Browsing the archives for the mugwort tag.

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Some Wild Things in November

General Posts

It’s November and surprisingly there are still a lot of wild edibles around in Western PA! Yesterday in Pittsburgh I saw a vacant lot which had chicory, dandelion and red clover - all in bloom!

Yesterday I enjoyed a fresh juice which contained fresh nettles, fresh lemon balm and fresh mint as well as pineapple and apples.

Green Juice with Fresh Nettles

Green Juice with Fresh Nettles

We harvested, dried, and bundled wild mugwort into smudges:

Drying Wild Harvested Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)

Drying Wild Harvested Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)

Smudges Made of Wild Dried Mugwort, used to cleanse energy

Smudges Made of Wild Dried Mugwort, used to cleanse energy

We also made our own moxabustion out of the leaves of mugwort which we use as loose moxa in cone form, and we also made our first moxa pole from our own mugwort! To read more about how we did that, check out our sister blog Birch Center.

Burning Moxa Cone, Used In Acupuncture Treatments

Burning Moxa Cone, Used In Acupuncture Treatments

As the season goes into winter it may be tempting to hang up our foraging basket…but there is plenty to harvest now and throughout the winter! Check out my book Winter Foraging Wild Food Feasting, available to download from our website or on Amazon for your Kindle!


Today I plan to harvest burdock root and lemon balm.

Let’s all keep on foraging right through winter.  Next thing we know, there will be morels popping up, heralding the spring!

Happy Foraging!

~ Melissa Sokulski of Food Under Foot


CSF week 8: Berries, Bitter herbs, and Broken Bones

CSF Newsletters

This week's yummy share: white clover leaves, white clover flowers, chicory leaves, comfrey leaves (external use), mulberries, chicory root, serviceberries, mugwort leaves.

This week's yummy share: white clover leaves, white clover flowers, chicory leaves, comfrey leaves (external use), mulberries, chicory root, serviceberries, mugwort leaves.

All new things in your yummy share this week!

  • white clover leaves - soups, salad, stir fry
  • white clover flowers - soup, salad, stir fry
  • chicory leaves (bitter) - soup, salad, stir fry or dried
  • comfrey leaves - external use, in “honor” of Ella breaking her arm this week, dry for a “tea” used as a wash or bath to heal broken bones. Can also make into an oil which helps heal.
  • mulberries - white and purple - raw or cooked, yum
  • serviceberries/juneberries - raw or cooked, yum
  • chicory root - cut and dry for tea or roast and grind for coffee substitute
  • mugwort - steep in vinegar for mineral-rich vinegar, steam as a green (eat with caution, some people are sensitive), dry for “magical” uses: dream pillow (will enhance dreams), carried dried herb when traveling for protection, burn as a “smudge” to clear energy, similar to sage

What a share this week! All new things! Berries!

The very bitter chicory leaves are excellent for your liver, and also help digestion. They compliment the sweet berries very well. They can also be dried to use later as tea. They look like dandelion leaves don’t they? You’ll notice there are little hairs on these leaves while dandelion leaves are totally hairless. These leaves also climb up the flower stalk which you’ll see in the picture below, whereas dandelion flowers always stay in their rosettes on the ground.

Dave with the chicory.

Dave with the chicory

Two kinds of mulberries: white and purple, both are fully ripe! You’ll notice the white ones in general are sweet without the tartness of the purple. They can be eaten raw or cooked into desserts like pies.

ripe white and purple mulberries

ripe white and purple mulberries

The serviceberries (also called juneberries): the darker ones are more ripe. They can also be eaten raw or cooked into desserts. You’ll notice a delicious almond flavor in the tiny seeds.

serviceberries, aka juneberries

serviceberries, aka juneberries

The comfrey is included this week in honor of Ella, who broke her arm. The FDA recommends comfrey for external use only, due to a controversial alkaloid in the comfrey (the same one as in coltsfoot.) Even though comfrey has been used as long as food as been eaten and plants have been used as medicine, I feel I should pass along this information to you. There was a study where the alkaloid, when isolated and given to mice in large amounts, caused the mice to get liver cancer.


Comfrey - Symphytum officianale - is still used homeopathically to treat broken bones as a remedy called Symphytum.  To use it externally it can be made into an oil by chopping it and steeping it in olive oil. After a couple weeks remove the comfrey from the oil so it won’t mold. The oil can then be rubbed over areas of broken bones, muscle pulls, tendon tears, it will even heal open sores. In fact it heals the skin so fast it is not recommended if there is infection (you don’t want the skin to heal over an infection. The infection should be treated first.)

Comfrey leaves can also be dried and then made into tea (or freshly made into tea), which can then be used as a soak over the area which needs healing. The dried herb can also be powdered and mixed into an oil like olive or coconut and rubbed on the area. Fresh leaves can also be bruised and placed directly over the area of a broken bone.

Chicory roots should be cleaned (not washed if air drying, but it’s ok to wash in water if you’re drying in a dehydrator or roasting in the oven) and chopped and then either dried for tea (excellent for the liver) or roasted and ground to use as a coffee subsitute.

I washed mine, sliced it, and put it in an oven on 250 for a couple hours, then I turned off the oven but left them in there over night. The next day I turned the oven back on and roasted on 250 - 300 until dried and brown (it took quite a few hours.) Next I will grind in a coffee grinder and brew into coffee.

Clover flowers and leaves can be used in salads, soups and stir-fries.

Mugwort, or Artemisia vulgaris, is a special herb. It can be eaten with caution - some people are sensitive to this plant and may even get reactions upon touching. In Asia it is used as a steamed veggie and also made into pasta (you may have seen mugwort soba noodles at the health food store or Asian markets.) It is mineral-rich so the leaves can be soaked in vinegar and then the vinegar can be used in recipes.

Mugwort can also be dried. If you hang it to dry in your bedroom don’t be surprised if you have wild dreams! Mugwort is often made into “dream pillows.” It enhances dreams. It can also be carried in pouches (or on the windshield of your car as I did when I traveled to and from Maine to Boston for acupuncture school in the 1990’s.) It protects travelers. I also love to dry it and then burn it as a smudge to clear the energy, similar to how sage is used (but this is local!)

Mugwort is one of the herbs commonly used in acupuncture and Chinese medicine for moxibustion: in which this herb is burned over specific points on the skin.

I hope you enjoy this week’s share!

~ Melissa


Backyard Edibles: The Food Under My Feet

General Posts



In my small urban backyard which is only twenty feet by sixty feet, I am able to identify and collect over 80 edible plants, especially if I walk down my street and make use of other plants in the neighborhood.

Most of these plants are literally wild and grow there by chance. Others I have transplanted to the yard, and they now return year after year. Some, like Japanese Knotweed, are quite invasive and I am happy they are not in my yard, but I can easily harvest them around the neighborhood. And some food, fruit bushes and trees like peach, fig, blueberry and blackberry, I have planted.

The following is a list of wild plants, separated into categories, of what grows in my tiny yard (and these are only the things I identify and use! There are plenty of other plants which I don’t know or do not know how to use hanging out as well.)

Totally Wild in My Yarddandelionflowers

1. Dandelion
2. Yellow Dock
3. Chickweed
4. Lambs Quarters
5. Amaranth
6. Quickweed
7. Lady’s Thumbprint
8. Garlic Mustard
9. Broad Leaved Plantain
10. Narrow Leaved Plantain
11. Red Clover
12. White Clover
13. Sorrel
14. Wood Sorrel
15. Shephard’s Purse
16. Cress (Peppercress)
17. Purslane
18. Wild Carrot/Queen Anne’s Lace (though we don’t use this as a rule, because of its resemblance to hemlock)

Transplanted to my yard, but considered a wild plant

Oyster Mushrooms

Oyster Mushrooms

1. Nettles
2. Comfrey
3. Blackberries
4. Black Raspberry
5. Oyster Mushrooms
6. Lemon Balm
7. Violets

In my neighborhood, an easy walk from my front door

1. Burdock
2. Black Walnut
3. Acorns
4. Japanese Knotweed
5. Chicory
6. Mulberries
7. Wild Cherries, Tart and Sweet
8. Maple (Maple Syrup, if I were to tap them)
9. Cleavers
10. Thistles
11. Sumac
12. Wild Grapes

Plants I use only as medicine (most of the plants above are medicinal as well as edible, but the following I use only as medicine or herbs)

Feverfew...This one's in a pot, there is more in the yard

Feverfew...This one's in a pot, there is more in the yard

1. Mugwort
2. Mullein
3. St. John’s Wort
4. Motherwort
5. Catnip
6. Feverfew

Food Plants Which I Have Added To My Yard

1. Grapes/Grape Leaves
2. Fig
3. Strawberries
4. Peach Tree
5. Plum Tree
6. Cherry Tree
7. Kale (3 Varieties)
8. Beets
9. Carrots
10. Radishes
11. Tomatoes
12. Arugula
13. Spinach
14. Zucchini
15. Broccoli
16. Collard Greens
17. Chard
18. Fennel
19. Cucumbers
20. Pepper
21. Asian Pear Trees…3 trees/varieties
22. Blueberries

Edible Flowers

Calendula Flowers

Calendula Flowers

1. Calendula
2. Nasturtiums
3. Borage
4. Day Lily
5. Squash Flowers
6. Violets
7. Pansy
8. Sunflowers (Seeds)

Cultivated Herbs (if not mentioned above)

1. Basil
2. Rosemary
3. Thyme
4. Lemon Thyme
5. Peppermint
6. Spearmint
7. Apple Mint
8. Oregano
9. Sage
10. Cilantro
11. Dill
12. Parsley
13. Chives

What do you have in your yard?

Enjoy the harvest!


Birch Center for Health
Food Under Foot


Great Walk Today!

General Posts

Thanks so much to everyone who joined us on our wild edibles walk today on Pittsburgh’s south side! We couldn’t find the camera before we left for the walk (we have since found it and I put some great photos of the St. John’s Wort - which I knew I saw growing out of the rocks on the way to the walk - on facebook!) However, I will embellish this post with pictures of the plants we saw today that I have taken before. You’ll find the St. John’s Wort at the end…and also check it out on facebook if you’re on there.

Mulberries (Morus)

Mulberries (Morus)

We had a great time collecting mulberries! White ones, purple ones, red ones! I wish I had a picture of the girls sitting on the sheet filling their containers with berries and eating as many (or more!) than they dropped in their cups! Here’s an old picture of Dave and Ella collecting mulberries from a great tree on Polish Hill.

Dave and Ella collecting mulberries 4 years ago on Polish Hill.

Dave and Ella collecting mulberries 4 years ago on Polish Hill.

We also saw:

  • Burdock (Arctium lappa) The root is known as Gobo in Japan. Eat the root raw, cooked or juiced. Can also eat the flower stalks and leaf stalks like celery. (See our Burdock page for picture and full description)
  • Dandelion (Taraxacum officinalis) All parts of this plant are edible: roots, leaves, flower. Flower petals go nicely into batters (like pancake batter or cookie batter.) Roasted root makes a good coffee substitute, along with roasted chicory root and roasted burdock root. (See our Dandelion page for pictures and full description)
  • White Clover (Trifolium repens) A mild but nutritious green, add to smoothies or salads. Can also use red clover (which is often dried and used as tea), we didn’t see red clover today.
  • Thin Leafed Plantain (Plantago lanceolata) - Fairy bandaids! Chew and place on bee stings (and other stings/bites) to take the pain away. Can eat as a green, mild tasting can be blended into smoothies or juices. I recently made a salve which worked wonders on a poison oak rash.
  • Plantago Lanceolate (Thin Leaf Plantain)

    Plantago Lanceolate (Thin Leaf Plantain)

  • Broad Leafed Plantain (Plantago major) Same uses as above. This also has seeds in the fall which can be collected and used in oatmeal, breads, flours, and as a substitute for psyllium seeds, which are also a Plantago.
  • Japanese Knotwood (Polygonum cuspidatum) Eaten in early spring when shoots are tender, but the stalks can probably still be juiced. Lemony. Very good source of Resveratrol (especially the roots) and has been used to treat Lyme Disease.
  • Lambs quarters (Chenopodium alba) High in protein, high in calcium, one of my favorite edibles. “Wild Spinach”, is closely related to quinoa. I use it in smoothies and any place I would use spinach.
  • Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) Garlicky tasting invasive weed, makes a great pesto!
  • Garlic Mustard

    Garlic Mustard

  • Teasel (Dipsacus fullonum) Recently the root has been used as a cure for Lyme Disease
  • Mugwort (Artemesia vulgaris) Used in Chinese Medicine, can make moxa from this dried herb. Also used in dream pillows to enhance dreams.
  • mugwort1

  • Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina) When fruit turns red in fall, use dried as a lemon-tasting spice, or steep in cold water for a lemon-water or sweeten for a lemonade-like drink. High in vitamin C.
  • Mulberries (Morus species)
  • Wild Carrot/Queen Anne’s Lace(Daucus carota) Root smells like carrot, and there is a red petal in the middle of a lacy white flower, which distinguishes it from its deadly relatives Poison Hemlock and Water Hemlock. Still, we make it a rule not to eat wild carrots (though edible) to avoid a deadly mistake.

We also saw two poisonous plants and a common allergen:

  • Crown vetch (Securigera varia, or Coronilla varia,) Contains nitroglycerides and is dangerous for horses and other non-ruminants, such as people
  • A wild foxglove Also dangerous to the heart
  • Ragweed - A common allergen

Don’t forget: if you sign up for our newsletter (right, green box) you’ll get FIVE FREE EBOOKS about 5 common wild edibles! They are full of color pictures and great recipes.

And now…here are the pics of St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum):

St. John's Wort growing out of a rock wall on Pittsburgh's South Side

St. John's Wort growing out of a rock wall on Pittsburgh's South Side

The flower buds of Hypericum perforatum (St. John's Wort) stain maroon when squeezed.

The flower buds of Hypericum perforatum (St. John's Wort) stain maroon when squeezed.

Thanks so much to everyone for coming!

Please make sure you sign up for our newsletter so we can let you know when our next walk will be.

~ Melissa Sokulski

Food Under Foot


Many Weeds Are Powerful Chinese Herbs

General Posts

Many wild plants - which we consider weeds - are actually very useful as food and medicine!

The weeds above were found right here in Pittsburgh, and they are all in the Chinese Materia Medica and considered very powerful herbs.

Why buy expensive supplements from overseas with questionable ingredients, when you can find your medicine (and food) at your doorstep?

~ The Folks at Food Under Foot


Walking With The SCA

General Posts, Identification

We had a great time going on a wild edibles walk with students of Pittsburgh’s SCA (Student Conservation Association.)
We knew we wouldn’t find any along the south side river trail, so we brought along some beautiful sky-blue chicory, which is in bloom all along the roadsides and all over the city these days.
We sampled herbal tea which had chicory in it, and discussed it’s use as a coffee substitute (drying and roasting the roots.)

(You can read more about chicory in my article in Natural News here.)

We did have some great finds along the south side trail that day, including:

  • Dandelion
    dandelion leaf rosette

    dandelion leaf rosette

  • Burdock
  • Garlic Mustard
  • Purslane - delicious succulent plant, high in omega fatty acids
    Purslane - High in Omega Fatty Acids

    Purslane - High in Omega Fatty Acids

  • Lamb’s Quarters - delicious “wild spinach” (please sign up for our newsletter (top right) for lots more info about lambs quarters!)
  • Japanese Knotweed
  • Mugwort
  • Staghorn Sumac (which we all sampled the sumac lemonade we had made for them, see previous post.)
    Staghorn Sumac - we soaked the red clusters in water for a lemony drink

    Staghorn Sumac - we soaked the red clusters in water for a lemony drink

  • Poisonous Crown Vetch - the variety Penngift was made in Pennsylvania, to plant along the highway to prevent soil erosion…with limited results. The soil continues to erode, and while cows and other ruminant can safely eat the plant, which is high in nitroglyceride, it is poisonous to horses and other non-ruminants. It spreads very easily as well.
  • Wild Carrot - which, though edible, we do not eat because of it’s similar appearance to the very deadly Water Hemlock and Poison Hemlock
    Queen Anne's Lace/Wild Carrot

    Queen Anne's Lace/Wild Carrot

  • Mullein - an herb which benefits the lungs, and often smoked by Native Americans for that purpose
    First Year Mullein basal rosette

    First Year Mullein basal rosette

  • St. John’s Wort - an herb used to treat depression
    St. John's Wort

    St. John's Wort

Here are some pictures of what the kids and adults of the SCA:

walking and talking with folks of the SCA

walking and talking with folks of the SCA

Pittsburgh Student Conservation Association

Pittsburgh Student Conservation Association

Finding Garlic Mustard Under The Trees

Finding Garlic Mustard Under The Trees

Reviewing what we'd identified

Reviewing what we'd identified

If you’d like more information about scheduling a wild edible walk for your group, please visit our wild event page. Or you can call Melissa at (412) 381-0116, or email to

~ Melissa Sokulski, Herbalist
Food Under Foot


Mugwort Video

Herb, Identification, Medicinal, Raw, Recipes, video

Here’s our first video!

I describe how to identify and harvest mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) and make a vinegar with it.

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