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June 11, 2013 at 11:10 am #46232
Horseweed (Conyza canadensis)
I was standing in a parking lot with a friend the other day enjoying a cigar. My friend looks around and makes a comment about how the landowner should better maintain the property, it was being over run with weeds.
I chuckled and said, “You see weeds, I see medicine”
“Yeah Kemosabe, you see medicine everywhere you go”, he laughed.
Just from where we were standing, I notciced about ten varieties of plants growing about, but the most prolific was horseweed. In fact, it seems horseweed is one of the most common plants I see growing along side roads, in parking lots, etc. What my friend couldn’t see how ever was the forest for the trees. There in front of him was a very powerful plant. Not only was it medicine, it was also useful as a tool—used as a handdrill spindle. The shafts can also be used for arrows, though not a first choice
A native to North America, horseweed is common across all states, and was used by many tribes throughout.
- Cahuilla used it to combat diarrhea
- Blackfoot used it against diarrhea and as an antihemorrhage
- Chippwea used it as an analgesic for stomach pains
- Cree used it as antidiarrheal
- Hawaiian used pounded leaves on sore joints
- Hopi used it for headaches
- Iroquois used it with another plant on children with fevers
- Keres crushed the plant and used it as a burn dressing
- Meskwaki used it as a steaming agent in sweat baths
- Navajo used it on pimples, for stomach aches, earaches, on infants with prenatal infection
- Ojibwa used it as a hunting charm
- Potawatomi used it as medicine for horses
- Seminole used it in steam for headaches, runny nose, sore throat.
- Zuni inserted it into nose to cause sneezing , relieving rhinitis
- Miwok pulverized leaves and tender tops and used as a food with a flavor similar to onions.
This of course is just a partial list, but one can see how useful this common roadside weed is.
So, next time you’re looking out across a parking lot riddled with plants. Don’t look at them as weeds needing eradication. You may be thinking of destroying some very powerful medicine if you do.
- Conyza canadensis L.
- Erigeron candensis L.
- Composite family
Leaves or plant
Horseweed is a native North American annual plant with stiff, erect, branched and leafy stems, 1-7 feet tall. The grooved, bristly, and hairy stem bears alternate, entire or serrate leaves that are oblanceo-late and petioled near the bottom of the plant, narrow and sessile near the top. Numerous tiny (to 1/4 inch), green and white flower heads appear in panicled terminal clusters from June to November. Each flower head has many greenish white ray florets which do not spread and many yellow disk florets.
Found in North and South America and Europe. Generally inhabits waste places, roadsides, fields, and meadows all over North America except the extreme northern parts.
Astringent, diuretic, styptic, tonic
Horseweed is particularly suitable for diarrhea, dysentery, internal hemorrhage, and hemorrhoids. Native Americans boiled the root to make a tea for menstrual irregularities. It has also been recommended for bladder problems and rheumatism. Excellent for cholera, colon trouble, and summer complaint. Good for tuberculosis, kidney gravel, diabetes, hemorrhages of the stomach, nosebleeds, fevers, bronchitis, coughs, cystitis, and dropsy.
Africans used it for eczema and ringworm.
The whole plant in flower, dried in bunches.
Infusion: steep 1 level tsp. leaves or plant in 1 cup water for 30 minutes. Take 1-2 cups a day.
Enema: steep 1 tsp. leaves or plant in 1 qt. boiling water for 20 minutes. Use hot (110-112 degrees F.).
May cause contact dermatitis.
Horseweed, Mare’s Tail
by Green Deane
Conyza canadensis: Herb, Fire, Food
Conyza will light your fire!
If you’ve ever made fire with a bow and drill — you know, the Boy Scout way — you also know that choosing (or finding) the right materials is absolutely essential for you to create fire. Add to that a medicinal herb and some culinary uses and “horseweed” deserves a place among the useful weeds we should know about.
Conyza’s leaves appear to grow in a whorl but don’t
A native of North America, Conyza canadensis is now found around the world. First listed in North America in 1640 it was in France 13 years later (presumably via seeds on beaver pelts from Canada.) Native Americans used a tea from the leaves to treat dysentery and a tea from the boiled root for menstrual issues. It’s a diuretic and can make you sweat. Horseweed has also been called Fleabane because the leaves put in pets’ beds help to get rid of fleas.
As for food, young leafy seedlings and young leaves can be eaten after boiling, dried leaves can be used as a seasoning with a flavor similar to tarragon. American Indians pulverized the young tops and leaves, eating them raw, similar to using an onion. Per 100g of dry weight the leaves have 14.9 grams protein, 1.8 grams fat, 75.1 grams carbohydrates, 26.1 grams fiber, 8,2 grams ash, 1010 mg of calcium, 280 mg phosphorus, and 2610 mg potassium. An essential oil of Conyza is used to flavor candy, condiments and soda. Fresh leaves contain 0.2 – 0.66% essential oil.
Botanically Conyza canadensis (CON-knee-zah, con-KNEE-zah, con-NEIGH-zah kan-ah-DENSE-iss) means flea from Canada. Conyza comes from the Greek word konops, meaning flea. Pliny used the name for a fleabane, which was put in pet and human beds to keep away fleas.
Conyza branches on top before flowering
Conyza canadensis can easily be confused with Conyza sumatrensis and Conyza bonariensis. Conyza canadensis is distinguished by hairless or nearly hairless bracts which lack a red dot at the top but have a brownish inner surface. Conyza sumatrensis has hairy bracts but there are no long hairs near the top of the bracts. Also inner surface of bracts are reddish brown. Conyza bonariensis has densely hairy bracts, and is especially hairy on the stems and around the leaf axils.
While native to North America C. canadensis can be found in The European part of the former USSR, the Caucasus, Western and Eastern Siberia, the Far East, Central Asia, Scandinavia, Middle and Atlantic Europe, the Mediterranean, Asia Minor, Iran, Mongolia, Japan, China, and Australia.
The horseweed is also one of the best, if not the best local material for a drill when making fire with friction. Actually too fragile to be used with a bow, it works very will using the hand method. As you might expect, choose tall straight plants, let dry, remove leaves, and you’re ready. Horsetail is so good often you don’t even need a V-notch to collect a coal, it will produce one in just a depression.
Green Deane’s “Itemized” Plant Profile
IDENTIFICATION: Annual, one to seven feet tall, unbranched except for the flowering stems near top. Central stem ridged, covered with long white hairs; leaves alternate around this stem appearing whorled, similar length, 3-4″ long and ½” across, narrowly lanceolate or oblanceolate, a few teeth toward outer tips, fine white hairs along the edge. Smaller leaves near the blossoms more linear and less likely to have teeth. Many composite blossoms less than 1/8 of an inch across, lasting several weeks.
TIME OF YEAR: Summer to fall
ENVIRONMENT: Prefers full sun and good soil, well watered. But it can grow nearly anywhere, often forms colonies. Drought resistant.
METHOD OF PREPARATION: Dried leaves as a spice, very young leaves and shoots as a green boiled. Stem makes good drill for fire starting.June 11, 2013 at 12:52 pm #46251
very nice kimosabe, thank you :P
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