An herb that’s always a summer treat for me, pineapple weed brings to mind some very special memories, too. One of my favorite things to do each summer was to visit my dear friend and herbal mentor Caroline Johnson and do herbal field walks on her ranch and in the forest nearby. We’d hike the dirt roads, trails, and meadows , identifying all the medicinal herbs that grow in the wild at 9000+ feet in southeast Wyoming and talking about their uses. I’d always snack on the pineapple weed that grows abundantly there and fill up some bags of it to take home and dry.
What is Pineapple Weed –
Pineapple weed (Matricaria matricarioides), sometimes called “wild chamomile,” is actually a close relative of chamomile. It’s most distinguishing characteristic is it’s delicious fruity pineapple scent and taste that reminds me of summer treats when I was a kid. In fact, pineapple weed smells so good, that native peoples used to use it as a perfume. Pineapple weed looks a lot like chamomile but without the white petals on the flowers. It’s flower heads are cone-shaped and yellowish-green in color, and it usually grows closer to the ground than chamomile.
Where To Find Pineapple Weed –
It has an affinity for growing in waste areas or places where it could get trampled easily such as vacant lots, sidewalk cracks, along the edges of dirt roads, and in weedy patches. Because it’s considered a weed, it unfortunately gets sprayed a lot along with other weeds. I’m hoping that by focusing some of my featured herb blog posts on herbs like this that are “weeds,” maybe it will inspire less spraying of weeds because the bees need these flowering plants, we need them for their herbal medicine, and reducing the use of these chemicals is always better for the environment and everyone’s health.
Caroline taught me quite a few uses for this tasty plant, but my favorite was her advice on using it for Thanksgiving Dinner. She said when you’ve eaten until you just can’t possibly eat any more, take some pineapple weed, and it’ll help you to be able to eat a second helping of everything. I love it! She was right, though. One of it’s primary uses is as a digestive aid. It’s used to move food through the digestive tract without feeling gassy and bloated or having stomach cramps.
Pineapple Weed’s Benefits –
Like chamomile, pineapple weed is considered to be a relaxing herb, great for calming nervousness, agitation, and anxiety and for promoting restful sleep. When we have digestive troubles of any kind that are caused by nervousness, this can be a great remedy. It helps to relieve stomach cramps and intestinal cramps, but it also helps with menstrual cramps as well and can be a good aid for painful periods.
New moms have often found it beneficial to take right after birth to help get a healthy supply of milk started for the newborn. And as an extra bonus, the effects of this herb can pass from mom to her baby through the milk providing some digestive support for the baby as well. It’s a gentle herb that’s great for babies and children with colic, gas pains, and teething. It’s even used for children’s colds, especially in children that are warm-natured, have flushed cheeks, and usually don’t like to wear warm clothes.
How to Gather and Use Pineapple Weed –
When gathering pineapple weed, it’s important to get it from an unpolluted area especially since this plant is so often sprayed. Avoid collecting it by roadsides or most urban areas or places where people and cars travel through frequently. And it’s best to pick it in the summer when the flower heads are soft and fresh and not in the fall when they turn to seed heads that are harder.
It can be enjoyed as a trail snack or put in salads. I love to eat it both of those ways! I also enjoy using it in breads and muffins in place of ingredients like blueberries. It can easily be dried and stored in an air-tight container to be enjoyed all year long.
It makes a lovely, naturally-sweet tea that is a great treat either hot or cold. It’s especially perfect for bedtime. To make a cup of tea, just put a handful of flowers in a tea cup, add some hot water, and let it steep for 10 minutes. Strain and serve. You can add a little honey if you like. I love to make it as a sun tea. I just think every tea tastes better when it’s been infused with the sun’s energy!
This “weed” is a delicious little herb with so many fantastic benefits. And it’s all around us, sometimes right under our feet. Rather than spraying it, let’s gather it and dry it. After all, it could help us eat another serving of pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving this year.
In loving memory of Caroline Johnson, beloved friend and mentor (1943 – 2018)