Speaker: Dr. Cyndi Gilbert, ND
Written by: Esha & Sheena Jain
It is a great misconception that weeds that grow in our gardens are “the enemy.” Dr. Cyndi Gilbert a naturopathic doctor states that weeds are herbs, a food, which add flavour to our meals, providing us with minerals, vitamins and antioxidants. Weeds help prevent diseases as they are easily absorbed and aid in supporting our health. Why weeds you may ask, simply put they are accessible, local, free, nutritious and sustainable. The following are just a few brief examples of uses and health benefits of some edible weeds:
|Weed||Available Nutrients/Vitamins/Minerals & Effects||Medical Benefits||Disadvantages|
|Dandelion||– Greens: ↑ in beta-carotene, Vitamin C, Vitamin K &
– Roots: ↑ in fiber (inulin) & Iron
– Gentle laxative
– Improves fat digestion & reduces cholesterol
– Leaves: Diuretic effects
|Can assist in the management of:
– Acne, Eczema
– Constipation, UTI
– High Blood Pressure
|Lamb Quarters||– ↑ in Calcium, Protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin C,
– Laxative effects
|– ↑ in Oxalates
(increases risk of Kidney stones when raw)
|Red Clover||– ↑ in phytoestrogens (isoflavones), Calcium,
Magnesium, Phosphorous & Potassium
|Hormone balancing effects
– ↓Hot Flashes
– Prevents breast
– Possibly prevents
|Stinging Nettle||– ↑ in Iron & Vitamin C
– Helps rehabilitate toxic soils
– Because it can move minerals and nitrogen
– Boosts milk supply in dairy cows
– Gives other flowers or plants there scent
(e.g. gives peppermint, and lavender there smell)
|Can be used in management of:
– Acne, eczema
– Hair Loss
– Arthritis, Gout
– Hay Fever
– Root: used for
|– Stings when
(no longer stings
– Handle with
|Burdock||– ↑ in fiber (lingnins, Inulin), prebiotics
– Metabolic Effects
|Can be used in management of:
– Diabetes Mellitus
|Garlic Mustard||– Antimicrobial, antibiotics||Can be used for:
There are many herbs/herbal supplements available to us as consumers. However unless we are the ones harvesting these herbs on our own, we cannot be sure of the environmental conditions and the quality of soil that these herbs were grown under. Therefore although there are many advantages of consuming herbs, we must take extra precaution when purchasing herbs from an external source. The best way to ensure we are consuming high quality herbs, is to gain access to information about sourcing, soil quality and growing conditions. This will ensure that we benefit from all of the valuable effects that herbs have to offer, under ideal conditions.
- Does the way in which the herbs are prepared affect the amount of nutrients one is able to extract out of them?
Herbs should be exposed to some heat in order to get rid of any harmful toxins present within it. Weed roots have the ability to pick up toxins from its surrounding environment. Therefore herbs should be slightly sautéed to eradicate any toxins, but should not be overcooked as to cook out all of its beneficial nutrients.
- Plant foods contain oxalic acid, why are people afraid to consume raw greens because of it?
Oxalic acid binds with certain nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, iron, sodium and potassium in the body. This forms an oxalate composite in the form of kidney stones. The long-term consumption of foods high in oxalic acid can lead to nutrient deficiencies.
It is important to know which foods contain oxalic acid. Specifically roots and leaves of rhubarb or lambs quarters contain high concentrations of oxalic acid. According to Dr. Gilbert, adding vinegar to these particular roots during preparation, decreases the amount of oxalic acid consumed.
- Does consuming herbs affect pregnancy and lactation negatively?
Most herbs used in cooking are safe during pregnancy and lactation; however it is important to know that there are some herbs that decrease milk supply. Consuming herbs in large quantities can also be detrimental during pregnancy and should be consumed in moderation. These include:
– Kava Kava
|– Periwinkle Herb
– Rhubarb (root)
- If your diet consists heavily of herbs, how might it interact with medications?
Most people are unaware that herbs can negatively interact with medications. The herb can cause increasing or decreasing amounts of the medication in the bloodstream. The herb could prevent the drug from getting into the bloodstream by stimulating an enzyme to degrade the medication and eliminate it from the body. This causes a decreased amount of the medication within the body. Some herbs can aid in inhibiting the enzyme responsible for metabolizing and excreting a drug. This causes increased amounts of the medication in the body. The above situations demonstrate how herbs can either cause a medication to appear ineffective or produce side effects.
Some herbs may produce opposite or similar effects as the medication thus reducing or increasing the drug effects respectively. According to Dr. Gilbert a prime example would be a diabetic patient on insulin, who also consumes large amounts of burdock. Burdock is a root that also aids in controlling insulin. The interaction of both the insulin medication and the burdock root may cause an increase in the insulin-like effects causing the patient to become hypoglycemic, which can be life-threatening.
Some examples of how herbs can interact with medications are included below:
|Herb||Medications/ Drug Classes||Drug Interaction Effects|
|Echinacea||– Anabolic Steroids
|– Liver Inflammation|
|– ↑↑ Blood Pressure & Heart Rate
– Death in some individuals
|Feverfew||– Anticoagulants||– ↑ Bleeding|
|Garlic||– Anticoagulants||– ↑Bleeding|
|Ginger||– Anticoagulants||– ↑ Bleeding|
|Ginkgo||– Warfarin||– ↑ Bleeding|
|Ginseng||– Warfarin||– ↓ effectiveness of Warfarin|
|Kava-Kava||– Anti-epileptics||– ↑ effectiveness of anti-epileptics|
|– Anesthetics||– Prolongs effects of anesthetics|
|– Alcohol||– Enhances alcoholic effects|
|St John’s Wort||– Anesthetics||– Prolongs effects of anesthetics|
|– Warfarin||– ↓ effectiveness of Warfarin|
|Valerian||– Anti-epileptics||– ↑ effects of anti-epileptics|
|– Anesthetics||– Prolongs effects of anesthetic agents|
Dharmananda, Subhuti, Ph.D., Director, Institute for Traditional Medicine,. “DRUGS AND NURSING.” On Taking Herbs While Breastfeeding. N.p., n.d. (http://www.itmonline.org/arts/breast.htm.) 10 June 2016.
Dharmananda, Subhuti, Ph.D., Director, Institute for Traditional Medicine. “HERBALS AND DRUG
INTERACTIONS.” Checking for Possible Herb-Drug Interactions. N.p., n.d. (http://www.itmonline.org/arts/herbdrug2.htm.) 10 June 2016.
Herrington, Diana. “Oxalic Acid Controversy.” Real Food For Life. N.p., n.d. (http://realfoodforlife.com/oxalic-acid-controversy/.) 10 June 2016.
“In Defense of Oxalic Acid.” In Defense of Oxalic Acid. N.p., n.d. (http://www.dewsworld.com/InDefenseofOxalicAcid.html.) 10 June 2016.