Ragweed, Ambrosia artemisiifolia

Courtesy of Forest & Kim Starr, via Wikimedia Commons
Courtesy of Forest & Kim Starr, via Wikimedia Commons

Family: Asteracae, the Aster Family

Description: Native annual herb 0.2-2.5m tall. Leaves similar to wormwood leaves (Artemisia), both oppositely arranged below, alternately above, flowers arranged into a raceme-like structure with yellow-green florets.

Abundance: Common

Habitat: Disturbed sites, field edges, roadsides

Plant Parts Used: Leaves, flowers

Medicine: STD’s, topical ailments

Ragweed has a bad reputation for its pollen being a major, if not primary, contributor to hay fever. Ray takes the optimistic view of this correlation: he thinks of this effect as ragweed taking a symptom out of our body—a symptom that is already living in the body and is generally manifested in our mucus. Ragweed is just helping us get well!

John described ragweed as an aid for sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s), applied as a wash depending on the disease. Many Native Americans, however, used the leaves of ragweed for a variety of external ailments. The Cherokee applied the crushed leaves on hives and stings while the Delaware used this poultice to prevent blood poisoning. The Lakota used a wash of the leaves for treating swellings and the Mahuna used this wash for minor skin and scalp diseases.

Note: This post is part of my Plants and People series. See my Plants and People page for more information about the project and the people referenced in this post.


  • Brooks, John. Personal Interview. 28 Nov. 2010.
  • Michener, Martin C. Botany Everywhere: Woods, Field, Home, and Garden Plants of NE USA, Third Edition. Hollis, NH: MIST Software Associates, Inc., 2009. PDF.
  • Mittelhauser, Glen H., Linda L. Gregory, Sally C. Rooney, and Jill E. Weber. The Plants of Acadia National Park. Orono, Me.: University of Maine, 2010. Print.
  • Moerman, Daniel E. Native American Medicinal Plants: an Ethnobotanical Dictionary. Portland, Or.: Timber, 2009. Print.
  • Szwed, Sue. Personal interview. 12 Nov. 2010.