When I say New York City — what do you envision? Skyscrapers, lots of people, stores, crowds, concrete. I’m so sure. My hometown of NYC certainly has plenty of bright lights and activities to keep you busy, but did you know that there are so many parks and lots of designated green spaces as well?
With all of the nature spots and the vacant lots of land across the boroughs, there is actually an abundance of healing herbs that can be found in New York City. In my own personal experiences throughout Queens, Manhattan, and Brooklyn — I’ve seen a range of herbal medicine growing uncared for, and this includes common weeds like dandelion, shepherd’s purse, and plantain, which grow along concrete cracks.
Today, I want to explore 3 weeds that may be overlooked but are common in New York City (and they’re good for you!)
Did you know that this is actually witch hazel? As in, the stuff that’s used for skin toners. Yup! When I first took this picture in Prospect Park, I didn’t know that. I just happened to stumble across the connection during research one day! Witch hazel is an incredibly powerful plant with numerous medicinal properties.
Both the leaves and bark are made into teas, ointments, and more. As an herbal drink, it can help with respiratory illnesses, sore throats, and can soothe inflammation in various parts of the body, including the skin. Of course, you can also apply witch hazel directly onto your skin to soothe inflammation and cleanse.
This unique-looking plant is known to be an astringent; it does a great job of easing inflammation and soothing sensitive skin. It’s also great for acne-prone skin.
Red clover can most likely be spotted in a field of grass. I tend to see them more in the summer, here in NYC (I shot this photo the first week of October in Central Park). Historically, red clover was used for asthma, whooping cough, cancer, and gout. But you can also find it as a recommended herb for women’s supportive health. Red clover has plant-based chemicals (phytoestrogens) that act like estrogen, so many women may turn to this herb for hormonal balance and support.
Like many other herbs, red clover is also rich in antioxidants to help reduce inflammation and help eradicate free radicals from the bloodstream; these free radicals cause oxidative stress in our bodies (so it’s great for anti-aging benefits). ANDDD not to mention, red clover is useful for heart health because it has blood-thinning properties which can help improve circulation and blood flow. In addition, it’s great for helping to reduce high cholesterol levels.
Now, if you’re looking for a diuretic herb to help fight off urinary tract infections and to get rid of kidney stones, I’d suggest working with goldenrod. Goldenrod is usually found alongside roads, in empty lots, and basically wherever wild weeds are growing. You can find Goldenrod in bloom during the late summer into the fall. Here, I took this photo of goldenrod at Central Park in the first week of October.
Goldenrod is known to increase urine flow and thus, is often used to wash out bacteria from the urinary tract while also soothing the inflamed tissues and calming muscle spasms. Additionally, goldenrod can be used for respiratory issues, similar to red clover above. Folks may reach for goldenrod tea to fight the common cold, flu, and even bronchitis.
I look forward to sharing more common “weeds” that are popping up this spring and have medicinal benefits such as blue grape hyacinth, shepherd’s purse, and more!
All photography captured by Brandyce, all rights reserved.
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