Quite a few of my favorite plants are common weeds to most people. Some of those weeds also have the best medicine! One of my favorite herbalists, Yarrow Willard, calls these kind of plants “People Plants.” I loved that moniker, so I’ve used it to categorize some of my favorite common plants. He describes people plants as plants that like to hang out near people, commonly growing in disturbed areas and forest edges. Hope you enjoy learning more about them!
My favorite people plants:
- Spanish Needles
If I didn’t live in Florida, all the plants on this list would probably be growing in woods nearby or even in my yard. Since I am in Florida, I’ve got Spanish Needles, Tropical Chickweed and Plantain, but the other herbs require cultivation. In most of the US, Mugwort, Yarrow and Plantain grow like weeds. I chose to include Chickweed and Spanish Needles because those plant are in great abundance near me, even in my own yard. All the plants on this lift have different affinities to people.
Plantain is also known as “White Man’s Footprint” by many North American indigenous cultures. It is said to grow in disturbed areas, where people have upset the natural balance of the ecosystem. It is a plant that knits things back together, which seems fitting when you think about when and where it appears. A great way to identify plantain and the various species in the wild is to check the number of veins in each leaf. If the leaf has 5 vertical veins, it is highly likely you’ve got a plantain species. I have found plantain in Ecuador, Florida, Colorado, Seattle, Boston and North Carolina. I have herbalist friends all over that harvest it too. It is truly a plant that spans the world, providing its healing medicine along the way.
Some of its healing qualities are in oils and salves as a topical, or as a poultice for skin concerns, whether it is a bug bite scrape, rash or cut. The leaf makes a great bandage to wrap around scrapes and cuts. It is great at knitting things back together topically and internally. It’s a wonderful lung ally, used for coughs and drawing out stuck phlegm from the lungs. The cooling, moistening properties can be used to soothe the gut and irritated stomach lining as well.
When you have it in abundance, it’s a great addition to food, with its cooling and moistening properties. Since Plantain is also medicinal, I recommend it in small amounts as food. It’s anti-venomous and a great addition to remedies dealing with insect bites and stings.
Mugwort is one of my favorite spiritual allies. It is a common weed in most of the US, and when I travel outside of Florida people look at me like I am crazy when I get excited to see huge patches of Mugwort growing on the side of the road. Mugwort allows us to see what is unseen, to explore the spiritual depths of ourselves. Many times, people take Mugwort so they can have “cool dreams” and end up with a much deeper experience. For me, this is a ceremonial plant that I work with when I want to connect with spirit and my higher self, or to remember things I know I’ve forgotten. It can help bring you to the space between veils and awaken our wilder, untamed selves.
Used spiritually, it can be a burned as a smudge, added to baths to soak in, drank as a strong infusion, or used as a tincture, glycerite or elixir. It’s shown me many secrets and is a beautiful plant spirit that is open to connecting and interacting with humans. You can weave a crown of Mugwort to wear during ceremony, helping facilitate release of what no longer serves you.
Physically, it is a great anti-fungal and blood mover. Because of its blood moving abilities, it should be avoided during pregnancy. If you are not pregnant, try it in small doses and see how it affects you. It can bring on menses when consumed, which can be great at certain times and frustrating at others. It’s a great topical oil for sore muscles and stagnation. I’ve used the oil to rub on sore or tired feet and soaked in the infusion to help ease tension from my body. Due to its bitter qualities and chemical constituents, it’s also a great remedy for inflammation of the stomach lining and bowels.
Yarrow is a plant that speaks to me and others in many ways. It’s a common weed across many parts of the US, and across the world. It is a plant people have used since Roman and Greek times. It comes up commonly in old mythology and is known by many names. Soldier’s Wound Wort, Carpenter’s Wort, and others.
The whole plant is used. It is a strong diaphoretic and has been used to treat fevers and in sweat lodges for a long time. Carpenters would carry it in their belt to avoid injuries, and the plant’s name, achillea millefolium, refers to its protective, shield like quality. It is great for both spiritual and physical protection. The leaf can stop bleeding, and is great for cuts, nosebleeds and more. Spiritually, it creates a barrier around you to provide you space and keep others out of your energetic field.
Combined with plantain, it is a great anti-inflammatory. It’s also a great regulator to tone the uterus and reproductive system. This can be used as a douche, tea, bath or more to remove and reduce stagnation in the body and blood.
Spanish Needles, Beggar-Tick or Bidens Alba is another of my favorite people plants. It grows everywhere in Florida and is a tough plant! It grows in parking lots, sidewalk cracks and anywhere it can find a speck of dirt. It is an edible and medicinal powerhouse. Not only is it great for people, but it blooms year-round and feeds the bees, butterflies and pollinators. According to Eattheweeds.com, it’s the 3rd largest nectar producer in the state of Florida.
Used or tinctured fresh, within an hour of harvesting, the plant provides strong antibacterial and antiviral properties. It has been shown to be effective against many things like lime disease and even HIV. It’s also a nutritional powerhouse, and a great cooling herb when it’s hot out. High in beta-carotene and fiber, it has a broader spectrum of nutrients than conventional spinach and contains protein. The leaves, flowers, seeds and root can all be used. I add greens and flowers in my smoothies almost every day to get my bio-regional dose of herbs and medicine.
Oh, and it is amazing topically on mosquito bites, ant bites and stings as a poultice. All species are interchangeable in my book, and they grow all over the world.
Tropical Chickweed, or Drymaria Cordata, grows all over in Florida. It’s counterpart, Stellaria Media, grows like a weed in the rest of the US and many other parts of the world. Chickweed is a great lymph mover and can gently cleanse and stimulate your lymph system. It’s a cooling, balancing herb and I consider it my #1 lymph tonic.
Chickweed goes great in a pesto, and I use it as a food and medicine. It grows year-round in Central Florida, and I love having it always available in my backyard. It can be added to smoothies, tea, soup, stir fry and more. If you think about the little stickers on the plant and how they stick to you, you can imagine how the plant sticks to “junk” in your lymphatic system and helps pull it out. It also pairs great with cleavers, although I can never find cleavers wild in Florida.
Hope you enjoy working with or growing some of these people plants!
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