Sunday, August 24, 2008

Weed to You... Medicine to Me

I want to take a moment to feature two of my most favorite "weeds," plantain and dandelion. They grow in abundance where I live, and I am grateful because they both carry extremely useful medicinal properties that have helped heal myself and my family.


Plantain grows almost all year long. It is considered to be one of the most useful herbs and is used for many types of complaints/health issues.

Plantain as an Astringent

Plantain leaves contain tannins and is considered an astringent that is able to draw tissues together (both internally and externally). As such, they can help to stop bleeding (including bleeding from mucous membranes) and control excess menstrual flow. It has also been used to relieve colitis, hemorrhoids, diarrhea, dysentery, vomiting and bed wetting in children and incontinence in the aged.

Plantain as a Diuretic

As a diuretic, Plantain increases urine flow, and its potent antiseptic properties make it effective in easing uterine infections, urinary tract infections, syphili and bladder infections. It is beneficial for female disorders with fluent discharges and internal problems symptomatic of the urinary tract, including cystitis and leucorrhoea. Plantain may also slow the growth of tuberculosis bacteria and staphylococcus infection. The increased urine flow also helps to rid the body of excess mucus and fluids, which is useful in cases of edema (the accumulation of fluid in tissues that cause swelling) and excess water weight.

Plaintain's diuretic properties are also believed to help kidney, liver, spleen and bladder function by flushing impurities with the increased urine flow. By removing obstructions from the liver, it is beneficial in cases of jaundice.

Plantain to Help Control Cholesterol

Plantain may be able to control cholesterol. The seeds contain soluble fibers that swell in gut when wet and fill the intestinal tract, preventing cholesterol and lipid absorption, and the increased bulk also has a mild laxative (not purging) action that helps to rid the intestines of excess cholesterol. Added to the diet before meals, Plantain may cause a decrease in triglycerides and beta cholesterol (bad), and reduction of cholesterol, of course, may contribute to a reduction in heart disease.

Plantain for Respiratory Complaints

As an expectorant, Plantain is thought to loosen and expel phlegm from the lungs and respiratory system. Because of its high mucilaginous qualities (that are really not equalled by other mucilaginous herbs), it is also soothing to the lungs and protects damaged and sore tissue as it expels mucus. It relieves dry coughs, chronic bronchitis, coughing, wheezing and irritation.

Plantain to Help with Weight Loss

An Italian study found that Plantain served effectively in contributing to weight loss in conjunction with a prescribed dietary regimen. When Plantain, with its high mucilage and fiber content, was added to the diet, it has been conjectured that it works by filling and coating the stomach, which limits caloric intake by reducing the absorption of fats, as well as providing a feeling of fullness and reducing the appetite.

Plantain as a Pain Reliever

Plantain contains salicylic acid, the natural forerunner of synthetic aspirin, and as such, has been effective in relieving pain, including neuralgic pain.

Plantain to Help with Digestive Complaints

Plantain's mucilage is said to soothe the stomach and ease indigestion and heartburn, as well as soothe the inflamed tissues of the lower intestinal tract. The increased bulk in the intestines acts as a mild laxative that promotes normal bowel function, and the fiber is thought to absorb toxins from the bowel and rid the body of poisons.

Plantain for External Usage

Used externally, Plantain has a long and venerable history. The tannins tighten tissues, but the mucilage acts as a demulcent and helps to balance the astringent actions and heals and soothes bee stings, bites, and poison ivy. The astringency also has a styptic effect when used topically and acts to stanch hemorrhage and ease wounds and bleeding cuts by contracting blood vessels. It makes a fine eyewash for pink eye; and it is also believed to help those who wish to "quit the habit" to stop smoking by including Plantain in a gargle.


Personal Experience with Plantain

My family has gathered plantain and made our own herbal tinctures and oil from it. We have used it mainly for respiratory complaints and for healing external wounds. We have found it to be excellent for these uses. It has been a better decongestant than any over the counter conventional decongestants we have used in the past. And since it has antibacterial properties, it has been excellent when used for wounds. My husband had a terrible infection from a cut he had received from a piece of stainless steel. He put some plantain oil on it and it was almost magical how quickly the infection left and his wound healed.


Ask anyone how common this plant is. You can find it virtually anywhere and it grows pretty much all year long. It has long been considered a bane by those who wish to keep an immaculate lawn, but it's unfortunate that they don't realize what a true treasure this wonderful "weed" really is.

Dandelion comes from the French name, dents de lion, which translated means "teeth of the lion." The name was given due to the shape of the dandelion's leaves. And although this "weed" is far from anything resembling a lion, the Dandelion contains much that is beneficial to our bodies: bitter compounds, choline, inulin, large quantities of minerals such as calcium, sodium, silicic acid, sulfur and, in the fresh leaves, a high content of potassium.

Dandelion as a Diuretic

Dandelion Root is considered a superior and potent diuretic (even to synthetic products) that increases urine flow, rids the body of excess water and helps to relieve bloated feelings. The high level of potassium in Dandelion is important, because large amounts of potassium are lost in the urine and too often flushed from the body when synthetic diuretics are used.

Dandelion to Help Promote Healthy Heart Function

Potassium-rich Dandelion is said to help promote healthy heart function. The potassium works with sodium to regulate the body's water balance and normalize heart rhythms. Dandelion may lower cholesterol and high blood pressure due to its diuretic action in ridding the body of excess fluid, thereby reducing the amount of fluid the heart must pump to circulate blood.

Dandelion to Promote the Health of the Digestive, Endocrine and Cardiovascular Systems

Dandelion Root is considered a fine liver tonic that is also said to promote healthy gallbladder, pancreas and spleen function. It affects all forms of secretion and excretion from the body and is

a gentle cleansing agent with almost a specific affinity for the liver and modifies and increases the secretions, removing excess water from the body in edemous conditions that could result from liver problems. Herbal healers use Dandelion to strengthen the liver and treat liver disorders. The herb is thought to promote the flow of bile and ease such conditions as hepatitis, inflammation of the liver, jaundice (caused by excess bile in the blood) and liver enlargement. By promoting the flow of bile from the liver, Dandelion is said to be helpful when used in the first stages of cirrhosis of the liver.

Dandelion Root and Leaves are known for keeping the internal organs clean and clear. Herbalists treat kidney ailments with Dandelion, and it is also thought to improve gallbladder function, possibly even preventing gallstones (in Germany, the over-the-counter “ Hepatichol” is said to be proven effective against gallstones).

As a blood purifier, Dandelion Leaf is considered an excellent tonic that cleanses poisons from the body. Through its action both on the liver and kidneys (as its French name, pis en lit, "wet the bed" indicates), it gently eliminates toxic wastes from the body. The natural nutritive salts work to purify the blood and also help to neutralize the acids in the blood.

Dandelion Leaf's powerful blood purifying and liver cleansing properties help to clear skin problems, especially acne. A liver that is not performing at its best can worsen acne, because it cannot break down and clear excess hormones from the body.

Dandelion as a Nutritive

Dandelion Root and Leaves are an excellent nutritive and a valuable source of sodium, minerals (especially potassium), large amounts of vitamins A, C and D, B-vitamins and trace elements. The roots are sometimes used as a healthy coffee substitute or as an addition to coffee. In fact, some claim that it acts as an antidote to any of coffee's possible detrimental effects on the body and may be especially helpful in cases of dyspepsia.

European herbalists regard Dandelion as one of the best herbs for building the blood and relieving anemic conditions. Anemia is caused by deficiency of proper nutrients in the blood, and iron-rich Dandelion is one of its oldest, best-known remedies.

Dandelion for Digestive Complaints

For constipation, Dandelion Leaf is considered a mild laxative that stimulates the bowel and is also said to ease the discomforts caused by inflammation of the bowel. Furthermore, its inlulin content (a prebiotic fiber) passes undigested to the large intestine and stimulates the growth of gut micro-flora known as Bifidobacteria or Lactobacilli. These bacteria may crowd out pathogenic bacteria and provide disease resistance in the bowel.

Dandelion Root promotes good digestion by invigorating the functions of the digestive organs and stimulating the circulation of blood to the entire body. This herb tonic is used for problems in the digestive organs and is said to relieve acute stomachaches.

Dandelion to Flush and Purify the Body of Toxins

For treating nagging, toxic conditions, including gout, joint inflammations, chronic arthritis, chronic rheumatism, swelling and stiff joints, Dandelion Root is said to be ideal, because it flushes toxins from the system, rids the body of excess water and salt and is believed to reduce uric acid. Dandelion may help reduce stiffness and increase mobility in situations of chronic degenerative joint disease. Moreover, this purifying and flushing action is also believed to help clear skin problems, including acne and psoriasis.

Dandelion to Improve the Immune System

The inulin content in Dandelion Root is thought to be an “immuno-stimulant,” boosting the function of the immune system and stimulating macrophage action to surround and digest invasive infection and serious malignant disease.

Dandelion to Improve Bone Health

Dandelion Root may be helpful in cases of osteoporosis. It is a rich source of boron, which is thought to raise estrogen levels in the blood, thus helping to preserve bone. The herb is also a rich source of calcium and silicon, both of which are also believed to strengthen bone.


Personal Experience with Dandelion

I have mainly used Dandelion as a Diuretic during my current pregnancy. I have been mostly able to avoid having water retention, which I know would be more of a problem to me as it was in past pregnancies, were it not for my consistent use of Dandelion. And through consistent use, I feel that my overall health has increased as well.