Monday, July 25, 2011

Queen Anne's Lace: Herb Notes

Queen-Anne’s–lace (Daucus carota) is found in many parts of the world. It bursts with large, delicate umbels of white to purple-tinged flowers in spring and summer. Each umbel possesses a tiny single red or purple spot in the center, and as the seeds begin to ripen in late summer, the umbels contract to resemble a bird’s nest. Queen-Anne’s-lace earned its common name from a legend that tells of Queen Anne of England (who died in 1714) pricking her finger—drawing a drop of blood—while sewing lace.

Queen-Anne’s-lace belongs to the carrot family (Umbelliferae) and contains beta-carotene and other properties that are used to treat bladder and kidney conditions. Also known as wild carrot, Queen-Anne’s-lace grows taller than today’s cultivated carrots and the stalks are rougher. The 17th-century herbalist Nicholas Culpeper believed the roots to be “small, long and hard and unfit for meat, being somewhat sharp and strong.”
Nonetheless, early Europeans cultivated Queen-Anne’s-lace, and Romans ate it as a vegetable. American colonists boiled the taproots, sometimes in wine. They also mixed the leaves with honey and applied the poultice to sores or ulcers, to help heal and kill bacterial infections. Settlers also used the herb as a source of orange dye.
The seeds of Queen-Anne’s-lace have their own benefits. They are nearly flavorless and can be added to foods to help prevent flatulence. Historically, they were used as a form of contraception.
Throughout history, Queen-Anne’s-lace maintained its popularity in the home and garden. It was soaked in rainwater and used as a perfume. The flowers appeared frequently in cut and dried floral arrangements on dinner tables. Cooks prepared the young leaves in a green salad or tossed bits into soups as a spice, and the flower heads were sometimes dipped in batter and fried as fritters.
Wild carrot is high in sugar (second only to the beet among root vegetables); Irish, Hindus and Jews sometimes used the herb to sweeten puddings and other foods. The roots were roasted and used as a coffee substitute or infused as a mild diuretic tea. Queen-Anne’s-lace is native to Mediterranean regions, and grows in any well-drained soil. It blooms from May through August. In North America this plant is quite common in fields and landscapes, and because it grows without being cultivated, there are many colors, forms and varieties. Check with your county extension agent before you plant it, as this is designated a noxious weed in some states.
This biennial never forms a root mass, but it spreads rapidly and is a prolific seeder in well-drained soil. Gather handfuls of seeds in the fall to sow in early spring.

The Differences Between Poison Hemlock & Queen Anne's Lace. Hemlock stems are smooth; the stem of Queen Anne's Lace has hair. Hemlock stems have purple spots on the lower part; Queen Anne's Lace stems are plain green. Hemlock has a bad, musty smell that reminds some people of mice; Queen Anne's Lace smells like carrot greens. Hemlock gets much taller (3-10ft/90-300cm) than Queen Anne's Lace does (3ft/90cm). The easiest way to tell these plants apart is when they are in bloom. The flowQueen Anne's Lace flower ers of Queen Anne's Lace have a tiny dark purple flower in the center of the flower mass--the queen's blood, which can help you remember it. Hemlock flowers are all white. If you see this plant out in the wild, be especially careful about harvesting it, because it is very difficult to tell it apart from water hemlock, which is far, far more poisonous--one bite of a water hemlock root has been enough to kill a human being. Always wear gloves when handling this plant, and if you burn it, do not breathe in the smoke.

Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota)
  • Not specified
Traditional Medicinal Usage:
  • Colic
  • Liver
  • Kidney
  • Bladder
  • Painful urination
  • Ulcers
  • Abscesses
  • Sores
  • Wounds
  • Increase the menstrual flow
  • Expel worms from the bowels
Queen Anne’s lace blossoms were used as a tea; the root and seeds were often ground and used for colic, liver, kidney and bladder, painful urination, to increase the menstrual flow, and in expelling worms from the bowels. Grated root made into a poultice was recommended for ulcers, abscesses, sores, and bad wounds.
Queen Anne's Lace (Daucus carota) - Also known as Wild Carrot and Bishop's Lace. It is the original carrot, from which modern cultivars were developed, and it is edible with a light carrot flavor. The flowers are small and white, and bloom in a lacy, flat-topped cluster. Great in salads. NOTE: The problem is, it is closely related to, and looks almost exactly like another wild plant, Wild or Poison Hemlock, which often grows profusely in similar habitats, and is said to be the most poisonous plant native to the United States. The best way to differentiate between the two plants is to remember that Queen Anne's Lace has a hairy stem, while the stems of Wild Hemlock are smooth and hairless and hollow with purple spots.
Queen Anne's Lace can be found on the borders of wooded areas, in meadows, and in cultivated wildflower displays. The roots of this plant are rich in vitamin C and contain carotene. The seeds have been used as a hangover treatment. A herb tea made from the plant can be used as a diuretic and a urinary antiseptic.
An infusion of the leaves helps keep kidney stones from forming. Queen Anne's Lace is also used as a diuretic, to soothe the digestion tract, eliminating a build-up of gas, and to treat kidney and bladder disease.
The entire plant should be harvested when the flowers bloom, then dried for later use. The seeds can be gathered in the fall. The tender roots can be eaten raw as a carrot or added to salads, soups, stews, and cake and muffin mixes.

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