Most of us know that herbs are weeds. Similar to the fact that we're all human and simply temporary visitors on the planet, we're also fierce, powerful healers — and so are herbs.
Every therapeutic herb is a lowly weed that a humble and intrepid healer felt a calling toward and a need for.
I live in Maine, so while the herbs I talk about are found in my own back woods, they're also available across the top three quarters of the U.S. What makes these herbs so flipping amazing is that they're not only easily accessible, but they’re also currently in season.
Your job? Take your health into your own hands, explore, and be humble. And, well, take a walk.
(Want to learn how to forage? Start here.)
Rosa Rugosa (Rugosa Rose, Japanese Rose, Beach Rose)
There's some seriously rowdy charm in the wild rose, not to mention a kind of fortitude masked by the delicacy of its petals. These guys grow everywhere — beachside, roadside, in fields, and are easily cultivated. The petals and fruit (rosehips) are used.
The petals (as in rose petal tea) are a mild sedative, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-parasitic. They support the heart and help lower cholesterol.
Use an infusion (tea) internally for sore throats, ulcers, stimulating the liver, and for increasing appetite. Try the same brew externally to heal bruises, wounds, rashes and incisions.
Urtica dioica (Nettles)
Nettle is one of my absolute favorite herbs — a powerhouse that's high in iron, potassium, magnesium and calcium. “When in doubt, give nettles,” was the advice given by herbalist David Hoffman. Potassium is what makes nettle such a healing herb for the kidneys and urinary tract.
Nettles can grow pretty much anywhere there’s moisture — river and lake beds, lowlands, swampy areas and compost heaps. Find a patch and harvest in the early spring, before the nettles grow to full size and definitely before they flower. If you cut the plants back after flowering, you can usually coax a second crop later in the summer.
A few words of caution and advice: never ingest raw nettles. They need to be either dried or cooked. Those stinging bits? They disappear once the plant is processed.
Since nettle may lower blood pressure, definitely consult a physician before consuming nettles if you take any blood pressure meds.
To harvest, use tough rubber gloves, strip the leaves and discard the stems. Then you can steep (fresh or dried) nettle leaves in hot water, steam or sauté them for a nutrient-dense vegetable dish, or pickle them.
Cheers and happy harvesting!