Today’s featured plant is Pineapple Weed, Matricaria discoidea.
Pineapple weed is also known as wild chamomile and disc mayweed. Note: This plant is not related to Pineapple Punch Medicinal Marijuana, also known by some as pineapple weed, which is a Cannabis species. It is related to Matricaria recutita (German chamomile).
Range and Identification of Pineapple Weed
Pineapple weed is native to North America and Northeast Asia. It can be found over most of North America and Greenland, except for a few southern states such as Texas, Florida, Alabama and Georgia (see USDA map).
The plant is an annual, growing 3-8″ (7.5-20 cm) tall. It is in the Aster family, which means it is related to daisies, such as the ox-eye daisy. It is often found along road sides and in disturbed or compacted soils. It prefers full sun and dry conditions (this year I noticed a lot of plants with the drought).
The leaves of pineapple weed are delicate and lacy, resembling the tips of fine carrot leaves. They alternate up the stem and are 1/2 to 1 inch (1-2.5 cm) long. Flowers are small, yellow green and dome shaped, with just a hint of white petal at the base. Clusters of these small (1/4 inch/.6 cm) flowers are found at the tops of the plants. The plants smell a bit like pineapple or ripe apples when crushed, thus the name pineapple weed. (See Wildflowers of Wisconsin for more information.)
Pineapple Weed for Food and Medicine
Illinois Wildflowers lists animal uses of pineapple weed:
The flowers attract flower flies (Syrphidae) and are probably pollinated by them. Little is known about this plant's relationship to birds and herbivorous mammals in the NE or Midwest. Cattle reportedly make little use of it as a food source. It is possible that the seeds or flowerheads stick to the tires of motor vehicles and for this reason Pineapple Weed often occurs along roadsides and driveways.
The plant can be eaten raw or cooked, although it's rather bitter. (Just make sure you're picking it from a clean area!) You can make a simple herb tea by pouring boiling water over the dried or fresh plant. Use roughly 1 tablespoon of plant per cub of tea – more or less to taste. Steep covered for 10 minutes, strain, and sweeten with honey to taste, if desired. Grow It, Cook It, Can It has a tasty looking recipe for a pineapple weed tea blend here.
The edible and medicinal wild plants forum at tribes.net has a discussion of pineapple weed that provides an overview of pineapple weed's medicinal uses:
The flowering plant is antispasmodic, carminative, galactogogue, sedative, skin and vermifuge[9, 172, 222]. This plant is rarely used medicinally, though it is sometimes employed as a domestic remedy in the treatment of intestinal worms and also as a sedative. The plant is harvested when in flower in the summer and is dried for later use. Some caution is advised since some individuals are allergic to this plant.
The ethnobotony wiki provides more information:
Pineapple weed flowers can be crushed and made into tea which acts as a sedative helping individuals suffering from insomnia and anxiety. Further, pineapple weed tea can be used as an analgesic taken for stomach pains and relief from gas or bloating. The plant also acts as a gastrointestinal aid and antidiarrheal when infused as a tea. The seeds of pineapple weed can be used as a disinfectant or dermatological aid to heal infected sores.
Additionally the plant tops can be used as an Antihemorrhagic by individuals who are spitting up blood. Active compounds commonly found amongst plants in the Matricaria Genus are characteristic polyines such as 2Z,8Z-matricaria ester, 8Z-2,3-dihydro-matricaria ester, 2E- and 2Z- lachnophyllum ester, 2E-dehydro-matricaria ester, and 5E,9Z-matricaria lactone. The use of pineapple wide for medicinal purposed has not been approved or evaluated by the FDA, however, it has been used for hundred of years with success. Potential side-effects or drug interactions are mostly limited to individuals having allergic reactions to the plant.
Pineapple weed is also supposed to work as a bug deterrent, either in fresh or powdered form. You can rub fresh plant on exposed skin, or infuse the powder in oil and apply it. Sprinkling the dried plant over food helps prevent spoilage. (I have not tried this, and I'm sure it would affect the flavor, but maybe in a pinch.)
As always, any medical information is for informational purposes only. Always exercise caution when using any wild plants and make sure you have positively identified the plant and are harvesting from a clean area.
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Mountain Rose Herbs stocks many of the plants (in dried form and in seeds) featured in the Weekly Weeder series. They also carry glass jars, droppers, salve containers, beeswax and just about anything else you need to get started with herbalism.