Scotland’s superfood weeds: using them at home & on the farm.

Following on from the report in the Scotsman on the superfood benefits of corn gromwell –

Plantlife Scotland has put together a top 6 list of native plants, sometimes called weeds, that similarly provide high levels of key vitamins and minerals. These 6 plants all contain high levels of calcium, potassium, with magnesium, sodium and phosphorus, compared to perennial rye grass . Retaining these plants in species rich grasslands increases the availability of these minerals to grazing animals and helps diversify diets.

Some of these plants are superfoods for humans too . For example, nettles contain high levels of iron, calcium, potassium and manganese as well as vitamins a and c and beta-carotene. Traditionally made into soup, nettles can also be made into beer or eaten as greens or drunk as tea. And chickweed is high in magnesium, phosphorus, copper, vitamins A, C, B6, B12 and D.  Maybe we’re all missing something here: we have a superfood larder on our doorstep!


Dandelion: Taraxacum officinale
High in calcium and copper, compared to perennial rye grass. Used medicinally in the past and still used today as a diuretic, and as a tonic. It grows in a wide range of habitats including grassland and cultivated ground.

Common or stinging nettle: Urtica diocia
High in phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium and copper, compared to perennial rye grass. Nettles contain many vitamins and minerals and are easily digested and have been used widely in the past to make soup, tea, beer or as greens. What’s more, cloth spun from nettle fibre was still being produced in Scotland into the late 18th century and a range of yellow to green-grey dyes were extracted. It was one of Scotland’s most useful plants. It grows in all habitats wherever the soil is rich in nitrogen.

Spear thistle
Spear thistle

Spear thistle: Cirsium vulgare
High in calcium compared to perennial rye grass. It grows in grassy and disturbed habitats.


Yarrow: Achillea millefolium
High in potassium and calcium compared to perennial rye grass. Used extensively in the past as a medicinal plant for humans and animals. It was used to treat sheep scab on the farm. And in the home, it was used to treat consumption, wounds, stomach complaints, cuts and bruises. The tea was drunk to combat melancholy. It was also used to make beer. It grows in grassy habitats.

Chickweed: Stellaria major

High in phosphorus, potassium, and sodium. In the past this plant had many medicinal uses and used for example to treat rashes and rheumatism, constipation and coughs and insomnia. It grows on bare patches in cultivated land on rich soils. Often a garden weed.

Creeping thistle: Cirsium arvense
High in phosphorus, potassium and calcium, compared to perennial rye grass. It grows in grassy habitats.

Further reading:

SRUC technical note TN643 (October 2014): Weed management in grassland.
Tess Darwin (2008) The Scots herbal. Birlinn.