What is a weed?


During my time as an interpreter with the 7th Virginia Regiment, my favorite topic was plants and their edible and medicinal uses. Our food displays were split into soldier’s rations and the items found in a typical home at that time of year. At any given event, children came up to look and ask questions.

Often, I would hold up a dandelion and ask if they knew what it was. There was always at least one who called it a weed. I would then explain that a weed was only a plant growing in the wrong place and tell them of the many uses of this humble plant. Much of the colonist’s knowledge was learned from the local tribes, so I will finish Native American Heritage Month by studying plants.

So, how about that dandelion? It’s chock full of Vitamins A, B, C, and D, as well as iron, potassium, and zinc. And there are so many options. You can put the leaves in a salad. Or make tea or wine from the blossoms for heartburn or relief from an upset stomach. For a stronger tea, use the roots.

In compiling this list of 30+ medicinal plants, it seemed best to list them by their more common uses, though some provide more than what I mentioned here. The whole of the United States was inhabited by native people of different cultures in different regions, so not all of these grew everywhere.

All-purpose: chokecherry, goldenrod (for almost everything!)

Aid in Digestion: alfalfa, bee pollen, fennel


Anti-inflammatory: blackberry, ginger, honeysuckle, red clover, rosehips

Antiseptic: cayenne, purple coneflower, rosehips

Anesthetic: cayenne

Blood Clotting: alfalfa

Calming/Sleep: valerian, chamomile

Cuts/Bites/Burns/Wounds: aloe, beeswax, honeysuckle, passion flower

Cough: aspen, black raspberry, eucalyptus, fennel, ginger, licorice, mullein, rosehips, spearmint


Colds & Flu: purple coneflower, eucalyptus, fennel, ginger, honeysuckle, licorice, sage, spearmint

Congestion: mullein, white pine

Circulation: rosemary, spearmint, buckwheat, cayenne, red clover

Diarrhea: blackberry, black raspberry, buckwheat, fennel, spearmint

Digestive Issues: cayenne, feverwort, hops, sage

Fatigue/Energy Boost: ginseng, bee pollen


Fever: aspen, purple coneflower, eucalyptus, feverfew, feverwort

General Pain: feverwort, rosemary, valerian, aspen

Headache: feverfew, honeysuckle

Intestinal Distress/Nausea: black raspberry, chamomile, rosehips

Infections: purple coneflower

Increase Metabolism: blackberry

Insect Repellent: sage

Muscles & Joints: feverfew, feverwort, ginger, passion flower

Purple Coneflower

Respiratory Ailments: purple coneflower, feverfew, ginger, mullein, red clover, spearmint, white pine

Sore Throat: eucalyptus, fennel, honeysuckle, hops, licorice, sage

Teeth & Gums: blackberry, hops

This list contains many of the most popular and is by no means exclusive. However, to list them all, or to describe the delivery methods, such as tea or poultice, would be longer than my novels. But it seems to me the indigenous people knew what they were doing!

Note: Do your research; parts of some of these may be dangerous.