Horseweed, botanically known as conyza canadensis, or erigeron canadensis and commonly known as fleabane, prideweed, and colt’s tail, is an annual flowering plant with stiff, leafy, and branched stems. The plant has grooved, hairy stems with alternate or serrated leaves.
[Note: The Right Flowers is not a medical site. Knowledge of and information about the therapeutic benefits and applications of flowers, while known through the ages, does not constitute medical advice. If you are having health issues, you should consult with a physician.]
Fleabane is native to the central and northern regions of the United States. However, the plant has managed to spread to other places. Today, it can be found growing in the USSR, Central Asia, China, Europe, Far East, Africa, and Australia.
Horseweed thrives in dry, disturbed places such as clay river banks, hill prairies, and meadows. You are likely to see it growing in pasturelands, garbage dumps, abandoned farms, roadsides and along railroads.
Between June and November, horseweed brings forth green and white flower heads. In some instances, the flowers have yellow disk florets.
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The plant got the name fleabane due to its effectiveness in eliminating fleas and other parasites when used as bedding for pets. Today, science has confirmed that fleabane’s anti-parasitic ability is due to the presence of essential oil which is similar to turpentine. Horseweed is also known as colt’s tail due to the appearance of its leafy stem which resembles a horse’s tail.
While it is not the prettiest flower one would choose to grow in the yard or the most popular in the herbal industry, horseweed has been used for years by Native North American tribes to treat various illnesses.
Native Americans living in the Zuni region crushed fleabane’s flowers and inserted them into their nostrils to induce sneezing in order to relieve rhinitis. The whole plant was also boiled and the resulting steam inhaled to trigger sneezing for people suffering from cold or flu to help in decongesting the respiratory system.
Basically, horseweed’s aerial parts (flowers, leaves, and stems) have medicinal qualities and should be harvested in bloom and dried to preserve it. When dry, horseweed has a mild, pleasant odor. Its medicinal properties are extracted using alcohol or via infusion.
Recent studies show that the plant has anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, anti-oxidant, anti-viral qualities. Colt’s tail is also known to contain essential oils, bitter extractives, gallic and tannin acids.
Its healing virtues include treating gastrointestinal problems such as dysentery, and diarrhea. Colt’s tail is also ideal for stanching internal bleeding, calming fever, alleviating a runny nose, treating hemorrhoids, and relieving aches. Apart from internal uses, horseweed is used in the form of poultices to soothe sore joints and heal burns.
Horseweed is not just good for herbal uses only. Its leaves, flowers, and stems can be dried and used to spice up food due to its aromatic qualities. Young leaves and barely opened blossoms are boiled and eaten as vegetables or used as a seasoning. The oil derived from its flowers and leaves is used to flavor soda and candy.
Horseweed might have a curious name and is not considered a famous plant in the culinary, flower or herbal industries. But the plant’s virtues cannot be denied.