Ruth Hopkins: Learning to live in balance with all Earth's species

"I grow wildflowers. Part of the price one pays for enjoying the beauty of an organic flower garden is spending a considerable amount of time pulling weeds.

A weed is any plant that humans consider unattractive, undesirable, or bothersome, that persists in a place where it is not wanted. Invasive weeds all possess the ability to spread rapidly, and are associated with decreasing property values as well as reducing the production of livestock or crops. Most invasive weeds are not indigenous to the locale in which they’ve been designated as such.

While weeds may be classified as invasive, no plant—even ones that are poisonous—are bad, per se. What makes them invasive is the fact that they have been harmful or troublesome to humans or livestock, or are highly competitive with plant species that humans prefer.

Despite the negative connotations associated with invasive weeds, many of the same plants have medicine uses. St. John’s wort, (Hypericum perforatum) is classified as an invasive weed in my home state of South Dakota; however, tea made from St. John’s wort has been used by American Indians for centuries as a pain reliever and in the treatment of tuberculosis. Today, St. John’s wort is used as a herbal remedy to treat depression. Hypericin, a complex molecule found in St. John’s wort, is strongly antiviral and is currently being investigated for its ability to inhibit HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) and HPV (human papillomavirus)."

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Ruth Hopkins: Humans: Earth’s Most Invasive Species (Indian Country Today 8/14)

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