An old herbalist philosophy is in, what grows near where you live, is what your body needs to heal. This is also the theory of bio-dynamic gardening, that a food is going to be more beneficial for one's body if it comes from the same latitude and longitude as it's consumer. This notion and practice is also a very sustainable way of eating as it eliminates using many resources such as transportation and agriculture chemicals.

The benefits of foraging for wild foods

From personal experience I have found utilising wild foods, very helpful for my well being, I always feel more nourished when I eat things from my own veggie garden, a local organic farmer, or something I have foraged which grows wild near me.

Especially the latter, as the wild foods are very nutritious, medicinal and free. If one knows what to look for and learns about accurate identification, there are many benefits to eating wild foods.

Of course in this day and age of concrete jungles, not everyone has the luxury of having anything growing wild near them. So for city dwellers, the options are more limited - yet still possible. If you have a lawn or a nearby park it is good to know there are a few plants which are considered by most people as 'weeds' which are edible, and in fact very potent medicines. Firstly and very importantly one must research in your area whether the plants have been sprayed with poisons before consuming them, ask your local council if so do not harvest!

Respect the plants

Many alternative health products have become very expensive and therefore inaccessible. The latest exotic herbs benefiting your health should not be expensive, this is the advantage of discovering what is edible and medicinal in your region. If you do start harvesting wild foods, one thing I request is to respect the plants, do not take them all, leave some so the plant can reseed or regrow.

Be gentle, and only take what you need. Although in most regions these plants are classified as weeds, so no one, including nature will mind if you remove them. I will list a few common edible 'weeds' which grow in the backyard, not everywhere in the world, yet they are prolific little herbs. I know for sure they are in parts of Asia, UK, Europe, America and Australia.

If they do not grow in your area, why not buy the seeds online and keep the plant contained in pots? There are many wonderful herbs to list. I will describes ways you can add them to your diet and how they are very medicinal and can help balance your body and hopefully in the process remove weeds from the environment.

Dandelion (Taraxacum Officinale)The beauty herb

The humble dandelion is an incredible little plant, every part of it can be utilised; the flowers, leaves and the roots which are especially medicinal. It is a lovely perennial plant, which secretes a bitter white milk and has bright yellow flowers, which turn into light fluffy seed pods, which blow in the wind and dark green jagged shaped long leaves.

From my experience with dandelion, it is the cosmetic cleansing herb, it cleanses the liver, gall bladder and spleen after consistent use can create softer hair, clearer skin and brighter eyes. It is definitely the beauty herb. To taste, it is slightly bitter, bitter is a good sign that a herb is going to be very good for cleaning out the body, especially the liver. Dandelion is a wonderful herb for making the skin glow and is helpful in stopping acne, blackheads, eczema and healing cuts, due to it's antimicrobial and anti-fungal properties. Due to the fact it eliminates toxins from the liver and gall bladder, it also inhibits jaundice and helps with weight loss.

Let it flow and go!

Dandelion is a diuretic, so increases urination which is helpful in lowering blood pressure and stopping urinary tract infections.

Due to its diuretic properties, it is helpful for diabetics as it helps eliminate sugars from the body via urine. It also stimulates production of insulin from the pancreas therefore keeping blood sugar low. It has a high fibre content which is good for cleaning out and regulating bowels and preventing serious gastrointestinal problems.

It is a great herb to combat toxicity of the body and prevent disease, such as cancer, anaemia and auto-immune diseases. It has a very high content of calcium, vitamin C, iron, luteolin, Vitamin A, and antioxidants. Dandelion is pretty prolific and one can find it growing in grassy areas worldwide. It has a distinctive look about it, once you know what to look for.

Dandelion has a bitter, yet warm, nutty flavour. It can be drank as a tea, or made into a wine, the leaves and flowers can be used in salads, cooking and smoothies. The root can be baked and ground and used as a coffee substitute, or as a flour type substance, or made into a tincture with alcohol. It truly is one of the most accessible super foods on the planet.

Plantain (Plantago Major) The prolific cleanser

Not to be confused without the banana leaf of the same name, Plantain is a perennial deep rooted little plant which grows in the lawn. It has long ribbed leaves and long seed pods which look like a bit like a bullrush, it is from the Plantaginaceae family. Like the Dandelion it is prolific in many parts of the world as a common lawn 'weed' and like Dandelion it is also a very powerful medicinal herb which has been used in folk Medicine for thousands of years, and is known to have many beneficial properties and great to incorporate into one's diet.

There are two very useful varieties, one plantain major which has wider more radial, oval leaves and plantain minor which has longer thinner leaves, both are distinctively ribbed and grow in clumps. It is also known by the name of snake weed, due to it's efficiency with assisting venomous bites, also known by the names, Ripple Grass, Waybread, Slanlus, Cuckoo's Bread, Che Qian Zi, Weybroed, Breitwegerich and White Man's Foot, because everywhere white man went it followed.

Helps heal internally and externally

Plantain is known for it's benefits with skin issues such as inflammation, acne, sores and cuts, as it is a haemostatic, meaning it helps stop bleeding externally and internally. It can be rubbed on the skin to relieve burns, wounds or insect bites.

It too is very good for the liver and preventing jaundice and assisting with hepatitis and gout. Also a herb helpful for respiratory disorders, such as bronchitis, lung infections, asthma, emphysema. It has been known by old folklore herbalists such as Culpepper to assist with stopping scabies, ringworm, shingles, nausea, diarrhoea, digestive disorders and dysentery and being a panacea which means good for everything. It is rich in vitamin, C, zinc, vitamin B1 and riboflavin. Its also contains a glycoside called Acubin, which is reported by the journal of toxicology to be a strong anti-toxin, which eliminates carcinogens. It also contains many beneficial antioxidants. It is an anti-parasitic, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, demulcent (relieves irritation), laxative, astringent, blood purifier and diuretic.

These are just some of the known properties of Plantain, it is overall a wonderful health tonic. The taste is slightly bitter and sweet. Leaves can be put in salads, cooked in stews or blended raw into smoothies, or juices.

Nettle (Urtica Dioca) The Blood Cleanser

Stinging Nettle of the family Urticaceae, yes it stings when accidentally touched, yet can be harvested with care and cooked or blanched and then it will not sting you. Nettle is a ground creeping plant, which has dark green small jagged leaves, which sting due to small barb-like hairs which protrude the leaves and stem. It will sting when you touch them, so pick with caution, wear gloves.

Nettle is beneficial for all the organs and diseases related to them and helps circulation, thus regulating the heart.

It is high in blood cleansing chlorophyll, and a hemetic, which means very rich in iron, so it's great for anaemia. It's high vitamin C content aids with iron absorption and is immune boosting, it also includes the trace mineral boron, which in small doses is very good for the body, and often hard to source. It is fantastic for women, especially for bad PMS and heavy periods, this is because it is also a haemostatic which means it stops bleeding and quickens healing. It is beneficial in pregnancy due to its rich mineral content and vitamin K. It increases milk production for lactating women and is helpful in labor to ease pains. It is good for men too in assisting with englarged prostate.

Detoxifier eliminator of rubbish

Nettle has fantastic eliminative qualities especially of uric waste, it is an alkalising diuretic and helpful for eliminating and breaking down kidney stones, stopping urinary tract infections and gout. It also helps clean out metabolic wastes from the colon and lymphatic system. Assisting with treating diarrhoea and gastrointestinal disorders. It is also good for the skin, surprisingly considering it stings and irritates when you touch it, yet many herbs can assist with ailments similar to the effects they can have. Nettle an anti-histamine and is helpful in treating skin disorders such as eczema, acne, hives and allergic reactions and insect bites. It also relieves arthritis, tendonitis and joint pain.

It is helpful with weight loss, lung issues such as asthma, tuberculosis, bronchitis, and flus. It helps protect thyroid from goiter. Assists with fever, piles, and Alzheimer's disease. It is considered an althelmintic which means good for expelling worms and parasites.

What a healthy life tonic! A truly remarkable super herb and can be a great food, cooked like spinach it is lovely in curries, sauces or blanched or lightly steamed with salt, pepper and lemon. It can be drank in a tasty herbal tea.The word Nettle comes from the word needle due to it's sharp hairs and once in Europe, it was a popular material to make thread and clothes, linen and produces a green or yellow dye. Why people are not making sustainable clothing from it now I have to wonder?

Remember when preparing these herbs to wash them and check the area has not been sprayed with herbicides. Also, if you are on pharmaceutical medication consult with a physician to make sure there are no contraindications.

Stay tuned for part two of the edible 'weed' guide.