Over the past few weeks, the kids and I have enjoyed watching clusters of creeping, little purple flowers seemly plotting to take over the elderberry patch. At first I was tempted to pull them up, but they were so pretty, and I’m beginning to wonder if leaving the “weeds” might even benefit my plants at times. I’ve learned that the ground will heal itself by covering back up with growth when exposed; oftentimes these plants are wild edibles and medicinals. If we would only take the time to learn what they are and how they might be used before we yank them out just for looks. So I left the sprawling plants to do as they pleased.
Last week I was at my mother-in-law’s house and I noticed that she had some of the same plant growing in her yard. I asked her if she knew what it was, and she said it was Ajuga. I asked her if it was good for anything, but she didn’t know of any uses. When I went home later that day, I did a search online and learned some very interesting things about this pretty “weed”.
Scientific name: Ajuga reptans (Creeping Bugleweed)
Other Names: Ajuga, Bugle, Bugleweed, Blue Bugle, Bugleherb, Bugula, Carpenter’s Herb, Carpet Bugle, Carpet Bugleweed, Common Bugle, Middle Comfrey, Sicklewort
Note: There is another herb by the name of Bugleweed (Botanical Name Lycopus spp.), which has different uses and mustn’t be confused.
This oftentimes invasive perennial isn’t just any ordinary weed. It has been used throughout history to treat a good variety of ailments, including hemorrhaging, hangovers, bruises, sores, broken bones, throat irritations, mouth ulcers, and more. According to Wikipedia, “Ajuga reptans herb has been used in traditional Austrian medicine internally as a tea for the treatment of disorders related to the respiratory tract.”
A Modern Herbal has this to share about Ajuga reptans…
Part Used Medicinally—The whole herb, gathered in May and early June, when the leaves are at their best, and dried.
Medicinal Action and Uses—Bitter, astringent and aromatic.
In herbal treatment, an infusion of this plant is still considered very useful in arresting hemorrhages and is employed in coughs and spitting of blood in incipient consumption and also in some biliary disorders, a wineglassful of the infusion – made from 1 OZ. of the dried herb to 1 pint of boiling water – being given frequently.
In its action, it rather resembles digitalis, lowering the pulse and lessening its frequency, it allays irritation and cough, and equalizes the circulation and has been termed ‘one of the mildest and best narcotics in the world.’ It has also been considered good for the bad effects of excessive drinking.
- [Early herbalist Nicholas Culpepper] had a great opinion of the value of the Bugle and says,
- ‘if the virtues of it make you fall in love with it (as they will if you be wise) keep a syrup of it to take inwardly, and an ointment and plaster of it to use outwardly, always by you. The decoction of the leaves and flowers in wine dissolveth the congealed blood in those that are bruised inwardly by a fall or otherwise and is very effectual for any inward wounds, thrusts or stabs in the body or bowels; and is an especial help in wound drinks and for those that are liver-grown, as they call it. It is wonderful in curing all ulcers and sores, gangrenes and fistulas, if the leaves, bruised and applied or their juice be used to wash and bathe the place and the same made into lotion and some honey and gum added, cureth the worse sores. Being also taken inwardly or outwardly applied, it helpeth those that have broken any bone or have any member out of joint. An ointment made with the leaves of Bugle, Scabious and Sanicle bruised and boiled in hog’s lard until the herbs be dry and then strained into a pot for such occasions as shall require, it is so efficacious for all sorts of hurts in the body that none should be without it.’
Properties: Bugleweed is edible and medicinal. Young shoots are eaten in spring salads. Bugle has a long history of use as a medicinal herb. It is aromatic, astringent, bitter, mildly laxative, mildly sedative, mild pain killer. Used internally for treating coughs, throat irritations, mouth ulcers, nervousness, headache, gastrointestinal ailments, and internal bleeding. The foliage is said to have a mild narcotic effect when ingested. The plant contains digitalis-like substances and is thought to possess heart tonic properties.Applied externally or as a poultice for cuts, sores, abrasions, swollen joints, bruises, wounds, and tumors. Leaves and flowers used in the bath for aching muscles, rheumatism, and frayed nerves. The plants main constituents Aucubin, Cyanidin, Cyasterone, Delphinidin, Harpagide, and Tannin confirm these uses.
Try this recipe to treat internal ailments (as mentioned above)
Infusion: 1 oz. dried herb steeped in 1 pt. boiling water for 10 minutes; dosage is 1/2 Cup doses 3 to 4 times daily.
Caution: This herb is a narcotic. Take at short intervals only and then under medical supervision.
If you’re fortunate enough to have Ajuga/ Bugleweed growing in your yard, consider allowing it to spread (or at least transplanting it where it won’t get in the way of your other plants). It really is a beautiful ground cover. Plus, there’s nothing better than a wild edible or medicinal volunteering to grow in your yard. I love it when that happens!