Medicinal Herbs in Your Backyard

Why go to the local healthfood store and spend hundreds of dollars on supplements, when there are beautiful medicinal plants in your neighborhood?  I discuss the common Wild Ontario plants that can add value to your health, as well as one particular plant that you see as a nuisance, but could save your life!

Disclaimer: This content is meant for information purposes only, and not as a recommendation by Dr. Sangiuliano.  Before considering ingesting any of these herbs, consult with your Naturopathic Doctor or Herbalist first to ensure it is safe for your to do so.

chagaCHAGA MUSHROOM (Inonotus obliquus)

A parasitic mushroom, chaga primarily grows on birch trees and sometimes ironwood, elm, alder, beech and other hardwood species. The cap looks like charred wood or a cancer-like growth (outer part  is black or dark brown, hard and brittle, while inner part is yellow-brown). It is commonly used as a medicinal tonic used to treat stomach discomforts. More recent studies have shown that an active compound (inotodiol) in chaga showed activity against influenza viruses and various cancer cells. I personally love drinking Chaga in tea form to boost my immune system and benefit from its anti-cancer effects. CAUTION:  Edible fungi are often very similar in appearance to poisonous kinds. The information provided in this article should not be used alone in the identification of Chaga intended for consumption.  Prior to consuming mushrooms for medicinal purposes you should consult with your Naturopath.

DANDELION (Taraxacum officinale)

This weed is beneficial in more ways than one!  And yes, it is the same pesky yellow-flowered Dandelion-leafweed that grows in your garden and on your front lawns!  The root of this plant is commonly used as a hepatoprotective (liver protector), assisting with natural detoxification of the liver, and benefiting conditions such as hepatotoxicity, fatty liver, and hepatitis.  The root also aids in digestion. Dandelion root and leaf are mildly chloretic, stimulating the release of bile from the liver into the gallbladder. The release of bile accelerates the breakdown of various steroid hormones, causing an indirect benefit to skin conditions including eczema. The leaves are more kidney cleansing, stimulating urination and also replacing the potassium lost to the increased volume of urine. High concentrations of kynurenic acid, which supports the digestive system, are also found not only in the leaves, but the entire plant.  Additional benefits include blood purifying, fat metabolism, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.

Convallaria_majalis_0002LILY OF THE VALLEY (Maianthemum canadense)

Also known as Canada’s Mayflower, this plant blossoms in the month of May and can be found in deciduous, mixed, and coniferous boreal forests. It is recognized by its small white bell hanging flowers. Natives have used Lily of the Valley for headaches and sore throats.  In western medicine, this plant can be used as a cardiac tonic and diuretic, strongly recommended in valvular heart disease, heart failure, arrhythmia and dropsy. It can also be used as a urinary tonic, assisting with kidney stones and UTIs.  CAUTION: Though this herb has wonderful properties, it is UNSAFE to self-medicate with it as it affects the contractility of the heart. Always use under MEDICAL SUPERVISION.  DO NOT USE if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, or have low potassium.  When under medical supervision, this plant can be a great alternative for heart medications.

STINGING NETTLE (Urtica dioica)

Stinging nettle is one of my favourite wild, endogenous plants of Ontario.  I use it primarily in tincture orstinging nettle tea form, specifically to cleanse the kidney or as a nutritive.  The young leaves are edible raw, though they will sting in the mouth for a short time (and remember to use gloves when collecting them in the spring/autumn because they sting your hands too!). Young shoots and young plants, including the roots are edible when steamed/cooked. Its name tells you exactly what is it beneficial for…things that STING!  Therefore, the root is commonly used in urinary tract infections and Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy (BPH), and homeopathic preparations are also used for insect and bee stings. Other uses include frequent urination, irritable bladder, inability to urinate, and joint ailments.  The nettle tops (leaves and flowers) are used primarily in UTIs and Kidney stones, allergies, hayfever, and arthritis.

Who is making a Dandelion salad tonight????

Dr. Jessica Sangiuliano, Naturopathic Doctor

Dr. Jessica Sangiuliano, Naturopathic Doctor







Lily of the Valley, WebMD.

Stinging Nettle WebMD.


Lemieszek MK et al. Anticancer effects of fraction isolated from fruiting bodies of Chaga medicinal mushroom. Int J Med Mushrooms. 2011; 13(2): 131-43.

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Turski MP, Turska M, Zgrajka W, Bartnik M, Kocki T, Turski WA. Distribution, synthesis, and absorption of kynurenic acid in plants. Planta Med. 2011 May;77(8):858-64. doi: 10.1055/s-0030-1250604. Epub 2010 Dec 14.

Davaatseren M, Hur HJ, Yang HJ, Hwang JT, Park JH, Kim HJ, Kim MS, Kim MJ, Kwon DY, Sung MJ. Dandelion leaf extract protects against liver injury induced by methionine- and choline-deficient diet in mice. J Med Food. 2013 Jan;16(1):26-33. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2012.2226. Epub 2012 Dec 20.

Koh YJ, Cha DS, Ko JS, Park HJ, Choi HD. Anti-inflammatory effect of Taraxacum officinale leaves on lipopolysaccharide-induced inflammatory responses in RAW 264.7 cells. J Med Food. 2010 Aug;13(4):870-8. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2009.1249.

Turski MP, Turska M, Zgrajka W, Bartnik M, Kocki T, Turski WA. Distribution, synthesis, and absorption of kynurenic acid in plants. Planta Med. 2011 May;77(8):858-64. doi: 10.1055/s-0030-1250604. Epub 2010 Dec 14.

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