Common Fleabane (E. annus)
"Fleabane is a wild edible, but not a “wild preferable.” Its leaves can be eaten raw as a salad green or cooked as a potherb, but are very hairy. Cooking helps mitigate this but doesn’t always do away with it entirely, especially with old, tough, late-season leaves. The flavour isn’t bad – fleabane leaves have a mild, grassy flavour similar to spinach. Like most any other dark, leafy green, they’re high in calcium, magnesium, manganese, and vitamins A, C, and K.
Like other Asters, fleabane’s primary use is as a medicinal plant. The Cherokee made the heaviest use of it. The plant has powerful astringent properties, and they utilized an infusion of it as an internal coagulant to treat bleeding ulcers, excessive menstruation, and other chronic internal haemorrhage. It has also been used as a cough suppressant, febrifuge, and expectorant. A salve made from the root can be used to treat open sores. Other tribes such as the Meskwaki and Ojibway had an interesting use for it: They’d dry and powder the flowers and snort it like a snuff to induce sneezing in order to clear clogged sinuses. Not sure I’d want to try that one. A smoke made from burning the dried flowers was also said to relieve head colds.
If you’re wondering where the name “Fleabane” came from, it’s just like it sounds. The European species of this plant (E. annus) has been used since ancient times in the British Isles to repel fleas from houses, bedding, clothing, and people. Traditionally, the plant was dried and burned in a smoke pot or other device and the infested area was “smoked out.” Does it work? Well, yes. But whether it works because of some special qualities of the fleabane, or just because all bugs everywhere hate smoke, is still up for debate. But whether it was the flower specifically or just the smoke, the name stuck, and fleabane became a traditional home decoration. And all those paintings, books, and movies depicting pretty medieval peasant girls with a sprig of the daisy-like flowers tucked behind their ear or woven into crown? They were trying to keep fleas out of their hair, which was a constant problem in the Middle Ages. Attractive, right? Sometimes the good ol’ days weren’t that great."
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