As an herbalist I spend a lot of time learning about and working with healing plants that live and thrive in the woods and fields that surround my home here in Maine. Some of the plants are native to the area and the United States, while others are not. Some are naturally part of existing ecosystems, while others are a threat to them. One non-native species that is a danger to many ecosystems (especially ones that are next to rivers and lakes) is Japanese Knotweed.
Japanese Knotweed (Polygonum Cuspidatim), nicknamed “Godzilla Weed,” is an invasive plant that is native to East Asia and was first introduced to the US in the late 1800s for ornamental purposes and erosion control. It was also introduced in Europe around that same time, for similar purposes. Knotweed can get as high as 10 feet and spreads rapidly, reducing species diversity and altering natural ecosystems. What some may not know is that it’s also an incredibly powerful medicinal, healing plant ally used in Chinese medicine. Even though it can be easy to find (especially where I live in the Northeast), the trick is finding a safe patch that hasn’t been sprayed with pesticide and one that does not grow on a roadside, where it absorbs pollutants from run-off and heavy metals like cadmium and lead that come from automobile tires. I have a friend who has a clean patch of knotweed on his land. He invites me to harvest the roots and shoots each Spring. I help him control this weed some, while he helps provide me access to an amazing medicinal plant.
Knotweed is high in resveratrol (the anti-aging compound found in grapes and red wine), as well as a few other structurally similar compounds that possess the same effects. This magical plant supports a healthy immune system, is high in antioxidants, is anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, protects the body from Alzheimer’s and diabetes, controls LDL (“bad” cholesterol), can prevent blood clots that lead to a heart attack, treats Lyme Disease, can help to balance hormones, as it acts as an estrogen suppressant, and more. I use the roots and new shoots to make a double-decoction tincture (which is featured in this photo, in the making) and as an ingredient in one of my nourishing face creams that I wildcraft. It’s important not to spread this invasive plant, so I either burn or boil any discards. You never want them to make their way into landfills or compost piles, as they will begin to grow and take over quickly. If you want to learn more about Japanese Knotweed—plant identification and specifically how to harvest and process it—you can check out my IGTV channel on my Instagram @whisper_in_the_wood where I’ve made a series of mini videos on the subject.
Disclaimer: Keep in mind that the information I have shared here is for educational purposes only. Do not use it to medically diagnose or treat yourself. If you plan on using Japanese Knotweed medicinally, be sure to speak with a doctor first, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, or on any type of medication, whether it be prescribed or over-the-counter.
-Susan Turtle of Silfren Circle
Susan is a solitary, natural witch from Maine. As a ‘green witch in the hedge,’ you’ll find her practicing herbalism, foraging in the woods, gardening, connecting with the spirit world, practicing divination, and doing spellwork. Susan has been a witch all along in this life and in past ones, and now in her 40s she’s made the conscious decision to come out of the broom closet. She’s @whisper_in_the_wood on Instagram, where she posts her witchy-vibed photoart and enjoys connecting with others on the topics of witchcraft and herbalism.