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Invasive Plant Medicine

Posts: 13
Location: Laurentians, Quebec (zone 3b)
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Wondering if anyone here has read this new book...

"Invasive Plant Medicine", by Timothy Lee Scott
The Ecological Benefits and Healing Abilities of Invasives


The Paradox of Invasive Plants
By Timothy Lee Scott

“Every plant is a teacher-
But as in every crowd,
There are always
A few loudmouths.”
Dale Pendell, Living with Barbarians

Many years ago, my wife imparted the idea in me “there is no such thing as a weed”, and from then on I’ve tried to follow the assertion of Ralph Waldo Emerson that a weed is “a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.” As a practicing herbalist, with training in Chinese and Western herbal medicine, I recognized these prolific plants deemed ‘invasive’ as valuable healing remedies that have documented medicinal uses for thousands of years. A few years back I began writing an article to vent my frustrations to counter the mainstream version of these plants as insidious, noxious species sweeping over our lands with vengeance and malice, claiming no benefit to the landscape. Through my deepening with these plants, I learned that these opportunistic species are providing essential ecological functions for the Earth by protecting, enhancing, and cleaning the soil, water, and air in which they live. This has lead to my adventure into writing a book to demonstrate the benefits of ‘invasive’ plants, and to uncover the origins of this fallacy of the ‘bad’ plant.

Or as some surmise about the ‘plague’ of ‘invasive species’: ‘insidious’, ‘evil’, ‘destructive’, ‘threatening’, ‘pervasive’ ‘pollution’…

Today’s ‘War on Invasives’ is full of ‘scientific’ theories and far-reaching policies based on opinions of ‘good’ plants verses ‘bad’ plants, in which the federal government, various corporations, nature-based organizations, and the puritanical public allocates billions of dollars trying to control the wilds of Nature. Deadly herbicides, destructive removal policies, and a hate mentality divert vast resources that could be better spent on more imperative issues like habitat preservation, studying plant medicines, renewable resources, and repopulating the land with those unique plants that are on the brink of extinction. This war results from individuals and Big Business with vested interests, who have created the belief that the movement of a new, ‘exotic’ plant species entering a ‘native’ ecosystem is harmful to the surrounding inhabitants.

All plants have been on the move for hundreds of millions of years with numerous factors helping them along into areas in which they did not previously inhabit. The idea of a weed was born with the invention of the ‘crop’ some 10,000 years ago, as a plant that interfered with agriculture. The nature of a weed is opportunistic and we, as humans, have created enormous holes of opportunity for these plants to fill. They have adapted to be at peoples side, waiting for those favorable times to cover the exposed soils we are continually creating. Weeds have evolved to withstand the punishments that humans unleash upon them, with ever-changing genetics of form, function, and transmutation.

The plants considered ‘invasive’ today were brought here and spread around with the help of people, and were cherished for food, medicine, ornament, soil enhancement, and scientific curiosity. Over time though, these plants have ‘escaped’ into the wilds and have found an ecological niche, in dynamic equilibrium, amongst the different species within the landscape.

Within their niche, all plants serve ecological functions for their environment. Mullein, for example, will blanket the land where fires cleared down forests. This appears as though the plant is ‘invading’ the land, but after a year or two, new species emerge and diversity expands. Mullein has acted as a kind of Earth balm that eases and covers with its leaves the internal burns and helps regenerate new growth- which it also happens to do for the human lungs.

Forests are the lungs of the Earth, you know.

And while some plants provide food and medicine for inhabitants, some protect the land after improper clearing (Blackberry, Barberry, Wild Rose), some cleanse the water (Common Reed, Purple Loosestrife, Water Hyacinth), some rejuvenate degraded lands (Wild Mustard, Russian Olive, Scotch Broom), and some breakdown and clean up toxins and pollutants from the soil (Japanese Knotweed, Salt Cedar, Kudzu) and air (Tree of Heaven, English Ivy).

The plants are here for a reason. They are here to serve essential ecological functions, and they are here for us to use as medicine.

With the widespread appearance of these plants, we find the remedies growing all around us to cure our modern ills. The present day ‘invasion’ of plants appears to parallel the epidemic movement of pathogenic influences, revealing the symbiotic relationship between plants and disease. The plants are cleaning the technological, industrial spills and healing the toxic and pathogenic illnesses. They are offering economic opportunities for impoverished communities and providing restoration for both the land and endangered medicinal plants. The rampant wetland plant Common Reed has been found to effectively clean sewage waste, and remove 15 heavy metals and at least 11 common pollutants from the water in which it grows. We see invasive plants arriving to treat invasive, endemic disease, like Japanese Knotweed spreading in the same trajectory and at the same rate as Lyme disease throughout North America. Kudzu, nicknamed the ‘plant that ate the south’, is an endless supply of biomass and the roots are a nearly perfect biofuel, while also providing food, fodder, and medicine for economic potentials.

And we find powerful plant remedies to replace the endangered individuals that have been over-harvested for medicine, disturbed by development, and poisoned with industrial progress. There is Siberian Elm as a substitute for Slippery Elm, Barberry for Goldenseal, and Purple Loosestrife for Eyebright.


Nature is in constant flux. Landscapes do not stay the same. Plants have an intelligence of their own. And we have created habitats in which these ‘exotics’ flourish. I do know that many of our beloved places harbor these uninvited guests, but maybe we should let them have their space, allow them to play out their role, and make use of these plants when we can.

For they are asking to be of service with their abundance.

These opportunistic plants have staked claims on these places and parade around trying to get our attention. While much noise is made about these persistent plants, there is a silent story being told, with an important message being conveyed.

Though, so many times, the messenger has been killed.

May we all come to our senses, and begin listening to these bountiful green teachers of the land, who speak with an ancient eloquence of deep ecological understanding.


One version of this article can be found in the United Plant Savers, Journal of Medicinal Plant Conservation, Winter 2010; p. 16-17.
Posts: 1948
Location: PNW Oregon
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Thanks for posting this article, I've added the book to my wish list.

Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
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I've read that bitter lettuce (Lactuca virosa) has some of the same medicinal properties as opium, but without the legal issues. It grows like a weed in my part of the world.

I'm probably the person on this forum who mentions tree of heaven most often, partly because I see it everywhere, and partly because it is such a special plant. I knew it was useful as a source of herbicide, and to support a certain breed of silkworm, but I hadn't heard of its use in human medicine...I would treat such medicine with a lot of care and respect, to say the least.

Seems like an interesting book, but I would be inclined to take some of it with a grain of salt.

Scotia Scott wrote:Forests are the lungs of the Earth, you know.

I didn't know that...I had thought it was the oceans. 
Posts: 202
Location: Zone 5b - 6a, Missouri Ozarks
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Yes, I have the book and have read it and met the author.  Wonderful book, it's now in my top 10.  I learned a tremendous amount and have highly recommended it.  Makes you look at invasive plants in a whole new light.  The section on Kudzu alone is worth the book for anyone living with this plant. 

The only problem I have with this book is the same problem I have with all herbal books.  The index.  If you are reading it and see something you may ever want to look up again,check the index.  About half the time it's not there.  I read with a pencil and just add to the index. 

Posts: 4035
Location: Montana
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Here is the updated book summary thread for Invasive Plant Medicine: https://permies.com/t/40647/books/Invasive-Plant-Medicine-Timothy-Lee#316475

If you have read this book you could read the summary and give it a review and I will give you apples! Just don't forget to start the review with "I give this book __ out of 10 acorns"
Posts: 493
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Researchers have discovered the world's first ‘virological penicillin’ in a molecule found in honeysuckle.
To many it is a invasive weed! In the future it could save lives!

MIR2911 had a broad-spectrum anti-IAV effect as it was efficient at suppressing the replication of the H5N1 and H7N9 influenza viruses. Broad-spectrum antivirals - treatments that act on multiple viruses - are crucial in fighting viruses that emerge and then re-emerge later in different forms.

"With this in mind, plant MIR2911 is an ideal reagent for suppressing IAV infection," write the authors, "and it is fully expected that MIR2911, as well as MIR2911-enriched honeysuckle decoction, will be widely used for [the treatment of IAV infections]."

MIR2911 "also directly targets the Ebola virus," writes the team. Currently, there is no universally recognized treatment for the disease that is pandemic in Western Africa. Apart from experimental drugs, intensive supportive care is the only form of treatment available to patients with the virus at present.

Destiny's powerful hand has made the bed of my future. And this tiny ad:
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