter.
Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) is a slightly sour, leafy green that is chock full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. It is used to treat gastrointestinal disorders (including diarrhea), to strengthen bones, heal skin disorders, and treat cancer. Purslane is also high in omega-three fatty acids and, therefore, helps maintain a healthy heart and nervous system.
Red Clover (Trifolium pratense L.) helps to manage age-related issues by boosting the immune system. It is also known to help with menopausal-related disorders, heart health, respiratory infections, and inflammation of the skin.
Red Raspberry Leaf (Rubus idaeus) is naturally high in minerals and known as a woman’s herb as it helps with women’s issues, such as menstrual cramping, reproductive problems, and child-birthing. Because it is high in magnesium, red raspberry would also be an herb of choice for those with Fibromyalgia or any other neuralgia that causes pain.
Rosehips (Rosa canina) grow abundantly in North America and are incredibly high in vitamin C. Dried rosehips are used to make tea to boost the immune system, protect the body from free radicals, and treat arthritic conditions. Rosehips also help with weight management, the prevention of diabetes, age-related disorders, and heart disease.
Although backyard foraging can be enjoyable and rewarding, whenever a plant’s identity is in question, take a photo of it and compare it to images found online or in textbooks. Performing research is necessary because although plants are of the natural world, they can appear similar to each other, and some are extremely poisonous.
Raspberry Leaf [ID 152857781 © Natali Filina | Dreamstime.com]
Daisies [ID 100876044 © Lostafichuk | Dreamstime.com]
Mix of Wild Herbs [ID 41129275 © Yolfran | Dreamstime.com]