The medicine in your back yard

Posted By on October 23, 2011

In preparing for a fantastic event at Fort Ligonier this weekend, I dug deep into some French medical literature, and came upon an herb that was used by the French called chiendent.  Translated, it is Quackgrass.

Quackgrass is very common to everyone, as it grows in every grassy yard I’ve ever seen. The plant that has the blades of grass that peel off a reed in your yard, is quackgrass.

This stuff.

Quackgrass, in the 18th Century, was used by French apothecaries and more than likely Sage-femmes (midwives), as a dieuretic and for its antiseptic properties.  As we know, most herbal remedies and other medicines of the perdiod are truly not effective, either at all or for what they were originally indicated for, but in this case Quackgrass does have some efficacy.

It is highly used for its effect on the kidneys, and when your dog/cat is digging in the yard and eating a certain grass for upset stomach, Quackgrass is what they’re eating!  Apparently it does work for them!  More information on how quackgrass can be used can be found here: http://journeytoforever.org/edu_quackgrass.html.

But this got me thinking about other things that are considered weeds in our yards today that were used or can be used for medicine today.  Another prime example is dandelion.

Dandelion, while typically described as a weed as well, has had an expansive history of use.  Culpeper’s Complete Herbal describes another name for these

Just in case you didn't know what "piss-a-bed" looked like. :)

flowers as “piss a bed”, and states that the French and the Dutch eat them frequently in the spring.  Culpeper states that it can be used for issues of the liver, as a dieuretic, and that it also helps with rest and sleep, among some other ailments.

You can enjoy Dandelion greens even today as a nice salad, fried even, and I know of several wineries make Dandelion Wine, which is quite tasty.  Medicinally, western herbalists use dandelions in a similar way of Culpeper, the French, and the Dutch, as a diuretic, and for treating liver diseases, such as  cirrhosis and hepatitis.

So the next time you’re about to mow the lawn, take a few minutes to scope it out for Dandelion and Quack-Grass.  You never know when you may need either.

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