Monday, April 19, 2010

Herb o' the Week: Dandelion

Did you know dandelion was good for you? I bet you didn't! I bet you douse them in herbicide and furtively pull them out of your grass, in the hope that their nasty yellow tops, and white seed heads, will finally go away. Ok, maybe you don't do that. But I sure grew up in a neighborhood that felt that way about dandelion! And if you do react to dandelion that way, I'm here to ease your soul, to tell you, let them live! You no longer need to feel guilty about the dandelions invading your lawn and sidewalk cracks. Instead, stop throwing on the weed killer, and eat 'em up!

Dandelion's latin name is Taraxacum officinale. (Side note, when you see a plant's latin name, if it says Something officinale, that means it used to be an "official" medicinal, in the doctor's offices of old). The common name comes from a French phrase, dent de lion, meaning "lion's tooth", I'm sure you can imagine why.
  • Dandelion leaves are a diuretic and good for your kidney (ie, they make you pee.) But they're loaded up with potassium, which makes dandelion one of the better diuretics. Usually one looses important amounts of potassium when working with diuretics.
  • Dandelion root is good for your liver (ie, it will make ya poop.)
  • Roasted dandelion root can be used as a coffee substitute, and would be of particular use in that area if you are wanting to wean yourself off of coffee.
  • Though untested by me, the milky sap will help remove warts.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Plant Walk: Bodega Bay

My friend Claire came up from Berkeley on Friday to spend the weekend. We drove out to the beach (the beach is only an hour away, sweet!), and hiked around Bodega Bay. Beautiful, beautiful day.

Where The Birds was filmed!

This baby elephant seal came out from the water to warm up.
Wild calla lilies.

Scarlet pimpernel (not really very scarlet).

Cow parsnip (note the fly infestation)

Ice plant

Yes, there was even an egg slap. No, I've no idea what that means.

Other plants ID-ed:
Fiddle neck
Douglas Iris
Lots and lots of lupine (including yellow!)
Wild Radish
Nemophila menziesii ssp atomaria

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Herb o' the Week: Nettle (and Chamomile)

Each week at school we're going to be given a sample of an herb to take home and try out. First we're supposed to try it just in water (tea or decoction, decoction being a longer steeped tea, essentially).
We want to smell it, see it, taste it, feel it.

Do I agree with how it is traditionally used?

Did it make me feel a certain way, or affect something in the body?

For the first week we had chamomile. Official name, matricaria chomomilla (I'm going to have a hard time with this whole latin name business...) Chamomile is one of those obvious herbs, thanks to Beatrix Potter, I'm sure. It's a subtle flavor, meant to calm (a nervine). It is the flowers that are used, fresh or dried. I started growing chamomile a couple years ago - it took me two growing seasons to get flowers, but maybe that was just me. It's good for tension, sore throats, and for colicy babies. My handout also says it's "good for Peter Rabbit".Week 2: Nettles (Urtica dioica or Urtica urens)
Yes, as in stinging nettles. This is the "go to herb" for one of my teachers. It's full of vitamins and minerals. It's a good blood tonic, and an overall strengthening herb. A couple of my classmates described nettle tea like having chicken soup: comforting, warming, filling and fulfilling. I, however, think it's nasty! It smells and tastes rancid to me. Other people have talked about liking the feeling of the sting - for me, no thank you. So this just isn't an herb that speaks to me. I appreciate all the nutrition in nettle, but I do not plan on drinking nettle tea everyday. I think I'll just put it in smoothies, or salads. Cover up that flavor :P (Yes, the sting goes away when you cook or dry it!)