Personally, Monday is my favorite day of the week. A day to set intentions, create space, and ensure the week will start off on a glorious note. In honor of this, I want to share one of my biggest passions, learning about the plants growing around me, with y'all. Each week I will share about a plant ally a la Materia Medica style through a blog and live video on Instagram.
For those who don't know a Materia Medica is the collected body of knowledge about a plant, that includes it's latin name, common name, medicinal uses, ethnobotanical uses, and contraindications. Last year I taught a monthly in person Materia Medica class at Grandview Public Market and it was such a beautiful gift. Sharing my experience and knowledge about the plants is such an honor, one that I want to bring into the online world.
Without further ado, let's introduce this week's plant: Biden's Alba. This is the latin name which actually says a lot about the plant. Bi in Latin meaning two and dens meaning teeth, which describes the seeds of this plant, two teethed. These seeds are how most Floridians already know about this plant, because they get stuck in your clothes or in your pets fur. The Alba is referring to the white of the petals.
This plant is in the botanical family Asteraceae, which also includes the Daisy. The flowers do look a lot like daisies, with a yellow center and white petals. It's important to know about a plant's botanical family in case someone has an allergy to that family. So if someone is allergic to daisies than they more than likely will have an allergy to Biden's Alba.
Similar to the common Daisy, Biden's Alba can be found any and everywhere around Florida. It can also be found throughout the Southeastern USA, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, South America, South Africa, and I'm sure countless other places! Without a doubt if you don't mow your lawn you will have this amazing plant pop up, which can then bring food and medicine into your front yard. This is incredible for so many reasons, including your own benefit, and the benefit of so many pollinators! Biden's Alba is the third most common nectar source for bees and butterflies in the state of Florida. Just food for thought about maybe not mowing a patch of your lawn to let this beautiful plant grow.
The whole plant can be used, leaves, flowers, stems and roots. I personally mainly work with the leaves and flowers to cook and to make tea with. The flowers have a peppery flavor, and make a beautiful sprinkle on top of a salad. I prefer to harvest the leaves to cook with before the plant starts to flower. The younger the leaves are the less pungent and bitter they are. Once the plant flowers, its a great time to harvest it for medicine making, but it can be quite rough on the stomach to eat a lot of it.
Julia Morton did a lot of studies on this plant in the 1950's, working to incorporate this plant into Floridians diet. Biden's can be used similarly to spinach in cooking and is jam packed with nutrients and minerals. It can be found in so many traditional cuisines, I've read about it being cooked with peanuts, tomatoes, amaranth or quinoa, rice, you name it! I personally LOVE to make a pesto out of it, and even have a blog post sharing my recipe here.
The medicinal uses are boundless, this plant is a panacea that every Florida Herbalist I've meant respects and utilizes. Biden's Alba is a powerful antihistamine, antibiotic, antiviral, antimicrobial, liver tonic, kidney tonic. It lowers blood sugar levels and reduces blood pressure. Its an immunomodulator, balancing the immune system.
It's a powerful vulnerary, healing wounds, and is amazing for both internal and external inflammations and infections. I love to bath with it after a physically demanding day and I also love using a herbal infused Biden's Alba oil on bug bites and gentle scraps. In case you want to read up on how to make your own herbal infused oil I just wrote a blog about it!
I seriously could go on and on, but feel I've already written a lot. Just know I am a practicing herbalist, on a long and personal learning and healing journey myself, if you have any health issues please consult your licensed medical practitioner before incorporating new plants into your life.
Use caution with Biden's Alba if you have an allergy to Asteraceae, if you're on blood thinners, have diabetes and or heart issues. Biden's Alba is safe for pregnant mommas and young children! This plant is a powerful bioremediator, meaning it uptakes minerals environmental pollutants wherever is grows. That being said, please use caution, senses and respect when harvesting this plant. An construction empty lot next to the highway would not be the ideal spot to harvest this. I could write a whole blog post on the safety of foraging, which I may do. For now, use your best inner guidance and please feel free to reach out to me with any questions or feedback!
P.S. Here are some great resources to learn more about this wonderful plant ally. One of my herbal teachers, Maggie O'Halloran shared a Biden's Materia Medica through the Florida School of Holistic Living's facebook page, click here for that. I personally learned a lot about Biden's Alba from a 90 minute class with Susan Marynowski at the 2019 Florida Herbal Conference, which you can find the recording online here for only $10, which I highly recommend!
I also wanted to share a list of books I've read that include information about Biden's Alba:
Herbal Antibiotics by Stephen Harrod Buhner
Florida's Edible Wild Plants by Peggy Sias Lantz
Edible Leaves of the Tropics by Franklin W. Martin, Ruth M. Ruberte, & Laura S. Meitzner
The Healing Power of Rainforest Herbs by Leslie Taylor
The Herbal Handbook for Homesteaders by Abby Artemisia