Podcast 090: 3 Medicinal Invasive Plants

Where does loosestrife belong? Is barberry a badberry? And what’s with all the knotweed everywhere?! Most folks will tell you it’s simple: “These are invasive plants. They’re bullies, who take over an area and crowd out “native” plants! They need to be pulled out, root and branch! No use for ’em – not a good seed in the lot!” … Whew. If that were true, there’d be no such thing as medicinal invasive plants – but we’re here to tell you, there is such a thing. Many such, actually!

In this episode we’ll tell you all about three of our favorite “invasive” herbs in our part of the world: purple loosestrife, Japanese knotweed, and barberry (European and Japanese varieties). We’ll explore each one’s medicinal virtues and specific talents, drawing insights from historical & traditional practice, phytochemistry, and our own experiences working with these plants to solve problems and improve health.

In the process, we’ll work to challenge some of the underlying assumptions in the standard narrative about invasive plants. Too often, this concept is predicated on unexamined biased assumptions about what it means to be “native” and what it means to be otherwise. The truth is, plants aren’t native to geography, they’re native to ecology. As the environment changes, the places plants live must change too. Thinking differently about invasives can help us better understand and relate to our changing world. And where better to begin than with some common, underappreciated, but potent medicinal invasive plants?

Herbs discussed include purple loosestrife, Japanese knotweed, barberry, & autumn olive.

Also mentioned in this episode:

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Our theme music is “Wings” by Nicolai Heidlas.


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