Wildly Weedy Herbs

Modern weeds that were used as herbs in the pre-1601 period—a sampling. Period uses for plants that now grow wild in North America; lawn weeds, hedgerows, roadsides, parks, waste places. Also guidelines/suggestions for gathering/ transplanting when appropriate.


Bedstraw and cleavers (Galium Sp.) - Cheese rennet, dyeplants, food

Catnip ( Nepeta cataria ) vs. Calamint (Calamintha nepeta)

Common Chickweed (Stellaria Media

Chicory ( Cichorium intybus ) -- cooked and salad green (endive, chicory)

Dandelion ( Taraxacum officinale) diuretic, food

Ground Ivy/Alehoof/ Gill over ground(Glechoma hederacea )

Beer herb (gruit)

Johnny-jump-ups / Wild Pansies (Viola Tricolor)


Lambsquarters, Fat Hen, Pigweed and other Goosefoots (Chenopodium album et al)

Food. May have been called Blites, but that could be Amaranth.

Mint (Mentha species)

Medical (cooling for fevers, stomach soothing), food, strewing herb

White Mustard ( Sinapis alba )



Common or Great Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)

Hedge Taper, used for lung illnesss, also as a bumwipe.

Nettles ( Urtica dioica )

Food, cloth, and counter-irritant medicine, spring tonic

Plantain (Plantago major, Plantago lanceolata)

Demulcent herb for bruises, blisters. Seeds are laxative. Food

Purslane (Portulaca oleracea)


Roses (Rosa sp. especially Rosa Canina and Rosa Gallica)

Food, medicine, strewing herb, scents

Tansy ( Tanacetum vulgare )

Used in egg dishes in period-- currently NOT RECOMMENDED for internal use.. Reputed to drive away flies. Strewing herb. Good dried flower.

Teasel ( Dipsacus fullonum) : used by fullers to ‘tease' woolen fabric

Violets (viola)

Decorative, strewing herbs, food, medicine, scent

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

Wound herb

(Most illustrations in this handout are from: Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. Illustrated flora of the northern states and Canada .)

Resources on weeds:

Notes from a class in the SCA taught by Jadwiga Zajaczkowa. Copyright Jennifer Heise, jenne.heise@gmail.com 2005-2017. Creative Commons License
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