bee pollenating bidens alba flower close up

Medicine in Our Own Backyard: Bidens Alba

My journey to health and wellness has been anything but a smooth ride. However, it has led me to amazing places and taught me so much about the plant world. My husband and I have a beautiful permaculture food forest here in Naples, Florida and are working toward growing 100% of what we eat. As we got started I quickly realized that food is medicine and it surrounds us. Being diagnosed with two rare genetic disorders (Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and Osteogenesis Imperfecta I) and having a host of issues throughout my lifetime, I was a slave to the pharmaceutical industry. At my worst I was on 14 medications. I am happy to say after a lot of research, trial, and error I have gotten off of all of them! Plants have become my life and for good reason. They are magical!

Medicine is Everywhere - Bidens Alba

Food and medicine surround us everywhere we go and we don’t even realize it. Take for instance Bidens Alba. You will recognize this beautiful plant by its white petals similar to a daisy.

Bidens translates to two teeth and the seeds have two teeth that stick onto you, which is why it can be a thorn in your side… literally! I used to have a love/hate relationship with them. You most surely have seen or picked these Spanish needles off your pants or your dogs fur.

I saw this plant as a nuisance as it was everywhere in my yard and I was having to pick hundreds of them off the pups daily. No matter how many I pulled up they just popped up again. Each plant produces up to 6,000 seeds and can stay fertile for five years.

As I was pulling the plants up by the roots it hit me! In permaculture the problem is the solution. So I began researching this plant to see how we could coexist and form a more loving relationship. It was at that point that my mind was blown wide open at who this plant truly was. Bidens has antiviral and antibacterial superpowers, has over 40 different medical uses, is edible, and is the number three pollinator in the state of Florida for bees.

How on Earth could this plant be such a powerhouse for all these things and I’ve never known it? Our world is full of magical treasures awaiting discovery. So lets get into it!

It's Edible!

I was surprised to find out Bidens Alba is edible. How could a “weed” that is prolific, requires zero effort to grow, and spreads on its own year round have more nutrition than the spinach I was struggling to grow? It is eaten raw or cooked. If the plant is young and only about five inches tall you can eat the raw tips sparingly. Be warned that eating too many raw may cause a stomach ache due to the saponins. But you can consume plenty if you boil them and can also use the more mature leaves. Toss them in soups, stir fries, or as a delicious side. You can also eat the flowers and use them in a salad which will give it a nice peppery flavor and gorgeous accent.

A Medicinal Powerhouse

Bidens is a medicinal powerhouse and an effective antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antimalarial, blood tonic, diuretic, and antiseptic. It can help control glucose levels for diabetics, relieve cold/flu symptoms, treats MRSA, UTIs, lowers blood pressure, clears infections like staph, treats ulcers, acts as an expectorant, improves blood flow, and much more. This plant is a full medicine cabinet and ready and waiting for us to discover it.

The fact alone that Bidens can treat and cure MRSA and staph is mind blowing! Bacteria can develop immunity to pharmaceuticals because they represent only one or a few compounds. This is why they are always coming out with new medicines to treat us, because they build resistance. However, herbs are different and contain hundreds of complex compounds that bacteria can’t develop immunity to! This is great news for plant medicine.

Using Bidens Alba

You can use this plant as medicine in the form of tea or tinctures. If using as a tea use fresh young leaves and drop them into hot water. Studies have shown that you get about 40% efficacy out of a water extraction vs 90% as an alcohol extraction. So to get more potency out of this plant you can make a tincture.

This is very simple and only requires a mason jar, fresh leaves and flowers and 100 proof alcohol. I prefer to use 100 proof spiced rum because it tastes a little sweeter and is more pleasant to me. Harvest your leaves and flowers and fill up your mason jar ¾ of the way. Then just add your alcohol to the brim and seal it up. Keep your jar in a dark and dry environment for six to eight weeks. Give it a shake as often as you can remember. When done just strain the plant material through a cheesecloth and put the liquid material into dropper bottles. Store the bottles in a dark and dry environment. The suggested dosing as an antibiotic is 45-90 drops in water 4 times a day.

Happy Bees

Lastly, Bidens is the number three pollinator of bees in the state of Florida. The first is citrus, which is currently in danger of being decimated by citrus greening. The second is Saw Palmetto which has been added to the list of commercially exploited plants due to its medicinal properties. Bidens is a crucial plant to our bee community. The more we learn about plants and how we can protect and interact with them on a daily basis the happier and healthier we all will be.

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Bidens Alba is just one of many “weeds” that grow locally here in Florida. Many more are waiting to be discovered. You can follow me on Facebook and YouTube under Juicy Fruit Forest to learn more about what is growing around us and how we can incorporate them into our daily lives.

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