Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden
Bishops weed, Ammi majus, is also known as bullwort, and in the UK is most commonly known as Queen Anne’s lace. It’s a very pretty plant with an unfortunate resemblance to hemlock, so should not be collected from the wild.
Some countries have legal restrictions affecting this plant.
Two other plants are also sometimes called bishops weed: ajowan and ground elder. The name Queen Anne’s lace is also used for Daucus carota, also known as the wild carrot. All three plants are in the same family (Apiaceae, formerly Umbelliferae) but not closely related.
Bishops weed is a hardy annual and can reach a height of 3 feet (1m). It can be found from Africa to the UK in moist soil, in sun or semi-shade. Some people may experience photo-sensitivity and/or dermatitis if their skin comes into direct contact with the sap.
The part used in medicine is the seeds. A standard infusion is made by putting 2 tsp of crushed seeds in a pot and covering with 570ml (2.5 US cups, 1 UK pint) of boiling water, then allowing it to stand for 15 minutes – 3 hours before straining. A decoction is made by putting 2 tsp of crushed seed in a pan containing 570ml (2.5 US cups, 1 UK pint) of cold water, bringing to a boil and simmering until the liquid has reduced by half, then straining before use. The dose in each case would be up to 250ml per day, taken in 3 separate doses of around 75-80ml.
A standard infusion is used to treat asthma, angina, “gippy tummy” (that sort of stomach-churning sensation), and as a diuretic and tonic. A decoction is said to be the herbal equivalent of the “morning after pill“, preventing fertilized eggs from being implanted in the womb. Avoid overdosing, as this can cause nausea, diarrhea and headache.
As with all herbs used for medicinal purposes, Bishops weed should be grown organically to avoid adulteration of the active constituents by unnatural chemicals. To find out more about growing organic herbs visit the Gardenzone.