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Teas: thyme, dandelion root, and chickweed

The other week I harvested some dandelion roots and chickweed, to try out for their medicinal properties. I also tried thyme infusion. Here are the reports.

Thyme infusion

A couple of sprigs of fresh (or dried) thyme in a mug, fill with boiling water, cover, and leave for 5-10 min. Crushing the leaves a little beforehand makes a stronger infusion, I found. It’s supposed to be a good decongestant.

It certainly tastes lovely (you can add a little honey, but I didn’t bother), and both I (a little sniffly at the time) and my cold-ridden test subject found that it did at least temporarily seem to have a de-gunking effect. Cold-ridden test subject also said it made him feel calmer.

Would voluntarily drink again!

Dandelion root decoction

Since dandelion roots are quite tough, this required a decoction, which means that instead of just infusing in boiling water, one simmers it on the stove for a while — in this case, I simmered a couple of smallish roots for about 15 min.

I was expecting bitterness, and was all set to add some honey, but in fact I found it quite pleasantly earthy, and not bitter at all. Certainly less bitter than strong black tea.

It’s supposed to have general tonic effects, and in particular to be good for the liver and kidneys. I didn’t particularly notice a diuretic effect, but I did feel a bit better after drinking it (I had a couple of glasses of wine the night before and was feeling just slightly under the weather). So might make a good hangover cure!

Would drink again but with less enthusiasm than the thyme.

Chickweed infusion

A small handful of dried chickweed; pour boiling water over, cover, and leave for 10-30 min. Supposed to be good for coughs and hoarseness. I didn’t really have either symptom, but my throat’s been a little scratchy of late.

Unlike the thyme tea, I had to strain this, as the chickweed didn’t sink enough for me to drink around it. It doesn’t taste of much at all, and it smells of wet greenery. Not unpleasant, but not actively pleasant, either. Maybe a slightly bittersweet aftertaste? (It does that strange thing whereby the thing itself doesn’t taste of much but your mouth tastes sweet afterwards.)

I didn’t particularly notice a soothing effect, although I did notice a slight degunking effect; but that can just be associated with drinking liquid of any sort. Plus it made my nose tickle.

Would try again if I had a cough or hoarse throat, but wouldn’t drink for pleasure.

I’ve also poured oil over a jar of dried chickweed and put that in the sun for a couple of weeks, to try it as a healing oil for minor skin irritation.

food

We are weeds, vegetation…

Yesterday I went down the allotment to harvest weeds.*

Specifically, I dug up a bunch of dandelion roots, and gathered a handful of what I suspected was (and now am sure is) chickweed.  I’ve been reading this fantastic herbalism zine, which told me that both of these are medicinally useful.

Dandelion root can be used to stimulate the liver, gallbladder, and kidneys; or just as a general tonic containing lots of minerals (including iron, potassium, and calcium, all particularly useful if you’re vegan).  To preserve it, dry the roots (wash them and leave them somewhere dark; if you split larger roots down the middle they’ll dry faster), and store them in a sealed container in a cool, dark place.  To use it, make a decoction by putting 1oz of root and 1pt of water in a pan and simmering until the water has reduced by 50%.  Strain and drink.

Chickweed is good as an infusion of dried herb for coughs and hoarseness; and as an infused oil to treat minor skin problems (burns, rashes, itching, dryness).  Alternatively you can just eat the leaves as a salad leaf.  I tried my sample plants after I’d IDed them, and found it quite tasty.  To dry it, it’s best to hang it somewhere dark and warm (but spread on a windowsill is fine if that’s the easiest option for you).  To make an infusion, pour boiling water over the dried herb, cover, and leave for 10-30 min.  To make an infused oil, macerate the dried herb in olive oil, place in a warm sunny window for 2 weeks, strain, and bottle in a dark glass bottle.  (You can make a stronger oil by adding more herbs and leaving for another fortnight.)

I can’t yet report back on how these work (or taste!) as I’m still in the drying stage.  I’ll update in a couple of weeks.

The best bit about all of this is that these are not plants which I have any trouble at all in growing.  Currently the chickweed is popping up all over the squash bed as the squash dies down.  I’m incredibly pleased to find out that there’s something useful (beyond just chucking it in the compost heap) that I can do with it. 

Next task: try to establish whether any of my other weeds are useful.  Sadly I’m not sure we have any yarrow. 

* I planted some broad beans and early dwarf peas, as well — we have an Aphid Problem which means that the only chance to get any actual broad beans is to get the plants up and producing in the spring before the aphids have woken up.  Which in turn means overwintering them.