The Good Weeds
It seems that weeds always get a bad rap. Just the word weed has a negative connotation, and our first instinct is usually to get rid of those unsightly little buggers when we see them cropping up in our yard or pasture. But are all weeds bad? You might be surprised to learn that there are actually some good weeds! And by good, I mean that they are beneficial for horses and other animals to eat. Some of them even have medicinal value.
Now I’m not saying all weeds are all wonderful. Many weeds tend to thrive in conditions where ‘good’ plants can’t. Some take over when grass has been overgrazed or trampled down. And yes, some weeds are even toxic. But before you try to get rid of every plant that doesn’t resemble grass, just remember that having a variety of plants in our pastures actually is a good thing, weeds and all.
I don’t know about you, but the thought of spraying chemical weed killer literally makes me sick to my stomach. My husband and I have this discussion each spring. He wants to spray around our yard, but I am completely against it. I will not allow chemicals to be used in my horse pastures at all.
(By the way, there are other ways to get rid of weeds besides glyphosate. Here is a page with some alternatives. Last year, I even pulled all the thorny plants out of my hay meadow by hand to avoid using chemical spray.)
But anyway, let’s talk about some good weeds that we should leave alone. Here are a few:
Nettles: Though live nettles have a sting, this plant is actually quite beneficial to eat. (Mow them down or collect wearing gloves and dry out.) Strangely, I’ve also heard of horses munching on live nettles with no problems. They are high in vitamin C, iron, calcium, and potassium. Nettles are considered a tonic and blood cleanser and are known to help with sweet itch and other skin disorders in horses.
Dandelion: This is one of my favorite weeds. I often pick dandelions to feed to my horses now, plus I feed dandelion root powder (from Mountain Rose Herbs) This weed is rich and vitamins , A, B, C, and D, as well as many minerals. It has blood cleansing properties and is a powerful diuretic too.
Goldenrod: This weed contains essential oils which are helpful for promoting appetite and aiding digestion. Goldenrod is also beneficial for arthritis and conditions the hair coat.
Chickweed: This weed contains vitamins C, D, B6, B12, beta-carotene, magnesium, potassium, calcium, iron, zinc, and Phosphorus.
Mullein: An imported plant, mullein now is a common sight in many parts of the U.S. Many see this plant as an irritating weed, but it’s also a great herb for lung conditions, including seasonal allergies and coughs. A young mullein is shown in the picture below but they can grow to be several feet tall.
Broad Leaf Plantain: Rich in potassium, calcium, sulfur, and contains some vitamin K. The chopped or mashed fresh leaves can be used to treat insect bites and stings.
Cleavers (Goosegrass): This is also a medicinal weed/ herb which can help detoxify the lymphatic system and aid with urinary or bowel irregularities. It’s also considered a mild anti-inflammatory.
See–it pays to learn your weeds! Do you know of any good weeds that I’ve left off this list?
Sources and Further Reading