Aug 11th, 2012

Ragweed: This Foe May be a Friend Too

by Laura Schumm, Community Kitchen Garden Research Intern, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Here in the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden Community Kitchen Garden we have many rogue plants that have infiltrated our garden; we usually call them all “weeds.”  One that many people are aware of is common ragweed. This plant is mostly known for causing annoying seasonal allergy symptoms, but it may also have some beneficial uses.

Ambrosia artemisiifolia or Common Ragweed has fern like leaves. This image was taken in the pre-flowering stage.

Ambrosia artemisiifolia or Common Ragweed has fern like leaves. This image was taken in the pre-flowering stage. photo by Brian Vick

Traditional Medicinal Uses
Ragweed is said to have many medicinal benefits; it can be used as an astringent, antiseptic, emetic, emollient, and a febrifuge (or fever reducer). Early Native American healers valued this plant for medicinal uses and took advantage of its topical and internal applications. Herbalists use ragweed to relieve nausea, menstrual discomfort, and fever, and some Native American tribes have used the root of the ragweed plant to make tea that works as a laxative. The juice from crushed ragweed leaves can be applied to insect bites or poison ivy rashes to soothe irritation. Ragweed pollen is sometimes used in natural hay fever therapies.  That said, if you have a medical problem, you should consult your doctor. We don’t advise self-medicating.  Also, plant identification can be tricky — as many plants look alike, so unless you are an expert we don’t recommend ingesting plants.

Ragweed as a Companion Plant
A study done by the Coastal Plains Experiment Station in Tifton , GA found that leafminers prefer ragweed (or pigweed) to pepper plants.  So if you spot ragweed close to your pepper plants, consider letting it go for a while. It could help protect your peppers from those pesky leafminers. Make sure to remove the flowers before they go to seed though or you will have a raging weed war on your hands.

Works Cited

“Benefit from planting Vegetable Companions”. Penn State Extension. 23 March 2012. Web. 24 July 2012.
Evans, Judith C. “History and medicinal use of ragweed”.  Helium. 22 January 2010.  Web. 24  July 2012.

Jonah Holland is PR & Marketing Coordinator at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, specializing in social media. She's been known to go for a walk, and come back completely inspired to write a blog post on her newest found adventure.

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  • Great post. Ragweed gets such a bad rep, but it can be a great plant, especially for wildlife. A common “weed” in fields that I try to encourage for early successional habitat management. It might be one of the best native wildlife plants around. Deer browse the forage in late summer. Songbirds and bobwhite (quail) eat the crown shaped seeds. The tall erect structure makes it a great component in native grass and wildflower meadows for birds and cover for young bobwhite chicks. Another bonus is that you rarely have to purchase the seed!

    • So glad to hear that we aren’t the only ones who have an appreciation for ragweed> I didn’t know that deer & songbirds like it too! Thank you for sharing this info. ~Jonah Holland, PR & Marketing Coordinator

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