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  • Writer's picturevanessa

Herbal Allies Found the World Over

Having recently moved to India, I have been excited to learn about a whole new batch of herbs to use as food and medicine. In the meantime however, I have been struck by the pervasiveness of a few old herbal friends from home:

Dandelion: Where would we be without dear old Dandelion? It was one of the first plants I recognized when I arrived here in India. A Euro-Asian native now naturalized throughout the world as a common weed in disturbed soils, there are not many places it won't grow!

The leaves of Dandelion make an extremely nutritious spring potherb and salad green. They are also a dependable diuretic without depleting potassium. The roots are an excellent bitter, stimulating digestion, with a particular affinity to the kidneys and liver. One of the best liver herbs there is! And the flowers make a wonderful infused oil that is used for inflammation and sore muscles. They also make delicious pancakes and fritters!

Yellow Dock: I was so happy to see Yellow Dock here in India! An Old World native, Yellow Dock is now naturalized throughout the world as a common weed in disturbed, poor soils. And how fortunate we are that it is!

Externally, Yellow dock is used as an antiseptic. In fact, The Academy of Minsk recommends it to be used in a poultice against burns, ulcers and infected wounds that are slow to heal. It is also one of the best topical remedies for nettle stings. Internally, it is used extensively in western herbalism for the treatment of chronic skin conditions. Yellow Dock is another one of those herbs described through the ages as a “blood cleanser”, with an affinity for the liver and gallbladder. It also aids in the digestion of fatty foods.

Plantain: My old friend Plaintain! The variety here in India is ever so slightly different in appearance than what we have back in the Pacific Northwest. I think it may be Plantago erosa..... Can you see it nestled in next to Dandelion below?

Plantain is also one of those Old World natives that has now made it's home all over the world and seen mainly as a "weed". One of Plantain's most stellar topical uses is as a drawing agent to pull out splinters, dirt, pus and infection from wounds. Internally, it is a gentle expectorant and simultaneously a demulcent to soothe inflamed membranes while helping to expel phlegm, making it useful for coughs and bronchitis. It's  astringency makes it ideal for mouth ulcers and gum disease as well.

Recognizing these familiar plants so far from home makes me realize that wherever you are in the world, you have a medicine chest at your doorstep!

What herbs can you see as you step out your front door?

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