As I mentioned last week I will be exploring the different plant families and their benefits. This week is one of my favourite family – the daisy family. This was originally known as the composite family and contains the largest number of plants all over the world. I am sure that there will be several members of this amazing family nearby – it is such a beautiful day why not go out and explore to see what is growing near you.
The Asteraceae family contains mainly herbs and is the most evolutionary advanced plant family. A lot of the species within this family can be used as medicine, several species are cultivated for food such as chicory, lettuce and artichoke and sunflowers (for their nutritious seeds), plants are used economically too – did you know that the oil from marigolds is used in the cola making industry? and to top of their amazing versatility a lot of the species produce high quantities of nectar which benefit bees, various pollinators and wildlife in general
The name Asteraceae is derived from the type genus: “Aster”, though this family was also known as “Composite” which refers to the this family’s characteristic flowers. The flower heads contain numerous individual sessile flowers which we see as a whole. Examples of medicinal herbs in this family include:
Other examples include chamomile, echinacea, wormwood, mugwort, sunflower, goldenrod, yarrow, burdock and milk thistle.
The constituents of the Asteraceae Family
Prominent common active constituents include sesquiterpene lactones. There are over 3000 sesquiterpene lactones which we know of so far and a large majority are from this plant family. These constituents have anti inflammatory and anti microbial actions and they tend to concentrate in leaves and flowers. The down side of sesquiterpene lactones is that they can cause contact dermatitis in humans and the most common plant allergen in contact dermatitis is plants within this family although scientific research is looking into their use as anti-cancer agents.
Other common constituents include the volatile oils – these are monoterpenes or sesquiterpenes and are commonly known as essential oil. Fragrant flowers in the asteraceae family will contain these – chamomile is a great example of this.
Here are some recipes which utilise plants from this family:
Dandelion Burdock Early Spring Cleanser
You will need:
2 heaped dessert spoons of dandelion root
2 heaped dessert spoons of burdock root
2 large slices of lemon, chopped into strips
1 teaspoon of honey
1 pint of water
Just put all the ingredients except the honey into a pan and simmer for ten minutes, adding the sugar once you’ve taken the mixture off the hob. You can drink this mixture hot or cold – its a really pleasant drink either way, but is certainly more refreshing drunk cold. I’m going to try this with slices of fresh root ginger in the next batch, as well as some dandelion leaf! The nice thing about this mix is that you can boil the ingredients back up with another pint of water for a slightly less punchy but just as refreshing mixture, then compost the remaining herbs.
The common daisy is considered to have astringent, demulcent, expectorant, digestive and tonic properties. Used internally, Daisy can be an effective herbal remedy against cold, cough and digestive complaints. In form of an infusion, Common Daisy is beneficial in cases of arthritis, catarrh, hepatic and renal disorders, diarrhoea and rheumatism. Its external use, as a poultice or addition to bath, can help in cases of wound healing, rashes, wounds and skin inflammations.
Use young daisy leaves raw in spring salads. The leaves are excellent as a cooked spring vegetable, and in soups and sauces and as flavouring or seasoning.
Some countries use daisy leaves as a pot herb – a vegetable used to flavour dishes.
Pick young daisy leaves and wash then quickly in slightly salted water. Put a little water in a pan and add a pinch of salt. When boiling put in the greens. Cover and cook for about 7-10 minutes. Serve with a dab of butter and freshly ground black pepper.
I hope that you are enjoying this series 🙂