We interrupt our program on Herbal Actions to bring you this fun herbal monograph! Can you find this fun herb on your sidewalk?
Scientific Name: Matricaria discoides
Family: Asteraceae, Daisy family
Common Names: rayless chamomile, pineapple weed
Description: The plant ranges from 5 to 40 cm tall and looks similar to chamomile but lacks the classic white ray flowers in the inflorescence. Leaves are 1-5 cm long. The fruit is a dry fruit with 2-5 veins that do not open when mature (Mittelhauser, Gregory, Rooney, & Weber, 2010). The flower is globular, yellow-green composite flower and is related to being button like. Flowering occurs from late spring to fall. The smell of pineapple is a key characteristic in determining this drug and is observed when crushed (Brill, 1994).
This plant is most often observed in poor soil and in cracks in the sidewalk. It enjoys direct sunlight (Brill, 1994). Tilford (1998) suggests that the better quality medicine comes from the plants that have been stressed the most. Flowers should be gathered when they have turned yellow and the plant is still green (Tilford, 1998).
Folk Lore: This plant was used as part of the Cheyenne Sun Dance ceremony. When this plant was burned with human hair it was said to prevent a loved one from leaving. Similarly with the addition of horse hair it could prevent a horse from running away. It was also labeled as an indicator of salmonberry picking time (Moerman, 1998).
Food and Home: Pineapple weed could be used to preserve food (Duke, 1986) specifically meat and berries. It has been chewed by children as a candy as well. Mothers would line their children’s cradles with the crushed, dried plant. It also had uses as an insect repellent. This plant was frequently used as a perfume due to its scent. As a perfume it was used also as a decorated necklace with dried flowers (Moerman, 1998).
Medicinal Usage: This herb was highly used by multiple Native American tribes through
the United States. As a nervine this tea works to relax the nervous system (Brill, 1994). Alternately, a chewed plant could help with endurance (Duke, 1986). Dried tea was used for a nervous stomach and to relieve digestive cramps and gas specifically when due to poor quality food or post-pig-out discomfort (Tilford, 1998). Brill (1994) agreed that as a digestive aid it was mostly used when gas was causing discomfort. Stomach pains from gas could be cured with a leaf infusion as well as introduce laxative effects (Moerman, 1998). It could also be used as both a decoction and infusion to help with diarrhea. As such it could keep you regular (Moerman, 1998). Use against multiple intestinal worms of both humans and animals have been suggested as it is a safer alternative to wormwood and tansy (Tilford, 1998).
Dry flower was used for colds, against diarrhea, and in herbal steams (Duke, 1986). A decoction could be used with infants when they had a fever or were convulsing (Moerman, 1998). A flower tea with an unknown lichen added was used as a tonic to help women deliver the placenta during birth and also worked against menstrual cramps (Duke, 1986). Women would use this herb after childbirth and to build up blood to help deliver the placenta (Moerman, 1998). It worked as an antiseptic for urinary tract infections specifically for cysts though could be used as an antiseptic elsewhere (Brill, 1994). Pineapple weed may be useful for the heart (Moerman, 1998).
Topical treatment could work on contact dermatitis, sunburns, and have an anti-inflammatory response to varicosities in lower limbs (Tilford, 1998). A wash could also be used for itches and sores (Duke, 1986). Infected sores could be treated with a salve made from the seeds (Moerman, 1998). In general it can be substituted for peppermint, catnip, bee balm, and chamomile as tea and topically it can be substituted by plantain, chickweed, cranesbill geranium, aloe vera, and fireweed for inflammation (Tilford, 1998).
Caution: Those that suffer from hay-fever may be allergic to pineapple weed (Brill, 1994).
Brill, S. (1994). Identifying and harvesting edible and medicinal plants. New York: Hearst Books.
Duke, J. A. (1986). Handbook of northeastern indian medicinal plants. Lincoln, MA: Quarterman Publications, INC.
Mittelhauser, G. H., Gregory, L. L., Rooney, S. C., & Weber, J. E. (2010). The plants of Acadia National Park. Orono, ME: The University of Maine Press.
Moerman, D. E. (1998). Native American Ethnobotany. Portland, Oregon: Timber Press.
Tilford, G. L. (1998). From earth to herbalist: An earth-conscious guide to medicinal plants. Missoula: Mountain Press Publishing Company.