Wild Foods for Wise Women

Wild Foods

Did you know that many of those unglamorous “weeds” that you’ve been poisoning or pulling out of your garden and lawn are some of the world’s most well-respected and powerful healing plants? If not, you aren’t alone: many people don’t realize that common ordinary weeds can build and maintain good health. Common weeds that grow by you can boost your immunity, strengthen your liver, help you build strong blood, counter colds and the flu, increase your vitality, and even prevent cancer.

Health-promoting weeds are easy to find (even in the city), easy to identify, easy to prepare, incredibly abundant, and as delicious as high-priced gourmet goodies. Go outside right now and see if you can find one or more of my seven favorites: Burdock, Dandelion, Honeysuckle, Plantain, Red Clover, Violet, or Yellow Dock. (To the botanist: Arctium lappa, Taraxacum officinale, Plantago majus, Trifolium pratense, Viola odorata, and Rumex crispus.) You probably take them for granted. But if they could talk, they would say “Here we are! We love you! We’re waiting to change your life!”

How can they change your life? When properly prepared and used, these weeds can boost your immunity, strengthen your liver, renew your energy, and help prevent cancer. And the best part is, they’re free!

Immune System Builders

Dandelion and Honeysuckle are particularly good builders of the immune system. (The immune system is a network of cells and cell products that defends the body against disease-causing organisms such as bacteria, viruses, parasites, and cancer cells.) Dandelion root tincture (20 drops, 2 3 times a day) actually increases the production of interferon, a protein that inhibits viral multiplication and activates T-cells.

Can a powerful immune system prevent cancer? Put cancer into remission? Prevent the recurrence of cancer that has been treated? Stop a cancer from metastasizing? In my book Breast Cancer? Breast Health! The Wise Woman Way, I answer these questions affirmatively (and share recipes for immune-building soups, too). Building powerful immunity can help us remain cancer-free and it provides long-lasting benefits – and long life – for relatively little effort.

Liver Strengtheners

The liver is the body’s recycling center. This large organ is critical to healthy digestive functioning, utilization of hormones, and removal of chemicals from the body. Dandelion is an outstanding liver strengthener. It is known to protect, heal and tone up the liver, helping to relieve food allergies and aid digestion, as well as repairing damage done by drugs, chemicals, alcohol, and infections such as hepatitis. Burdock, Red Clover, Plantain, and Yellow Dock are also powerful liver strengtheners.

Most experienced healers that I’ve met are unanimous in their agreement that a healthy liver is the basis for a healthy and long life. Perhaps the single most important benefit to be gained from befriending the weeds is the strengthening of your liver function.

Dandelion, Yellow Dock, or Burdock roots are used in tinctures (20 drops, 2 3 times a day) or vinegars (1-2 large spoonsful on salad daily); Red Clover is best taken as an infusion; Plantain leaves are eaten in salad or infused in apple cider vinegar.

Blood Builders

Yellow Dock builds strong blood. Strong blood is rich in iron and other minerals needed for health. Strong blood is nutrient-rich – so vital organs get the nourishment they need for optimum functioning. Strong blood helps muscles work well without cramping and aching. Strong blood is low in cholesterol and moves easily through the circulatory system. Strong blood is packed with plenty of energy: for life, for work, and for sex.

Other green allies that build strong blood are Dandelion leaves, Red Clover blossoms, and Plantain leaves. (And for strong veins, Burdock root vinegar is a trusted ally.) Daily doses of Yellow Dock root – vinegar (see below) or tincture (5-20 drops once or twice a day) – often increase iron levels in the blood twice as fast as iron supplements. If you wish to avoid alcohol, soak chopped fresh Yellow Dock roots (or any of the other plants mentioned here) in vinegar to cover for 6 weeks. I use 1-2 tablespoons a day of the resulting medicinal vinegar to build strong blood.

Counter Cold and The Flu

Throughout the orient, Honeysuckle flowers are steeped in water and the resulting strong tea – scientifically established as antiseptic, anti-microbial, and anti-infective – drunk to ward off colds and the flu. (An injectable form of Honeysuckle is used in Chinese hospitals to counter severe infections.) Red Clover blossoms mixed with ordinary mint and steeped in hot water for several hours is an effective “cold remedy” passed down from Colonial housewives.

Increase Vitality, Even Prevent Cancer

The leaves of Violets and the blossoms of both Honeysuckle and Red Clover are renowned as safe, life-enhancing tonics. In addition to enhancing vitality and rejuvenating fertility, they have proven effectiveness against pre-cancerous conditions. Red Clover especially is noted for its ability to reverse in situ breast cancers, cervical dysplasia, and pre-cancerous polyps of the colon. Violet, whether drunk in infusion or applied as a poultice, has a reputation as a dissolver of breast lumps and a protector of the lungs, even checking the growth of tumors.

Anti-Cancer Agents

The most amazing thing about these seven humble plants is that each of them has been associated with cancer prevention. Plantain is an important Latin-American folk remedy against cancer. Burdock as a specific cure for breast cancer dates back to at least 1887 in the Ukraine. Around the world, Red Clover is a widely used folk remedy against cancer and is known as “The herb of immortality.” Dandelion is known to stop the promotion of oncogenes. (When damaged or turned on, an oncogene initiates cancer.) Violet slows tumor growth. Honeysuckle is a popular anti-cancer agent in China. Yellow dock is one of the original plants in the Native American anti-cancer brew now known as Essiac.

As you can see, these seven plants are not useless weeds by any means. Even if you don’t reach out and pick them from your yard (or that nearby vacant lot), I know you’ll be more aware of the abundance of green blessings surrounding you.

For more information on how to prepare and use herbs consult any of my books including Healing Wise and Breast Cancer? Breast Health! The Wise Woman Way. (Available in book stores and health food stores, or by calling 1-800-356-9315)

How to Use These Amazing Plants


  • Dig first-year roots in autumn; use mature seeds.
  • Used internally, it resolves chronic skin problems; fresh root binds and removes heavy metals and chemicals.
  • Use daily for six or more weeks; it is not unusual to take burdock regularly for 2 to 3 years.
  • Dried root infusion: 1 to 2 cups.
  • Cooked, dried, or raw root: eaten freely.
  • Fresh root vinegar: 1-4 tablespoons.
  • Tincture of fresh roots or seeds: 30-250 drops.
  • Infused oil of seeds: as needed on skin or scalp to encourage growth of new hair.
  • Burdock is slow acting but miraculous.


  • Leaves are nourishing, roots are tonifying.
  • Improves outlook, improves digestion and appetite, relieves food allergies.
  • Can use daily for prolonged use.
  • Fresh leaves and flowers: eaten freely.
  • Cooked greens: ½ to 2 cups (125 to 500 ml).
  • Dried root infusion (tea) 1 to 3 cups (250-750 ml).
  • Tincture of fresh plant, including root: 15-120 drops.
  • Wine of fresh flowers: no more than 6 oz (200 ml).
  • Infused oil of fresh flowers: as needed.
  • Dandelion is a superb ally for liver and breasts. Regular use internally before meals and externally before sleep helps keep breasts healthy, reverses cancerous changes. Digestion is settled and strengthened a few minutes after taking a dose. Results in breast tissue are slower, taking six weeks or more to become evident.


One of the most vigorous vines known, Honeysuckle makes an excellent complementary medicine for many Western drugs, moderating or eliminating many of their damaging side-effects. The flower buds are harvested in May or June, dried quickly in the sun without turning or handling, infused in water overnight (one ounce dried blossoms to one quart boiling water in a tightly sealed jar steeped for 4-10 hours), and drunk freely.


  • Use leaves, harvested any time, or ripe seeds with hulls.
  • Internal use:
  • Seeds: anti-microbial, against thrush;
  • Leaves: promote blood clotting, increase in iron, strengthen digestion.
  • Used externally: leaf poultice or oil reduces cysts, heals skin and connective tissues, stops itching and prevents scars.
  • Daily use: no limit.
  • Raw leaves: 3-20 chopped in salad.
  • Fresh leaf vinegar: 1-2 tablespoons (15-30 ml).
  • Fresh leaf oil/ointment or poultice: as needed.
  • Internal response is prompt; noticeable improvement in blood iron is seen in two weeks of daily use. External response is also rapid: itching ceases, bleeding stops, pain abates, and swelling recedes in minutes. Plantain promotes quick, scarless healing from all wounds.

Red Clover:

  • Use the just-opened blossoms with a few leaves clinging.
  • Internally: alkalinizes, builds blood; helps prevent the recurrence of cancer, protects liver and lungs, improves appetite, relieves constipation, eases anxiety; relieves symptoms of menopause, increases fertility.
  • Externally: softens and reduces breast lumps; is antifungal.
  • Daily use is without limit.
  • Fresh blossoms: eaten freely.
  • Infusion (tea) of dried flowers: up to one quart (1 liter).
  • Tincture/mother tincture of fresh blossoms: 15-100 drops.
  • Fresh flower vinegar: 1-4 tablespoons (15-60 ml).
  • Note: Over consumption of blood-thinning coumarins, which are present only in low amounts in red clover but found in greater amounts in other clovers such as sweet clover, can lead to the breakdown of blood cells and increase risk of hemorrhage.
  • Red clover (legume family) shares with its sisters, lentil and astragalus, the ability to repair damaged DNA, turn off oncogenes, and reverse both pre-cancers and in situ cancers. According to J. Hartwell, author of Plants Used Against Cancer, medical literature has reported and confirmed hundreds of cases of remission of cancer after consistent use of red clover. I agree.


  • Use the leaves, harvested any time, even during flowering.
  • Externally: Eases pain and inflammation, heals mouth sores, softens skin, antifungal.
  • Daily dose: Use without limit, non-toxic.
  • Fresh leaves: in salad, as desired.
  • Dried leaf infusion: up to one quart (1 liter).
  • Fresh or dried leaf poultice: continuously.
  • Internal and external use of violet can shrink a breast lump in a month.

Yellow Dock:

  • Use roots of a plant at least two years old, dug after autumn frosts, or very early in the spring; leaves, harvested at any time, use ripe seeds.
  • Internally: as root tincture or vinegar, yellow dock builds healthy blood, protects liver, and acts as a laxative. As a seed tea, it heals mouth sores and checks diarrhea.
  • Externally: Poultices dissolve lumps, counter tumors and kill fungus infections.
  • Can be used daily for up to 12 months.
  • Tincture of fresh roots: 10-60 drops per day.
  • Fresh root vinegar: 1-2 tablespoons (30 ml) per day.
  • Dried seed tea: no more than one cup (250 ml) per day.
  • Fresh root oil/ointment: liberally, as needed.

Legal Disclaimer: This content is not intended to replace conventional medical treatment. Any suggestions made and all herbs listed are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, condition or symptom. Personal directions and use should be provided by a clinical herbalist or other qualified healthcare practitioner with a specific formula for you. All material on this website/email is provided for general information purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or consultation. Contact a reputable healthcare practitioner if you are in need of medical care. Exercise self-empowerment by seeking a second opinion

The Author:

LEARN HOW TO PREVENT ILLNESS AND HEAL YOURSELF safely and easily the Wise Woman Way. Women’s health forum, FREE women’s forum, weblog, and email group. Topics include menopause, breast health, childbearing, fertility, disease prevention, nutritional advice, and cancer prevention. Visit the Wise Woman Web

Susun Weed, Copyright 2009

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