Common “Weeds” as Food and Medicine- Part 1, by M.C.

[DISCLAIMER: This is information about wild food. The editors of SurvivalBlog and the author make no claims as to the correctness, safety, or usability of the data. The information contained herein is intended to be an educational tool for gathering and using wild plants. All data is to be used at your own risk.]

If things go very wrong, such as in an EOTWAWKI or SHTF scenario, you may find yourself without access to doctors and hospitals and may have to take care of yourself and your family. Being the family physician or Dr. Mom/Dad, you might have to provide herbal help and comfort, and “medicine” grows just about everywhere, for free.

Print For Stressful Situation and Have a Good Field Guide

If you find this article to be potentially useful, print it and save it in a binder for later reference. I find that the biggest lie I tell myself is “I’ll remember”. I often don’t, so I’ve made a point of printing stuff I think I might need and forget in a stressful situation.

Warning: Never eat a wild plant unless you are 100 percent positive of its identification. Get yourself a good field guide, like Edible Wild Plants – A North American Field Guide.

Useful Weeds Grow All Over the U.S.

Most of these useful “weeds” grow all over the U.S. I have personally seen them growing locally in northern California, northeast Oregon, and recently on a week long trip to northern Idaho. I found many of them in the Coeur d’Alene/Sand Point area. They grow just about everywhere! So, that being said, they likely grow in your area as well and a little scouting around before you need them is an excellent idea.

Many Are Excellent Pot Herbs

Further, many of these are excellent pot herbs as well. Some in a pan of water with maybe some rice and bouillon would make a delicious soup to extend your preps and provide fresh food to your family.


Chickweed (Stelleria media) is abundant and easy to find in the early spring. Gather fresh edible plants as soon as flowers appear. It can be used fresh or dried for later herb use.


Chickweed is medicinal and edible. Cuttings are very nutritious, high in vitamins and minerals. It can be added to salads or cooked as a pot herb, tasting somewhat like spinach.

Medicinal Uses

The whole plant is used in alternative medicine as an astringent; to relieve flatulence, as it soothes and protects mucous membranes; and as a diuretic, expectorant, laxative, means to brings down fever, and aid in healing wounds.

A decoction (strong tea) of the whole plant is taken internally post-partum as it promotes menstrual discharge, promotes secretion of milk, and is a circulatory tonic. It is also used to relieve constipation. An infusion (tea) of the dried herb is used in coughs and hoarseness and is beneficial in the treatment of kidney complaints.

New research indicates its use as an effective antihistamine. The decoction is also used externally to treat rheumatic pains, wounds and ulcers. It can be applied as a medicinal poultice by bruising the leaves and applying to a wound. It will relieve any kind of roseola and is effective wherever there are fragile superficial veins or itching skin conditions.

Recipe and Doses

A chickweed infusion recipe is as follows:

To 1 Tbsp. dried herb (2 Tbsp, if fresh), add 1 cup boiling water, and steep for 10 min. Take in ½ cup doses between two and four times daily, during a cold or flu.

Poisonous Look Alikes

There are no poisonous look alikes for chickweed.


Cleavers (Galium aparine) is also called bedstraw, goosegrass, clivers, stickyweed. It is very easy to cultivate and prefers a loose, moist, leafy soil in partial shade. This plant does not really need any help to reproduce itself and can be invasive. The stems and leaves are covered with little hooked bristles, which attach to passing objects. In this way, it fastens itself to adjacent shrubs to climb its way upwards through dense undergrowth into daylight, often forming matted masses. Leaves are narrow, lance-shaped and are rough along the margins and surface with the prickles pointing backwards. The flowers are white, tiny, 1/16 to 1/8 inch in diameter and star-like. Flowers bloom April through September.

Gather the above ground plant, being careful not to gather whatever it touches. Dry for later herb use. It should be picked through before drying to ensure herb is contaminant free.


This plant is edible and medicinal; it has been used for centuries as an alternative medicine by indigenous peoples on many continents. It is edible raw though said to be unpalatable, mainly used as a pot-herb or as an addition to soups. Using the plant as a vegetable has a slimming effect on the body. Cleavers seed is one of the best coffee substitutes. It merely needs to be dried and lightly roasted and has much the same flavor as coffee.

Medicinal Uses

Cleavers has a long history of use as an alternative medicine and is still used widely by modern herbalists. It is used both internally and externally in the treatment of a wide range of ailments. The dried or fresh herb is alterative, anti-inflammatory, laxative, and astringent; it increases perspiration, is diuretic, reduces fever, is a tonic and proves useful for healing wounds. It’s very effective in stimulating the lymphatic system and as a general detoxifying agent.

It is often taken to treat skin problems, such as seborrhea, eczema and psoriasis.

The fresh plant or juice is used as a medicinal poultice for wounds, ulcers, and many other skin problems. An infusion of the herb has shown of benefit in the treatment of glandular fever, tonsillitis, hepatitis, and cystitis. The infusion is also used to treat liver, bladder, and urinary problems. Additionally, it stimulates the uterus and affected blood vessels.

Recipe and Doses

A cleavers infusion recipe is as follows: To 1 pint of boiling water, add 3 heaping Tbsp. of dried or fresh herb. Steep 10 minutes. Take in mouthful doses throughout the day.

Poisonous Look Alikes

There are no poisonous look alikes.


Dandelion (Taraxacum) requires no picture; we all know what it looks like!


Yep, it is that weed you’re always trying to get rid of in your lawn. Dandelion is one of the most nutritious plants you can find, having more vitamins and minerals than most vegetables. It is a great spring tonic as either an infusion or added to soups. Dandelion is sweet tasting in the early spring, though after the flowers grow it become somewhat bitter. However, bitter herbs help with digestion, so maybe that is not a bad thing.

Dandelion is found growing in pastures, lawns, waste ground, sand, rocks, and even cracks in concrete. From a thick, long, tap root that is dark brown outside and white and milky white inside grow long jaggedly toothed leaves that are shiny, dark to light green and growing in the shape of a rosette close to the ground.

Medicinal Uses

The medicinal uses of dandelion include: for the treatment of the gall bladder, kidney, and urinary disorders; gallstones; jaundice; cirrhosis; hypoglycemia; indigestion with constipation; edema associated with high blood pressure and heart weakness; chronic joint and skin complaints; gout; eczema; and acne. As a tonic, dandelion strengthens the kidneys. An infusion of the root encourages the steady elimination of toxins from the body. Dandelion is a powerful diuretic but does not deplete the body of potassium. The fresh juice of dandelion is applied externally to fight bacteria and help heal wounds. The plant has an antibacterial action, inhibiting the growth of Staphococcus aureus, pneumococci, meningococci, Bacillus dysenteriae, B. typhi, C. diphtheriae, proteus.

Gather edible leaves and flowers anytime, roots in spring. Dry for later medicinal herb use.


The recipe for Dandelion Herbal Tea is as follows: 2 oz. of the dried herb or root in 1 quart of water, simmered for 30 minutes. Take in ½ cup doses every three hours for stomach, kidney, gallbladder, and liver problems. Used as spring tonic.

To make a tincture: Use roots and leaves. Dig up and rinse off, washing the roots carefully. Then slice roots thinly and fill your jar ½–¾ full of roots and leaves. Fill with 80-100 proof vodka, and shake frequently for 4-6 weeks. Decant plant material and compost them. Your tincture remains.

Poisonous Look Alikes

There are no poisonous look alikes.

Tomorrow, we will continue on with this four part series on common weeds as food and medicine. We have many more plants yet to cover, including lobelia, lamb’s quarters, mallow, and more.

See Also:

SurvivalBlog Writing Contest

This has been part one of a four part entry for Round 80 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The nearly $11,000 worth of prizes for this round include:

First Prize:

  1. A $3000 gift certificate towards a Sol-Ark Solar Generator from Veteran owned Portable Solar LLC. The only EMP Hardened Solar Generator System available to the public.
  2. A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate. This can be used for any one, two, or three day course (a $1,095 value),
  3. A course certificate from onPoint Tactical for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses, excluding those restricted for military or government teams. Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
  4. DRD Tactical is providing a 5.56 NATO QD Billet upper. These have hammer forged, chrome-lined barrels and a hard case, to go with your own AR lower. It will allow any standard AR-type rifle to have a quick change barrel. This can be assembled in less than one minute without the use of any tools. It also provides a compact carry capability in a hard case or in 3-day pack (an $1,100 value),
  5. Two cases of Mountain House freeze-dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
  6. A $250 gift certificate good for any product from Sunflower Ammo,
  7. American Gunsmithing Institute (AGI) is providing a $300 certificate good towards any of their DVD training courses.

Second Prize:

  1. A Model 175 Series Solar Generator provided by Quantum Harvest LLC (a $439 value),
  2. A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4 Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, which have a combined retail value of $589,
  3. A gift certificate for any two or three-day class from Max Velocity Tactical (a $600 value),
  4. A Three-Day Deluxe Emergency Kit from Emergency Essentials (a $190 value),
  5. Two 1,000-foot spools of full mil-spec U.S.-made 750 paracord (in-stock colors only) from (a $240 value).
  6. An assortment of products along with a one hour consultation on health and wellness from Pruitt’s Tree Resin (a $265 value).

Third Prize:

  1. A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
  2. A large handmade clothes drying rack, a washboard, and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206,
  3. Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
  4. Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security, LLC,
  5. Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances.

Round 80 ends on January 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.


      1. Genesis 1:29 (NIV) Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.”

        Also note that according to what I have read (I do not speak Chinese myself), the Chinese word is the same for food and medicine.

  1. Wonderful! I’ve been waiting for an article like this one. I’ve been studying herbs for the past year, since we moved out of the SW desert. There are very few people knowledgable in this area anymore. We have been tricked by the PTB to believe that some of our most nutritious plants are nothing more than noxious weeds. I’m looking forward to the remaining parts of this series. Thank you, M.C. for the information and the great photos!

    1. I found the photos on line, even though most plants grow here locally. I forget to take pictures during the spring and summer, I am usually busy at that time with my garden and don’t remember to take pictures.

  2. No shortage of dandelion in my yard. Ordered the book as part of my personal library. We have numerous oaks and their progeny, acorns, in the yard as well. My sister cooked a batch once, so we know how to do it. Of course the acorns draw the deer, so its a win win there.

  3. Most folks who suggest eating the dandelion leaves neglect to mention how wonderful the root is to eat. VERY full of nutrients. The earlier you dig it, the sweeter it will be. As with the leaves, later harvest equals a more bitter, good for digestion, taste. Of course, as our author says, you can dry it for tea. However, be aware. After you make the tea, you may be able to cook the root and eat in a winter soup. Edibility depends on how fibrous the root was when you dried it.

    Cook the same amount of time you would carrots. Mix with kale, cabbage, and edible weeds to mellow the bitterness.

    The best part? Free. And, you absolutely know the source.

    Carry on.

    1. Semper Fi! My hubby is a Marine also, 8 years active duty in the 70’s and 80’s.

      Actually, while most Americans do not like the taste of bitter vegetables, bitter things help with digestion. I make tinctures of bitters, I usually use gentian, hops and orange peel as a base and add others if I feel like it. Amazingly enough, when we started taking bitters, my hubby’s snoring stopped that night, and he only occasionally snores now, but even with that much softer and usually only if he has his head propped up too high on 2 pillows.

      As for eating dandelion root, it is REALLY GOOD for your kidneys.

  4. Excellent article! Here in Germany, we eat ‘Lowenzahn’ (lions tooth – Dente de Lion) or dandelion in the spring. I cook it using my Texan recipe for Turnip Greens. I can personally atest to the diuretic effects of it. Here in the local Saarland dialect, it is called “Bettsäger”, which is a nickname that loosely translates to “Bed Wetting”, and you can guess why. Once it flowers though, it’s tough to make palatable, but i cook it long and season it like i do my collard greens. None of my German friends will eat it when cooked like collard greens, and i suspect i cook most of the nutrition out of it.

    Believe it or not, i have tried canning it, and it definately looks and tastes very unpleasant after a year.

    Every spring it’s a race between me and my goats over who gets to the dandelion first!

Comments are closed.