There are a handful of plants that I grew up eating or using medicinally. Often these plants are plants I would not use for other purposes. So I'm always pleasantly surprised when I come across information on how to do so.
Peppergrass, Lipidium virginicum, is one plant that I used to nibble on when I was playing in my yard as a child. It had a peppery flavor that I loved (though for some reason I hated black pepper and chili peppers) and it grew like crazy where I lived. So imagine my surprise when I, as an adult, am taking a class and the teacher mentions that it can be used medicinally. I had to find out more! So I decided to pass it on to all of you!
There are many Lipidiums found all over the world. However, the species that's native to North America, and the one that I'm most familiar with, is the Lipidium virginicum. Most introduced species that you hear about tend to have traveled over with the settlers into America at some point. However, Lipidium virginicum did just the opposite. It's now found throughout Europe all thanks to the early traders tracking the seeds onto their boats from America. This particular Peppergrass has a history of use that goes all the way back to the ancient Inca and Maya tribes. Where it was widely used to reduce rheumatic pain, expel intestinal worms, and treat upper respiratory conditions. Today it's still used for some of these problems, but it's also used for a few more. However, I still like it as a trail side snack myself.
Here in Central Florida, Peppergrass can be found all year. But in other climates it's mainly found in the winter. It can be tricky to identify here because of it's growing pattern. It looks like a completely different plant depending on the stage of growth it's in. It starts off as a basal rosette, and eventually grows tall and develops a racme full of little flowers and tiny seed pods. In Florida, these stages can occur in the same month and can often be found side by side. Luckily, however, there are no dangerous look a likes here, at least that I am aware of.
Scientific Name- Lipidium spp. Some of the more common species include L. apetalum, L. armoracia, L. campestre, L. iberis, L. ruderale, L. sativum, and L. virginicum.
Common Names- Peppergrass, Pepperwort, Peppercress, Canary Grass, Poor Man's Pepper, Garder Cress, Virginia Pepperweed, Pepperweed, Wild Pepper Grass, Menzies' Pepperweed, and Hairy Pepperweed.
Edible Parts- The entire plant is edible and medicinal. The root can be ground and used as a wasabi or horseradish substitute. The leaves are commonly eaten raw or cooked as a potherb. The seeds have a peppery taste that makes for a great spice. You can even put the whole plant into a food processor and make a great, peppery, sauce with it.
Summary of actions- Anthelmintic, anti-inflammatory, antiasthmatic, antiscorbutic, antitussive, cardiotonic, detoxifying, and diuretic
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)- Peppergrass seeds are acrid, bitter, and extremely cold. It most strongly effects the meridians of lung and bladder. Peppergrass is often used to purge the lung’s pathogenic fire to relieve asthma and induce diuresis to alleviate edema. Symptoms that may indicate a positive reaction to the use of Peppergrass include retention of phlegm-dampness in the lungs, a feeling of fullness and discomfort in chest, inability to lay flat, difficult urination, and heart disease associated with pulmonary edema.
Ayurveda- Peppergrass is heavy and sticky, pungent and bitter, and has a hot potency. It increases Pitta while balancing Vata and Kapha. Peppergrass is commonly used to improve lactation, as an aphrodesiac, a diuretic, and to rejuvenate. It also induces mobility in the digestive tract, making it useful to relieve constipation. It's primarily indicated for use in urinary tract disorders, diabetes, asthma, cough, colds, acute bronchitis, chronic respiratory conditions, and to fight off fatigue and/or weakness. It does increase Pitta dosha, so people with a Pitta body type should use caution.
High Amounts of Vitamin C- Peppergrass is a traditional treatment for scurvy and other conditions that result from low amounts of Vitamin C.
Asthma and Upper Respiratory Conditions- One of the main problems that people with upper respiratory conditions tend to have in common is an excess of mucus. Peppergrass helps to clear up and expel mucus.
Improves Immunity- We are all aware that Vitamin C can help improve immunity. Peppergrass is known for it's high amounts of Vitamin C. But it also has a moving effect on the body. Helping to energize the immune system and move your white blood cells to where they are needed most.
Urinary Tract Issues- Peppergrass is a great diuretic, helping to rid the body of excess water. It's also great at detoxifying. This makes it a wonderful herb to call on in cases of urinary tract infections (UTI).
Circulatory System- Peppergrass' diuretic effects can help reduce blood pressure as well. Helping to flush out excessive water and toxins from the body. It's also a great anti-inflammatory herb, helping to reduce the buildup of inflammation that can cause circulatory issues down the road. It's also a cardio tonic, tonifying the heart and entire circulatory system.
Contraindications, Cautions, and Warnings- There have been some allergies observed. Symptoms of these allergies range from general itchiness to anaphylactic shock. If you have any reaction, go to the hospital ASAP! Peppergrass is also a hyperaccumulator of minerals. If the soil is contaminated with toxic metals, Peppergrass will suck them up.
I only included a basic introduction to Peppergrass. I hope you have learned a new appreciation for such a common weed. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.
Common Peppergrass: Illinois Wildflowers: http://illinoiswildflowers.info/weeds/plants/cm_peppergrass.htm
Lepidium Virginicum: Plants for a Future: https://pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Lepidium+virginicum
Lepidium Virginicum Uses: Herbpathy: https://herbpathy.com/Uses-and-Benefits-of-Lepidium-Virginicum-Cid3781
Medicinal Abilities of Peppergrass: Health Digezt: https://www.healthdigezt.com/medicinal-abilities-peppergrass/
Peppergrass: Edible Wild Food: http://www.ediblewildfood.com/peppergrass.aspx
Peppergrass: Encyclopaedia Britannica: https://www.britannica.com/plant/peppergrass
Peppergrass: Foraging Texas: https://www.foragingtexas.com/2012/01/peppergrass.html
Peppergrass: Medicinal Plants of India: http://www.medicinalplantsindia.com/peppergrass.html
Peppergrass - Potent Pipsqueak: Eat The Weeds: http://www.eattheweeds.com/peppergrass-potent-pipsqueak/
Peppergrass Seeds (Ting Li Zi): Chinese Herbs Healing: http://www.chineseherbshealing.com/peppergrass-seeds/
Peppergrass - Todari Uses, Dose, Side Effects, Research: Easy Ayurveda: https://easyayurveda.com/2015/03/28/peppergrass-todari-uses-dose-side-effects-research/
Pepperweed: My Mystic Mama: http://www.mymysticmama.com/pepperweed/
Pharmacological Basis for the Medicinal Use of Lepidium sativum in Airways Disorders: Hindawi: https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2012/596524/
Wild Peppergrass: Natural Medicinal Herbs: http://naturalmedicinalherbs.net/herbs/l/lepidium-virginicum=wild-pepper-grass.php