Almaranthus retroflexus – Pigweed

PigweedAmaranthus retroflexus & spp.

Amaranthus = am-a-ran-thus, from Greek amarantos (unfading) referring to the long lasting flower;

retroflexus = L. “directed backwards and downwards”;

Identification: This is an erect, sometimes branching annual herb, with a red taproot, that grows 30 cm to 100 cm high. The leaves are ovate to lanceolate and the flowers inconspicuous in narrow clusters.

Distribution & Habitat: This common weed can be found in waste land, gardens, along roadsides and on disturbed soil throughout the area.

Preparation & Uses: The dried seeds were used by the Indians, eaten whole, or ground into meal, and made into cakes and breads (often mixed with cornmeal). This plant is under investigation as a food crop. The young shoots are fairly tasty if eaten as a pot herb right after picking them.

Medicinally, the herb is a mild astringent for the mucous membranes. It is used as a poultice to reduce swelling, as a tea for its cleansing properties and to treat dysentery, diarrhea, excessive menstruation, ulcers and intestinal hemorrhaging. A douche can be made for vaginal discharge or the tea can be used as a wash for vaginal itching.

The normal dosage is a strong infusion, drunk every few hours throughout the day. The leaves contain a saponin and were used as a soap for washing clothes.