I am used to thinking about invasive species in a negative light. If the first blush of spring is dappling our woodlands, you can be sure it is not from native ephemeral wildflowers but from the sickly green of Asian honeysuckles, Japanese barberry and overwintering garlic mustard poised to explode and smother. When one of these "botanical thugs" turns out to have a potentially beneficial aspect as well, it is a good reminder that good and bad are not attributes of species but value judgments that we make based on their behavior.
Another sign of Spring in these parts is the emergence of disease bearing ticks looking for their first blood feed of the season. I picked one up on a lovely walk in the woods last Saturday, and today have the telltale bullseye of Lyme Disease.
At the doctor's office this morning, I learned that in addition to a heavy course of Doxycycline, there is an herbal treatment for Lyme that includes Polygonum cuspidatum - Japanese knotweed.
In his book Healing Lyme, Stephen Harrod Buhner writes;
"The three main herbs [and two supplemental herbs] in the core protocol - andrographis, Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum) and cat's claw (Unicaria tomentosa) [astragalus and smilax] - will significantly lower or eliminate spirochete loads in the body (including central nervous system and brain), raise immune function in ways that will specifically empower the body to respond to borrelia infection (such as raising CD57 white blood counts), and significantly alleviate the primary symptoms of Lyme disease - brain fog and confusion, lethargy, arthritic inflammation, heart problems, and skin involvement."
This example of Buhner's prose may be somewhat tortured - parenthesis, brackets and dashes, oh my - but the medicinal potential of knotweed may cause me to reevaluate my opinion of this species. I was aware that young knotweed shoots can be used in pies as an ersatz rhubarb, but if an 8-12 month course of knotweed supplements helps with Lyme, then we've got plenty of the whole herb growing around here that I'd love to see go into capsules and out to herbalists and homeopaths where it can do some good for a change.