Many of the plants that are often considered to be nuisance weeds can in fact be used in herbal remedies to benefit health. Some of these can be found in gardens or in the wild, and if you know what to look for, it is easy to harvest the plants you need and make medicinal preparations at home. Alternatively, keen gardeners can cultivate these herbs from cuttings of the plant, and then have convenient access to them year-round.
Bayberry, honeysuckle, wood sorrel, wafer ash, and hepatica are all known to grow on roadsides, marshlands, and other public spaces across the globe. This reveals that they are generally hardy to diverse conditions and therefore can easily be grown by gardeners of all levels. Once established, these plants can become increasingly expansive and can seem like they are taking over the garden. To keep them under control, they should be pruned regularly, and the excess foliage can be used to make herbal teas, natural syrups, or tinctures.
1. Bayberry (Myrica cerifera)
The harvested leaves, flowers, and stem of the bayberry shrub can either be dried or used fresh to make tea. This is often recommended by herbalists - particularly for treating throat infections and gum disease - because the antibacterial properties of the plant are useful for combating infections. Bayberry is also prescribed to improve circulation and treat liver problems.
2. Honeysuckle (Lonicera edulis)
A pretty wildflower, many people enjoy the presence of honeysuckle in their garden, but at the same time, many gardeners see it as a hindrance. Those who have access to it can benefit from its multiple medicinal properties and use it to treat a range of maladies such as viral infections, headaches, fever, and skin irritations. This array of potential cures is due to the presence of important compounds, such as salicylic acid, which is used to make aspirin.
3. Wood Sorrel (Oxalis acetosella)
There are many different varieties of wood sorrel found all over the world, so it is usually fairly easy to find some to make herbal preparations. Once the plant appears in the garden, it is known to spread rapidly, so it is advisable to check and remove plants often. The components of the extracted plants are especially suited for syrups and decoctions, which can be consumed to relieve diarrhea and other stomach complaints.
4. Wafer Ash (Ptelea trifoliata)
Wafer ash is a broad, commanding tree that grows to around 15 feet (4.5 meters) tall and has a spread of around the same size. It is found all over North and Central America, but most people do not choose to grow it in their yards because of its size. It is often possible to come across it growing in park land and wooded areas, so from here the leaves and "wafers," or pods, can be harvested and used to make various remedies such as a poultice or tincture. These can be effective in treating small external wounds, or even can help to eradicate parasites including malaria if ingested.
5. Hepatica (Hepatica americana)
A bright and pretty wildflower, hepatica also has a reputation for being somewhat invasive in the garden. It thrives in most different types of soil, and requires little if any human maintenance, making it a favorite among new gardeners. All aerial components are edible, and they can be used for tea, ointments, and tinctures, among other preparations. Hepatica has long been recommended for treating respiratory and gastrointestinal problems.
These are just five of many invasive herbs with medicinal benefits that can be found in the wild, and are therefore widely available. They may well be considered a nuisance by some gardeners, but their internal properties in fact make them a brilliant source for a range of health remedies.
- Backyard Medicine, Honeysuckle, Woodbine (Lonicera periclymenum), pp. 70-71
- The Complete Guide To Herbal Medicines, pp. 44-45
- Edible Wild Plants, pp. 177-190
- Making the Most of Shade, pp. 174-175
- University of Arkansas, Wafer Ash (Hop Tree)