Wednesday, May 13, 2015

What Worlds May Come

Glechoma hederacea, Ground Ivy, Pittsburgh, 2015

It's funny.  When I think of when, not if, we colonize other planets, I wonder what plants in particular we'll take with us.  Of course everything that we do take will be an alien, perhaps even invasive, species to this xenoworld.  I know that of course we will be taking things from Earth with us, whether on purpose or by accident (think rats on a ship, but more likely tiny seeds in an air duct, or even pollen on your eyelashes).  It's simply the nature of nature to hitch rides.
Ground Ivy, aka Creeping Charlie, official taxonomy Glechoma hederacea, was brought by colonists, probably on purpose, from Europe to North America specifically for medicinal reasons.  The herb is now ubiquitous in yards, fields, and wasteland over its range.  While not typically consumed by any variety of cattle because of its bitter taste, that very same bitterness it what gives it its value by herbalists.  I've taken ground ivy tea and it's horrible, but it does alleviate symptoms of a cough and cold.  There are other herbs I much more prefer (honeysuckle, heal all), but in a pinch I will turn to this because it's easy to find.  No amount of honey or whiskey added to ground ivy tea makes it any less loathesome, and there are reasons to be cautious with use of this herb as it contains two volatile oils, terpenoid and pulegon, that are can irritate the digestive tract, kidneys, and liver - though I've never experienced this (but in truth, I've never consumed much of the tea at any one time).
I don't recommend this herb, there are better alternatives such as heal all (aka self heal, Prunella vulgaris) being the most effective herb I have in my pantry.   Just a reminder:  Always use caution when collecting anything from the wild for medicinal or culinary purposes.  Know the dangers!

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