Chickweed

chickweed

Botanical Name: Stillaria media Family: Caryophyllaceae

Common name(s): Chickweed, Starweed, Starwort, Stitchwort (and more!)

GROWING

  • Annual; considered a weed | Zones 3-8 | Grows along ground, 6-15 inches | Very small white flowers all season (March – September) | Leaves are smooth and oval, stalks are hairy
  • Grows everywhere, easily reseeds | Good ground cover because the roots are shallow and don’t compete with garden plants.

HARVESTING

Harvest the aerial parts all season long.

PREPARATION / DOSAGE

Infusion: Pour 2 cups boiling water over 2 ounces of fresh herb and let sit for 10-15 minutes. Drink 1/2 cup, 3x/day.

Tincture: A dropperful 2-3x/day. (This is not the most common way of using chickweed, but useful for preserving it for use off-season.)

Food: Can be eaten as a green, in salads, or added to juices.

Salve: Infuse wilted fresh greens (spread in a single layer on a basket, screen, or towel out of the sun for a few hours until limp) in oil and use directly or to make a cream.

Notes: The fresh leaves don’t dry or store well, so it’s best to freeze or tincture them, or make them into a salve.

MEDICAL

Constituents: Vitamin C, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, coumarins, saponins

Actions: Alterative,  antitussive,antipyretic, demulcent,diuretic, emolient, expectorant, vulnerary

Uses: Nutrition, weight loss (stimulates the metabolism), kidney and liver disorders, skin irritation, eye irritation. Mild enough to be used on babies and children as a salve for diaper rash.

CHINESE MEDICINE

  • Sweet, mildly bitter, cool

SOURCES 

  • Mother Earth Living
  • Susanweed.com
  • Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants and Herbs (Peterson Field Guide)
  • Medicinal Herbs, Rosemary Gladstar
  • The Way of Herbs, Michael Tierra

This picture is chickweed in my garden (really close up, the flowers are tiny, and the leaves are delicate). I have another sprawling, similar looking plant in my front garden with larger white flowers and pointier leaves. Loved this article for helping me identify chickweed via its internal “stem.” Still trying to identify that other plant! I haven’t eaten chickweed yet because I wasn’t sure about its identification (you gotta be sure before you eat the weeds!).

Sassafras

sassafras

Botanical Name: Sassafras Officianale / Sassafras Albidum / Sassafrass Varifolium | Family: Lauraceae

Common name(s): Sassafras, Saxifras, Tea Tree, Mitten Tree, Cinnamonwood

GROWING

  • Tree, deciduous | zones 4-9 | full sun to light shade | 20 – 50′
  • Neutral to acidic soil

HARVESTING

Parts used: Root bark, root and leaves

Harvest the root late fall as the energy returns to it. After a frost or two is ideal, but before the ground freezes. Pull up either young plants or dig between two plants for the connecting root (new sassafras trees develop from existing ones via suckers).

For making Filé (see *footnote, below), harvest young leaves.

PREPARATION / DOSAGE

Decoction/tea: Bring 1-2 tsp roots in 1 cup of water to boil and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit an additional 30 minutes.

Oil: use externally, only

Tincture: take 1-2ml of the tincture 3x/day

Food: Has been used as a tea and beverage, the leaves have been used as a condiment and thickening agent* in sauces and soups.

Combinations: Use with Burdock, Nettles, and Yellow Dock for skin issues

MEDICAL

Constituents: essential oil, safrole, resin and tannin, alkaloids

Actions: alterative, diaphoretic, diuretic, carminative, antirheumatic, disinfectant

Uses: skin problems (such as eczema and psoriasis), rheumatism, gout, fever, infection, mouthwash, dentifrice, head lice and other bodily infestations

Cautions: Safrole has been classified as highly toxic by the FDA. However, studies of the whole herb (which contain a complex balance of other elements) have proven safe in humans. Safrole is also found in many other herbs, including basil, black pepper, and nutmeg. But because of the alarm over safrole, you can no longer get sassafras beverages, you’ll need to make your own.

SOURCES 

*This is called “Filé” and is used in southern cooking. The leaves are gathered and dried, then ground up into a fine powder.


For some reason I’ve always loved sassafras trees, being tickled-pink when I come across them. Maybe it’s the mitten leaves. Maybe its because it brings me back to my childhood, when an adult came into our classroom and taught us about the life-cycle of a pond and other parts of the woods, including sassafras and pine forests (another favorite of mine).

And so I was really excited to find some sassafras at the end of my driveway, growing amidst a stand of young white pine trees. We cut back the pines right around the sassafras trees. And there is a second stand of sassafras on the other side of the driveway – the sentinels as you enter Dandelion Forest. Some people have cement lions, I have sassafras trees.

Dandelion

dandelion

Botanical Name: Taraxacum Officianale | Family: Compositae

Common name(s): Dandelion

GROWING

  • Perennial, herbaceous, broad-leaf | zones 3-9 | full sun to part shade | 8 – 24″
  • Found everywhere, lawns, gardens, roadsides, etc. Does best in fertile soil.

HARVESTING

Parts used: Roots, leaves, flowers

Harvest leaves anytime, but spring leaves are less bitter. Harvest roots in the early spring or the fall before they get too woody. Harvest the flowers while they are blooming (and leave some for the bees!).

PREPARATION / DOSAGE

Infusion: prepare the leaves as a tea.

Decoction: 2-3 tsp dandelion root to one cup water; bring to a boil and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Drink 3x/day

Tincture: take 5-10ml of the tincture 3x/day

Food: All parts are edible, young leaves are good in salad, roots can be roasted and ground to make a coffee substitute, or cooked and eaten like any root vegetable. The flowers are edible, too.

MEDICAL

Constituents: carotenoids, essential oil and bitter principles*, inulin, calcium, iron, potassium, vitamins A, B, C, and D, trace minerals, milky latex

Actions: alterative, antirheumatic, mild diuretic, bitter, tonic, laxative

Uses: high blood pressure/edema (leaves), digestive issues (roots), warts (milky latex), Rheumatism, constipation, general tonic

Cautions: Some people are allergic to the milky latex of the flowers and stems

SOURCES 

  • A Modern Herbal, Mrs. M. Grieve
  • Holistic Herbal, David Hoffman
  • Homegrown Herbs, Tammi Hartung
  • Medicinal Herbs, Rosemary Gladstar
  • The Way of Herbs, Michael Tierra
  • K-State on Dandelion

* each of my sources listed a bunch of different chemical constituents so I’m just generalizing some of them, as well as listing other recognizable ones.


I’ve always loved dandelions, but never ate them before, or used them medicinally. I made some tinctures this year – a vinegar-based and an alchoholic-based one. And I’ve roasted the roots and ground them to make a coffee substitute. They smell wonderful while roasting. But they are as bitter (or more bitter, according to my husband) as coffee. My son, who can’t do caffeine said they taste just like coffee, so there you go. A couple of verdicts. I tried some, man is it bitter, but I feel the same way about coffee.

As for the leaves, I’ve tried them in salads and they are also a little bitter for my taste, but I’m hoping to develop more of a taste for bitter herbs because they are so good for you! We’ve gotten so far away from our wild food over time that most of us have lost the taste for it.