Home Additional Reading Herbal remedies in your backyard that you didn’t know of

Herbal remedies in your backyard that you didn’t know of

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Weeds are a bane for most gardens, they eat up precious resources from the soil that flowers and grass need to bloom, which is why most gardeners spend a lot of time and effort on eradicating them. Not that I have anything against removing weeds from one's backyard “ it's just that I've learned recently that tossing them / burning them may be unnecessary.

As it turns out, many herbs that naturally grow in your garden could have medicinal benefits (and I'm not talking about just the more famous ones) i.e. picking them out every so often doesn't have to be a completely mundane chore “ you can convert the harvested plants into natural medicines with a plethora of benefits. Indeed, it gives justification to some of the more lazy gardeners as to why they don't keep their yards and lawns weed free!

Here are a few of my favorites which aren't that widely known:

Dandelion

You may remember picking up a white flower from the ground as a child, making a wish, and blowing on its petals, watching them scatter and float away in the air “ almost like a fairy tale. The herb these flowers belong to is called dandelion, and every part of it comes with benefits: the roots and leaves are rich in several vitamins (A, B complex, C, and D), as well as minerals that our bodies require in trace amounts (silicon, boron, calcium, choline, copper, manganese, and potassium).

Traditionally, dandelion roots have been used as a medication for conditions pertaining to the liver and gallbladder, as well as sores, abscesses, and even painful or swollen eyes. Chopped dandelion root can be made into a tea to imbibe its benefits, and dandelion root powder can be used to enhance urinary function. It can also be applied as a poultice or consumed as an extract directly.

Besides the medicinal benefits, you can use the flowers to make iced tea for a change in flavor from your regular varieties or bake them into a healthy and delicious bread. Dandelion leaves sautéed in olive oil can also be consumed as a nutritious food.

Plantain

You will probably have come across this herb before and removed and thrown it away as a useless weed because of its rather ordinary appearance. In reality, it packs high vitamin A and C content, as well as calcium. Plantain leaves have been used by Native Americans to alleviate insect bites and bee stings, counter the effects of allergic rash, and heal bruises and sores.

You can make a tea from plantain leaves that serve as a natural mouthwash for treating oral sores and as a cough treatment. Chewed plantain leaf mixed with spit can be applied to treat insect bites in emergency situations, whereas the leaves can also be dried and added to healing salves for long-term use. More recently, plantain has seen use as an aid for those who want to quit smoking.

Purslane

Also called fat weed, duckweed, and parsley, this herb grows just about anywhere it can find soil to take root “ to the point that you will have seen it growing out of cracks in the pavement! The herb is crisp and slightly citrus, making it great for culinary use as a salad, or even sautéed into a proper veggie dish. You can also combine it with pine nuts and garlic to make a healthy pesto!

Regardless of how you choose to consume it, you will be getting the benefits of Vitamins A, B, C, Omega-3 fatty acids, and some other antioxidants. Just make sure that you pick actual purslane and spurge (which share a resemblance with it).

Note that purslane has oxalic acid inside it which some people cannot handle.

Stinging Nettles

Most avid gardeners will have felt, at least once, the painful rash left behind by a stinging nettle “ the very name conveys an unpleasantness that demands its bearer to be eradicated from our gardens. However, if you put on some gloves, harvest this herb and boil it for a while, the minute acid-filled needles responsible for the ˜sting' will fall off, leaving behind the leaves which have several benefits.

For starters, the large amounts of minerals and vitamins present in these leaves make for a nutritious tea that can be had during pregnancy. The herb also has anti-inflammatory benefits that make it suitable for treating allergic symptoms such as swollen, itchy eyes, sneezing, runny nose, and so on. It can also be used as a mild pain reliever, as well as a scalp rinse for promoting healthy hair and minimizing dandruff.

Warning

While there are dozens of beneficial wild plants that could possibly sprout in your garden, be careful not to consume/apply any of them until you're completely certain of their species and benefits. You may want to consult both a horticulturist and a homeopathic expert before trying out a new herb. Moreover, if you do decide to utilize the weeds and herbs growing in your garden, never spray any chemical products lest you end up poisoning yourself.

Most herbs tend to die during winter, but if you live in a snowy climate, chances are that the snowfall will preserve the plants in usable condition should you wish to harvest them. Even if you're out in the woods and looking for a quick remedy for an insect bite, grab a light shovel (Backyard Boss covers them in detail) and dig until you reach the soil “ you will probably find an herb to help you out “ and what a story it will be to tell around the campfire later!