Oct 252007

Sometimes called Spanish Needles because of it’s sharp, clinging black seeds, this humble weed has an amazing capacity for healing. Lovely, vaguely fragrant and common, what sets Bidens apart from many other plants is the fact that it’s a very effective mucus membrane tonic. And good herbs of that class are fairly hard to come by. The most well known plant with that title is Goldenseal, the over used and much abused poster child of industrial herbal commerce. Yerba Mansa is another, and somewhat less known plant, that is very effective for clearing infection and tonifying the mucus membranes. Unfortunately, both of these plants exist within a limited bioregion that could, and has, been upset by unethical harvesting and gross habitat destruction. Bidens, on the other hand, is blissfully common and frequents much of the US and at least parts of Europe. Michael Moore describes it’s action as:

…the ability to tighten, shrink and tonify the structural cells of the mucus membranes thereby preventing congestion and edema, while simultaneously increasing circulation, metabolism, and healing energy of the functional cells of those tissues. 

What this can mean for the bladder is that it’s an excellent addition to any UTI formula, and also works amazingly well to clear up residual irritation, pain and congestion after the initial acute infection has been eradicated. So, if you clear up an infection with Bee Balm and Cranberry (an excellent pair, if I do say so myself) but still have a lingering sense of discomfort, or the infection comes back again in two weeks, over and over, then a nice tea or tincture of Bidens can tighten up and heal the tissue. This can help prevent that nasty cycle of neverending bladder infections some women are so prone to.

I’ve had the chance to use it on myself and a few other women for just this chronic type of problem recently and found it to be most efficient.

But wait, there’s more! Bidens is also capable of clearing infections, like staph, all on its own. Astringent, anti-inflammatory and anti-infective, this plant can heal any number of irritations and infections anywhere from the mouth to your um, other end. It works nicely on the lungs, the digestive tract and on down. From personal experience I can say it’s very nice on the gut, fairly neutral in temperature and very healing. I plant to add it to my regimens for IBS and other inflammatory digestive disturbances. I haven’t yet tried it for chronic sinusitis but It’ll certainly be the first herb I try next time the chance arises.

Harvest the flowering tops and either dry or tincture. It has a lovely smell and a pleasant, mild taste. In person, this plant has a cheerful, fluid presence. Here in New Mexico, it likes to grow in slightly moist places with partial sun. It blooms in late Summer and into the Fall, ours was still blooming just a little bit right up until our first hard frost.


Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West by Michael Moore

Henriette’s Herbal Blogpost on Bidens 

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