Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Discover edible, medicinal plants growing in your neck of the woods!

Joe and I are becoming Oklahoma Wildcrafters! If you are interested in edible plants in the Oklahoma area a great website to check out is:

Last spring, I made an herbal infusion out of Cleavers that Joe and I found in our backyard! Cleavers have many medicinal properties, including the ability to reduce swollen lymph nodes; which I had at the time because of my sore throat. This infusion was actually quite tasty and relatively easy to make; all you have to do is rinse this sticky plant, liquidize it with hot water in your blender, and voilĂ  you have a therapeutic cleaver infusion!

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Cleavers is a coffee relative, and its seed if roasted are used as a coffee substitute. Herbalists have long regarded cleavers as a valuable lymphatic tonic. In essence the lymph system is the body's mechanism to wash tissues of toxins, passing them back into the bloodstream to be cleansed by the liver and kidneys.

Medicinal properties of cleavers: good for urinary tract problems. Bitter, cooling, salty, blood cleanser, laxative, diaphoretic, diuretic, febrifuge, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, astringent, mild antibiotic, alterative, tonic; affects kidneys, gall bladder, and the lymphatic and urinary systems; lowers blood pressure; assists healing.

Cleavers have been used as a blood cleanser in cases of eczema, scrofula, psoriasis, and cancer; and has been used for edema, urinary tract infections, cystitis, urinary stones, insomnia, high blood pressure, enlarged lymph nodes (due to any condition), glandular fevers, scarlet fever, measles, upper respiratory infections, asthma, mumps, myalgic encephalomyelitis, hepatitis, jaundice, tonsillitis, adenoid problems, obesity, scurvy, spasms, eczema, psoriasis, cystitis, breast cysts and tumors (benign).

Cleavers have been combined with Marshmallow for cystitis; combined with Echinacea or Goldenseal for throat infection; with Red Clover, Stinging Nettle, and Figwort for psoriasis; for scarlet fever, small pox, and eruptive diseases it has been mixed in equal part with elderflowers; has been combined with thyme for cystitis and urinary tract infections (taken hourly as a tea). A cream is also used for psoriasis and other skin irritations. A salve has also been used for burns and scalds. A compress has been used for burns, abrasions, ulcers, and skin inflammations.

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The infusion has been used for urinary problems (cystitis and gravel), for bedwetting (taken 3 times daily), and as a cooling drink for fevers. Has often been combined with Broom, Bearberry, Buchu, and Marshmallow for urinary obstruction.

Cleavers have also been used externally for breast lumps, swollen glands, ulcerations, abscesses, wounds, skin irritations and minor injuries, psoriasis and all skin conditions in general. Has been used to reduce lymphatic congestion in the skin and breasts. An infusion for external use = 1/2 oz macerated fresh plant to 1 pint of warm water, steeped 2 hours. Also, the juice has been applied to sore nipples and sores.

For cancer, Cleavers have been combined with Sweet violet leaves (a large quantity of Violet leaves has been used throughout the regimen). A poultice made by combining the juice with oatmeal has been used 3 times daily for indolent tumors; a teaspoon of the juice has also been taken each morning. Another method of reducing tumor growths with cleavers has been to measure out 1/4 cup fresh or dried herb to 1 cup of boiling water, the resultant infusion being separated into 3 parts and taken 3 times over the course of the day. An ointment of the fresh plant has been used for tumors. Cleaver juice has been used for prostate problems.

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Crushed fresh Cleaver have been used as a poultice to stop bleeding. Also for bleeding of the nose and the infusion and/or juice internally for bleeding from the stomach. The juice of both the seeds and the plant were once used for poisonous spider or snake bites. Furthermore, the juice or the infused oil has been used for earache.

The dried powdered root of Cleavers has been used on wounds and open ulcers to speed healing.
Has been eaten in China as a vegetable to help with weight loss. In Chinese medicine it is regarded as tonic and as a blood cleanser and has been used for skin and breast cancer, hepatoma (cancer of the liver), leukemia, dropsy, epilepsy, ganglionic tumors, gravel, high blood pressure, hysteria, pleurisy, sores, carbuncles, skin infections, spasms, urethritis, urogenital problems, blood in the urine, bloating, and ulcers. In a study using dogs as subjects, arterial pressure was lowered up to 50% without slowing the pulse.

Cleavers have been widely used as a Folk Medicine in central Europe and the Balkans for various cancers (breast, throat and tongue) and for indurations and wens. In the East Indies, Cleavers have been used to treat gonorrhea (1/2 to 1 fluid oz of the fresh juice every 4 to 6 hours). Also, the Penobscots of North America used it in combination with other herbs for gonorrhea, kidney problems, and the spitting of blood. The Meskwaki boiled the plant to use as an emetic.

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Joe and I have also discovered Chickweed in our yard; which like Cleavers, has many medicinal properties. They are very crisp and delicious and is a great substitute for lettuce or fresh spinach in salads and sandwiches and is also nice when steamed or boiled (cooked like spinach).

Chickweed is best known for it's ability to cool inflammation and speed healing for internal or external flare-ups. Herbalists often recommend it as a poultice or ointment for skin irritations, skin abscesses and boils. Chickweed is one of the easiest plants to identify and is used widely in rural Oklahoma. The major plant constituents in Chickweed are Ascorbic-acid, Beta-carotene, Calcium, Coumarins, Genistein, Gamma-linolenic-acid, Flavonoids, Hentriacontanol, Magnesium, Niacin, Oleic-acid, Potassium, Riboflavin, Rutin, Selenium, Triterpenoid saponins, Thiamin, and Zinc. The whole plant is used in alternative medicine as an astringent, carminative, demulcent, diuretic, expectorant, laxative, refrigerant, vulnerary. A decoction of the whole plant is taken internally as a post-partum depurative, emmenagogue, galactogogue and circulatory tonic.

Chickweed is also used to relieve constipation, an infusion of the dried herb is used in coughs and hoarseness, and is beneficial in the treatment of kidney complaints. Chickweed has been used as an astringent, carminative, demulcent, diuretic, expectorant, laxative, refrigerant, and vulnerary. New research indicates it's use as an effective antihistamine. The decoction is also used externally to treat rheumatic pains, wounds and ulcers. It can be applied as a medicinal poultice and will relieve any kind of roseola and is effective wherever there are fragile superficial veins or itching skin conditions.

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Joe and I have also picked Dandelion leaves for our wildcrafted salads, which adds a nice bitter backdrop. Dandelion leaves and roots have been used for hundreds of years to treat liver, gallbladder, kidney, and joint problems. In some traditions, dandelion is considered a blood purifier and is used for ailments as varied as eczema and cancer. As is the case today, dandelion has also been used historically to treat poor digestion, water retention, and diseases of the liver, including hepatitis. Dandelion leaves can also help with constipation, indigestion, and heartburn. A friend of mine has made a tincture out of fresh Dandelion root, and I am very excited about making one myself this spring. I am also excited about trying out this Dandelion recipe: “Dandelion Fritters”. Here is a cute, short video clip explaining how to make these scrumptious, nutritious hors d'oeuvres:

I hope you all enjoy the bountiful benefits of medicinal plants!
Jessica Woody


TulsaTruthTV said...

Dude I want to see your garden!

Tentfire said...

I always thought of Cleavers as an annoying weed. I was amazed to find out that it actually has value! I am getting more into natural living and learning about what wild plants are edible. I enjoyed reading your post. Thank you!