“Give nature half a chance and she has a miracle in
store for everyone.”
– Rosita Arvigo
Below, I’ve shared 9 common low-growing
medicinal herbs and 1 mushroom that you may want to search for in
your own backyard or surrounding neighborhoods – plus, we’ve also
noted which regions they can be found in. This is a good reason to
keep your backyard chemical-free—and of course make sure you wash everything
thoroughly before preparation and consumption.
Since some of these herbs have
potent effects, be sure to look up any potential contraindications with regard
to pregnancy, allergies, ailments, or other medications you may be taking.
You’ll want to do additional research on those edibles you
do find in your own backyard, to see if they align with your personal needs.
And if you find something promising that’s not on this list, take it to your
local nursery for help in identification. With a little research, you can
discover whether or not that plant has properties worth using, or if it’s one
Broadleaf Plantain (Plantago major):
Unlike the large plantain trees that grow delectable fruits, the broadleaf
plantain is a ground cover. Packed with Vitamin K, calcium, and other vitamins
and minerals, the broadleaf plantain has a cleansing and detoxifying effect on
the body. This medicinal plant has been used in treating colds, diarrhea,
burns, open sores, wounds, mouth ulcers, boils, acne, throat pain, sunburn,
fever, respiratory infections; improving liver and kidney function; relieving
gastrointestinal inflammation; and drawing out poisons and toxins from bites
and stings—even snake bites! It’s often used as an anti-inflammatory and an
analgesic, and you can make it into a tea, poultice, or salve. Where it
grows – North America, Europe, Australia and Asia.
Burdock (Arctium lappa): Burdock Root is
an antioxidant powerhouse and has been used in Chinese Medicine for thousands
of years. Some of its traditional uses include removing toxins from the blood,
inhibiting certain types of cancers, treating skin issues, and acting as an
aphrodisiac. It’s also a natural diuretic, so be sure to hydrate properly.
Consume in moderation. Consider trying in a tea, fresh root form, or dried root
powder. Where it grows – North America, Europe,
Australia and Asia.
Chickweed (Stellaria media): Chickweed is
known as a natural skin rejuvenator, with both cooling and drying effects on
wounds, sores, minor burns, acne, eczema, psoriasis, and other skin
inflammations. It has also been used for constipation and relieving irritated
eyes. Chickweed is a rich source of Vitamin C and potassium, and also provides
nutritious trace vitamins and minerals. It fell out of style as a popular salad
green, so you may want to try it that way first, or perhaps make chickweed
vinegar by infusing it with apple cider vinegar. For topical use, create a
salve from the plant’s essential oils. Where it grows – North
America, South America, Central America, Europe, Australia and Asia.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale): Perhaps
the most prolific and recognizable, the dandelion is greatly undervalued. This
beneficial plant is often found in some of the finest herbal teas,
and is used for its healing benefits to treat high blood pressure, calcium
deficiency, cancer, diabetes, diverticulitis, irritable bowel syndrome, urinary
tract infections, and eczema and psoriasis; detoxify the liver; aid digestion;
and reduce inflammation. Use in salad greens, or dry the leaves and roots to
make a tea. Where it grows – North America, South
America, Central America, Europe, Australia and Asia.
Lamb’s Quarters (Chenopodium album): This
“prince of wild greens” is a common garden weed packed with enough protein to
rival spinach, along with Vitamins A and C, calcium, phosphorous, iron, and a
multitude of minerals. Our ancestors prized this plant’s medicine for its
purification properties to “improve the blood,” and also to treat rheumatism
and arthritis, toothaches and tooth decay, constipation, insect stings, eczema,
and gout. Keep seed consumption to a minimum, but freely consume the leaves,
shoots, and flowers. Eat fresh leaves and flowers mixed in with your other
salad greens; steam or stir fry along with your favorite vegetables; or cook
and puree with some of your favorite soups. You can also grind seeds into
flour. Where it grows – North America, Europe,
Australia, Africa and Asia.
Reishi Mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum): If
you are fortunate enough to live in an area where the reishi grows, you may
already be aware of its long-touted healing properties. Mainly used in
prevention of disease, the reishi offers protection against inflammation,
various infections, skin disorders, diabetes, heart and liver disease, sleep
disorders, digestive problems, cancer, fatigue, anxiety, depression, and
viruses, including HIV/AIDS and hepatitis. It also helps to restore hormonal
imbalance, and regulates various cellular functions. Because of its slightly
bitter flavor, it’s traditionally dried and then prepared for a tea, or
pulverized into a powder and mixed into your favorite protein shake. Where
it grows – Eastern North America, South America,
Europe and Asia.
Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica): Be careful—this
herb can sometimes “sting” and leave a rash when bare skin comes into contact
with the acid-filled needles. Once boiled, however, the nettles leave you with
leaves that, when ingested, provide nutritious elements and anti-inflammatory
properties. Nettle leaves have been used in treating allergy symptoms, lowering
blood pressure, improving immune system response, reducing pain, acting as a
diuretic, treating skin conditions, thickening hair while also reducing
dandruff, and causing a sedative effect. The plant’s root has been used to
address prostate concerns in men. Handle and harvest while wearing gloves, and
then boil or cook to remove the sting from the nettles. The easiest and perhaps
most common way to use nettles are in a tea, where you can flavor with other
herbs or spices to taste. But once cooked, you can also use nettle leaves like
most other greens and use in salads, or season and bake them (like kale chips),
or grind to make a pesto. For the roots, toss them in a stir fry or dry like the
leaves for use in a tea. Where it grows – Western North
America, Europe, Northern Africa and Asia.
Purslane (Portulaca oleracea): Purslane
is an excellent source of fiber; Vitamins A, B, and C; iron, calcium,
magnesium, manganese, potassium, copper, and powerful antioxidants. Our
ancestors have used it for hundreds of years to prevent and cure disease. It’s
been used to treat high cholesterol, diarrhea and other gastrointestinal
disorders, skin conditions, and cancer. It’s believed to improve vision,
strengthen bones, increase circulation, and aid in weight loss. Try it mixed
with salad greens. Where it grows – North America,
South America, Central America, Europe, Africa, Australia and Asia.
Red Clover (Trifolium pratense L.):
Menopause symptoms. Maintaining bone strength. Improving cardiovascular health.
Lowering risk for various types of cancers. Reducing skin inflammation. Fighting
respiratory infections. Detoxifying the liver. Boosting the immune system.
Managing cholesterol. Balancing hormones. These are just some of the many
disorders and “symptoms of aging” that red clover has been used to treat. Dry
the herb to make a tea, or make a salve for a topical medicine. Where
it grows – North America, South America, Central America,
Europe, Australia and Asia.
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium): This
pretty little flowering herb is wonderful for healing skin conditions; stopping
bleeding (external); encouraging bleeding in cases of amenorrhea; alleviating
anxiety; acting as a mild sedative; reducing inflammation; and treating
mastitis, high blood pressure, asthma, and muscle spasms. Use fresh leaves in
salads, soups, or sautéed dishes, or use dried leaves as a cooking herb. Where
it grows – North America, Europe and Asia.
Many of these herbs are sold in supplement form, but you can
bypass the middle-man and go directly to the source by taking a look around and
experimenting on your own. Perhaps LA-based guerilla gardener Ron Finley says
“Growing your own food is like printing your own