Herbs on the Bike Path: Wild Carrot

Latin name:
Daucus carota

Parts used:
root and seeds

OK, I cheated. This pic was actually taken at the Fells. …But I see Wild Carrot whenever I walk to Davis, growing just outside of the community garden. I promise I’ll snap a good pic when I pass it in the daytime. But you recognize it, right?

I have to say, this is one of my favorite flowers. The delicacy, off-white color, and shape of this floret as it bends in the breeze is amazing. Here in New England, they grow like weeds– and in great abundance! When I lived in Maine, I used to pass an abandoned little house on my way to work whose yard was filled (and I mean filled!) with Wild Carrot, and the picture of hundreds of them reaching up behind the wooden fence is etched in my mind.

Although you may know it by its American name of Queen Anne’s Lace, Wild Carrot is a predecessor of our garden variety carrot. As such, you may think of it for eyes and vision (and Juliette de Bairacli Levy cites it for this use), but in both historical and modern herbal use, its primary reputation is that of a contraceptive and menstrual regulator. The action of the seeds help to slough the uterine membrane… but once stopped, the membranes are toned and ready for conception – so use with great caution if employed in this manner! I remember hearing a joke at a New England Women’s Herbal Conference (I think it was Susun Weed who said it): “What do you call a woman who uses Wild Carrot for birth control? Pregnant.” Still, there are others who swear by it. But, I’m a dog herbalist, so – assuming you’re not breeding – let’s talk about its use in dogs…

Wild Carrot is a powerful diuretic; its root and seeds are used to eliminate water from the system. It pulls course substances (calculi, gravel) out through the bladder, moving this sludge out through the ureter to help tonify the urinary system. As such, it is beneficial in pets prone to calculi and UTIs. With our dependence on processed kibble, the high grain content in most commercial formulas (especially with cats, who are true carnivores) tends to alkalinize the urinary tract, leading to a propensity for calculi and thus UTIs. I would say that this is one of the most common conditions seen in today’s pets (in my experience – after food sensitivities). In these cases, I always suggest switching to a grain-free option.

When growing near water (water being a signature of this plant), be careful not to confuse it with some poisonous lookalikes like Poison Water Hemlock. Wild Carrot can be distinguished from others by having a single deep purple dot in the center of its beautiful, wide umbel. Toward late summer and into the Fall, the flowers curl up into a seedpod (as pictured above), and this is when the seeds are harvested for their medicinal use. When ground, they have a deeply pungent aroma. If using the root, harvest later into the Fall – and make sure to include some of those carrots in your dog’s dinner.

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