Backyard Medicine

I’ve been on a kick lately of learning about the hidden medicines that we have under our noses (or our feet). Did you know what some of the plants you are putting a lot of time and energy into getting rid of can actually be powerful medicinals? A prime example is the much-maligned dandelion! Many liver support supplements contain dandelion leaf or root as a main ingredient! It’s a great liver detoxifier, and every part of the plan is edible! Some people even dry the roots and brew it as a “coffee substitute” beverage. (Not sure about that, but I guess don’t knock it til you try it.) Another very common backyard edible weed is the plantain weed (not to be confused with the banana-looking plantain!). You’ve seen it, for sure, but probably didn’t know the name. Here is a link to an article that covers the 5 top edible backyard weeds. Reading about these healthy weeds is one thing, but then going out and gathering and preparing them is another thing! When I headed out to the backyard yesterday with my little bowl in hand, I felt a curious resistance. My mind kept saying, “No! Those are weeds!” It was intense! Even as I stood in the kitchen, sauteeing the plantain leaves in butter, my mind was like, “What are you doing, going back to your starving North Korean roots??!” I kept having to remind myself, I’m not cooking grass… these are edible medicinal plants… these are healthy organic goodies! My mind wasn’t really buying it, and as I munched on the bitter greens, I thought, “What if it’s all just an internet hoax..??” Wow. This is how far we’ve gone away from the basics of life and nature? Anyway, as I was chewing away on my bitter little meal of plantain leaves and thinking about the bitterness, I became aware of the medicinal value of bitters. Again, in theory, I know that “bitter” is the main flavor lacking from the American palate, and that “sweet” foods are the bane of American health. So, indeed, if sweet is causing problems, it makes sense that bitter will bring solutions. Healthcare is expensive! I know it as a practitioner and definitely painfully know it as a patient. Supplements are expensive, too. But backyard weeds are free. The irony is that some of these weeds (like dandelion and plantain) are actually more dense in vitamins and minerals than the greens that you buy in the store! Remember, store-bought foods are usually in the store because they have a decent shelf life, can be transported long distances, etc. The backyard weeds are not as conducive to mass-marketing, and also they’re not that delicious. But the things that make them bitter and weedy (resilient, etc.) are the things that can make our bodies also healthy and resilient, too. So maybe don’t think of them so much as “food” (if it spoils your appetite) but rather as “medicines.” Bon appetit!