Friday, 4 July 2008

Bindweed: beauty or beast?


To gardeners, bindweed - or convolvulus sepium - is definitely a beast. It grows like crazy and if you leave it alone it will smother everything in a tangled web of stalks and leaves.

The best way to get rid of it without using chemical weedkillers is to snip the plants near to the roots, then dig up as much of the roots as possible. They can grow very deep. Once the snipped off stalks have withered you can easily pull them away from your other greenery. You shouldn't put any of the plant into your compost bin - take it to your local recycling centre.

But I'm not really a gardener, although I love plants, and to me the bell-shaped blooms that grow rampant over wasteland are beautiful. I might not want too many in my own back yard, but when they are covering unsightly derelict sheds, rusty wire fences and fly-tipped rubbish with hundreds of large white flowers, then I think they are doing a public service.

Bindweed is also edible. You can steam the stalks, which apparently taste quite sweet and are rich in starch and sugars. However, you shouldn't eat too much because it is a strong purgative.

Nicholas Culpepper, said 17th century herbalist, said:
"This is the plant which produces Scammony, the gum resin used as a purgative. It does not grow as large in England as abroad. The juice of the root is hardened and is the Scammony of the shops. The best Scammony is black, resinous and shining when in the lump, but of a whitish ash-colour when powdered. It has a strong smell, but not a very hot taste, turning milky when touched by the tongue. The smallness of the English root prevents the juice being collected as the foreign; but an extract made from the expressed juice of the roots has the same purgative quality, only to a lesser degree."
Bindweed is also in the same family as ololiuhqui, which was used by ancient Aztecs as an hallucinogenic drug, and Morning Glory, which is also reputed to have psychedelic properties. But if you eat lots of our normal hedge bindweed in the hopes of getting a mind-altering experience you are more likely to get a trip to the loo than any sort of psychedelic head trip!

Note: This is not medical advice. Always consult a qualified medical herbalist before taking any herbal remedy. 

Links:
http://www.dgsgardening.btinternet.co.uk/bindweed.htm
http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Calystegia+sepium
http://www.cottagesmallholder.com/?p=421
http://bodd.cf.ac.uk/BotDermFolder/BotDermC/CONVO.html

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

We have morning glories here where I live, and I've always thought they were beautiful. Yesterday on my walk, I found a new flowering vine I had never seen before. It slightly resembled an orchid or lily and was purple. Don't know its name but it was nice to make the discovery.

Anonymous said...

I'm a new pagen, yaaaaaaY 4 meeee