Finding the medicine cabinet in your backyard

Originally published at

While dandelions and weeds are often something we aim to get rid of, Robert -McQueen actively searches for them, teaching others about their medicinal value. Last Wednesday evening he led a workshop on how to heal with herbs and based on the turnout, he’s not the only one who looks for dandelions.

Rob McQueen leading the workshop on medicinal herbs at Queens Park on Aug. 27.

Rob McQueen leading the workshop on medicinal herbs at Queens Park on Aug. 27.

The herb class, which was originally to be held at East Village Arts Collective on Dundas street, was relocated to Queens Park because of an unexpectedly large turnout of about 60 participants.

Many participants came with sample weeds from their gardens, to confirm what it was and what it can be used for. McQueen said identification is the first step.

“Identify, know what it’s for and know your body,” he said.

McQueen, who has been studying medicinal herbs for 50 years, first learned their value when he was 12 and suffering from ringworm scabs. After many unsuccessful trips to the doctor, he noted the cows on his farm didn’t get ringworm in the spring when they ate grass. So he dug up some grasses and herbs, ate them, and after two weeks he said his scabs were gone.

“That’s when I really started believing in herbs,” he said. “I’m teaching it so others can learn and develop a faith in this too. That’s why I’m here.”

McQueen said he has healed his kids’ sinus infections, strep throat and bronchitis from cloves of garlic. He said a poultice of natural ingredients including mustard seed and plantain have helped a wounded knee. Dandelions, he said, carry many vitamins to treat an upset stomach or high blood pressure.

But with medicinal herbs comes precautions. McQueen said it’s important to recognize select herbs can be used for medicinal purposes and many, such as the deadly nightshade, are toxic. He said some herbs can also interfere with medications and for diseases like diabetes or heart problems, it’s best to let doctors handle it.

“There can be simple solutions,” he said. “I believe in eating your medicine. I drink lots of water, and eat well. If you have healthy habits, you rarely get sick.”

Karen Lynn said at the workshop that she’s a strong believer in eating natural, organic foods and emphasized their value to our health. She said apple cider vinegar has helped heal many of her ailments and even claims it played a part in getting rid of a breast lump that was developing into breast cancer.

Although Lynn doesn’t grow her own herbs she said she was interested to learn about what we all have “growing right in our backyards,” and their health benefits.

Emmy MacLachlan is an avid gardener working on developing a herb garden herself.

“It’s really nice to see this kind of a talk given to a community to learn how we can use it in our own gardens,” she said. “I think more people are interested in looking after themselves now and that’s good.”

As for the value of weeds, she said it’s really a relative term.

“It’s only a weed if you don’t want it.”

McQueen said he plans to launch a website identifying common weeds and explaining their uses, with hopes of reaching a larger audience and creating a network of like-minded people in the community. His teachings are rooted in a much greater purpose.

“When I’m doing this, people will start picking the herbs and get connected with the land. This is not just a thought in their head, this is changing their lifestyle and they will become advocates for the environment,” he said.

“I would love to start to turn things around so people start using herbs again like we were meant to.”

McQueen’s next workshop is next Thursday Sept. 4 at the LDS Chapel on Baseline Road at 7 p.m.


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