Herby Gardens


5 Healing Weeds and Their Medicinal Uses

Read time: 5 minutes


In the world of horticulture, weeds are typically viewed as unsightly nuisances. But many of these herbal weeds have been used for centuries in traditional medicine. Let’s explore five of these healing weeds: stinging nettles, dandelions, cleavers, plantain, and violet.

1. Stinging Nettles (Urtica dioica)

Stinging nettles

Contrary to its prickly exterior, stinging nettles is a plant full of medicinal properties. Found in most parts of the world, nettles are easily identifiable by their heart-shaped leaves and tiny hair-like stingers.

Nettles are packed with nutrients like vitamins A, C, and K, as well as several B vitamins. They are also rich in minerals such as calcium, iron, and magnesium.

Stinging nettle is primarily known for the following herbal actions:

  1. Diuretic: Stinging nettle has been used traditionally as a diuretic, meaning it promotes urination. This can help the body eliminate toxins and excess fluids, and may support kidney and urinary health.
  2. Anti-inflammatory: The plant is also known for its anti-inflammatory properties, which can help reduce swelling and pain in the body. This is particularly useful for conditions such as arthritis or other inflammatory conditions.
  3. Antihistamine: Stinging nettle has been found to have natural antihistamine properties, making it useful for treating allergy symptoms.
  4. Nutritive: Nettles are rich in vitamins and minerals, making it a valuable nutritive herb.

How to use it? Nettles can be steeped into a tea or used in cooking as a spinach substitute. Watch out for the prickly hairs! Steaming, drying, and cooking will disarm the stingers found along the leaves and stems.

2. Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

Dandelion flowers

Often dismissed as an annoying lawn pest, dandelions are actually a powerhouse of nutrients. With its bright yellow flowers and fluffy seed heads, dandelions are a common sight across the globe.

Dandelions are rich in vitamins A, C, and K, and are a good source of calcium, potassium, iron, and manganese. The plant has long been used to support liver health, stimulate digestion, and as a natural diuretic. Interestingly, the entire plant – from roots to flowers – is edible.

Dandelion is primarily known for the following herbal actions:

  1. Diuretic: Dandelion leaf is a potent diuretic, helping the body eliminate excess fluid, and is often used for conditions like hypertension and edema.
  2. Cholagogue: Dandelion root stimulates the production and release of bile from the gallbladder, aiding in digestion and absorption of fats.
  3. Hepatic: As a hepatic herb, it supports the health and function of the liver.
  4. Nutritive: Rich in vitamins A, C, and K, and minerals such as potassium, iron, and zinc, dandelion is a potent nutritive herb.

How to use it? Dandelion leaves can be used in salads, while the roots can be dried and ground into a coffee substitute.

3. Cleavers (Galium aparine)


Cleavers, also known as “sticky weed,” is a common weed that often goes unnoticed. This slender, creeping plant clings to anything it touches, thanks to tiny hooked hairs covering its leaves and stems.

Cleavers is traditionally used in herbal medicine for its detoxifying properties. It can stimulate the lymphatic system, promoting the removal of toxins from the body. Additionally, it’s used to soothe skin conditions and support urinary health.

Cleavers is primarily known for the following herbal actions:

  1. Lymphatic: Cleavers is well-known for supporting the lymphatic system, helping to clear lymphatic congestion and inflammation.
  2. Diuretic: Like dandelion, cleavers has diuretic properties, promoting the elimination of excess fluid from the body.
  3. Vulnerary: Cleavers has been used topically to help heal wounds and burns.

How to use it? Cleavers can be infused into a tea or used topically in a poultice for skin conditions.

4. Broadleaf Plantain (Plantago major)

Broadleaf plantain

Not to be confused with the tropical fruit, plantain weed is a common sight in yards and parks. It features broad leaves with parallel veins and a tall flower spike in the center.

Plantain is best known for its wound-healing properties. It’s also used to soothe skin irritations, bites, and burns, as well as to aid in digestion. Additionally, plantain has antimicrobial properties, making it useful in combating infections.

Plantain is primarily known for the following herbal actions:

  1. Vulnerary: Plantain is known for its wound-healing properties. It’s often used topically for minor cuts, burns, and bug bites.
  2. Demulcent: The leaves of the plantain plant are soothing and cooling to the skin and mucous membranes, helping to alleviate irritation and inflammation.
  3. Astringent: Plantain can help to tighten and tone tissues, useful in cases of diarrhea or hemorrhoids.

How to use it? Plantain leaves can be made into a salve for topical use or brewed into a tea.

5. Violet (Viola odorata)

Purple common violets

With its lovely purple flowers, violet is more than just a pretty face. This petite plant is packed with vitamins A and C, making it a nutritious addition to your diet.

Violet has been traditionally used to soothe respiratory ailments, like coughs and colds. It’s also used for its anti-inflammatory properties, particularly in soothing skin conditions.

Violet is primarily known for the following herbal actions:

  1. Lymphatic: Like cleavers, violet is often used to support the health of the lymphatic system.
  2. Demulcent: Violet leaves are soothing to the skin and mucous membranes, much like plantain.
  3. Antioxidant: Violets contain a variety of antioxidant compounds that can help to neutralize harmful free radicals in the body.
How to use it? Violet flowers can be used in salads, desserts, or steeped into a calming tea. The leaves, on the other hand, can be added to salads or soups for a nutritional boost.

These five healing weeds are more than just unwanted guests in our gardens. They are potent medicinal plants with an array of benefits to offer. So, the next time you spot them, take a moment to appreciate their healing potential.

While foraging for wild medicinal plants, it’s crucial to cross-reference with reliable field guides, botanical texts, or trustworthy online resources. If possible, go foraging with an experienced guide, especially when you’re starting out. Always err on the side of caution: if you’re not 100% sure about a plant’s identification, don’t harvest it. And remember, even with correct identification, be aware of potential contamination from pesticides or pollutants, and respect local regulations and private property when foraging.

And remember, always consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new herbal remedies. This is for educational purposes only.

Happy foraging!

Related Posts


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2. Chevallier A. Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine. Third. Penguin Random House; 2016.
3. Chrubasik JE, Roufogalis BD, Wagner H, Chrubasik S. A comprehensive review on the stinging nettle effect and efficacy profiles. Part II: urticae radix. Phytomedicine. 2007;14(7-8):568-579. doi:10.1016/j.phymed.2007.03.014
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5. González-Castejón M, Visioli F, Rodriguez-Casado A. Diverse biological activities of dandelion. Nutr Rev. 2012;70(9):534-547. doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.2012.00509.x
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Hello and welcome! My name is Kate and I am an herbalist and backyard farmer. If you are a beginner herbalist or just looking for information on plants, I write about gardening, natural remedies, and herbalism.




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