“A weed is a plant whose virtue is not yet known.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
There was a time when people went to their gardens rather than drugstores to get medicines. But did you know that 80% of people in developing countries still rely on traditional medicine, which for the most part uses medicinal plants?
Cracks on the pavement, tiny recesses in concrete walls, empty or abandoned lots, waste open areas — these are some of the many places where you will find weeds growing. But take a moment to look, as those weeds just might be one of the most potent medicines for some of the common (and sometimes not-so-common) human illnesses.
I went around in our garden looking for weeds that have known medicinal properties, and it didn’t take me long to identify a few of them. Here are five medicinal weeds found in our garden, their short descriptions, illnesses they cure, and typical ways that they are prepared. Take note that I am including here only those that are often considered weeds, i.e. herbs that people don’t usually plant on purpose, and that typically grow everywhere voluntarily. Disclaimer: I am not in the medical profession, so I am not giving any exact formulations or dosages for these plants. Please use these plants, or any other medicine, with caution. I referred to the website http://www.stuartxchange.org for a lot of information, so please visit that site for more details.
Oregano is a known cure for asthma. My niece can attest to that!
1. Oregano (Plectranthus aromaticus)
Description: Like its scientific name says, this plant has aromatic leaves. It belongs to the mint family (Lamiaceae), but unlike the mint, it has larger leaves that are a bit succulent and have fine velvety hair.
Used for: Cough, asthma, dyspepsia and many other conditions.
Preparation: Leaves can be boiled or steeped in hot water and drank as tea.
The Filipino name of this plant, “tawa-tawa”, means laugh-laugh. Maybe it will make you laugh when it cures your illness.
2. Tawa-tawa (Euphorbia hirta)
Description: Leaves are small, and dense tiny greenish flowers are found in the axils. Has a milky white exudate, like many members of the spurge family (Euphorbiaceae).
Used for: Asthma, Malaria, Dengue fever and illnesses associated with blood.
Preparation: Whole plant is boiled and drank as tea.
The translucent stems and leaves of pansit-pansitan are responsible for the specific epithet “pellucida”.
3. Pansit-pansitan (Peperomia pellucida)
Description: Soft small herb with leaves and stems that are translucent, hence the scientific name. Belongs to the black pepper family (Piperaceae), and bears flowers/fruits in a similar manner, i.e. on slender spikes.
Used for: Urinary tract infection, other fungal and bacterial infections.
Preparation: Whole plant can be boiled or steeped in hot water and drank as tea or applied to skin externally. Can also be eaten fresh as a salad vegetable.
Leaf-eating beetles are usually responsible for the holes commonly seen on leaves of amaranths like the kulitis.
4. Kulitis (Amaranthus spinosus)
Description: Looks very similar to the wild spinach (Amaranthus viridis), with its arrow-shaped leaves, and whitish-green numerous flowers on spikes, except it has spines on the stems.
Used for: Fever, snake bites, anemia, and a lot of other diseases.
Preparation: Leaves are usually boiled or steeped in hot water like tea. Also eaten and prepared just like spinach.
Golasiman (purslane in English) flowers are open only for a short time early in the morning.
5. Golasiman (Portulaca oleracea)
Description: Succulent herb with slimy sap. Flowers usually pink or yellow with petals that bruise and wilt very easily.
Used for: Stomach problems, painful urination, wounds, etc.
Preparation: Fresh crushed or boiled leaf juice used externally on skin. Leaf infusion drank as tea. Eaten as a vegetable, raw or cooked.
Those are the medicinal weeds that I found after just a few minutes of search in our garden. I wonder what other weeds with virtues I can find if I spent more time and searched farther? Do you know of any other plants that are usually mistaken for weeds but are actually medicinal? Let us know in the comments below.