Speedwells – Veronica SPP.: Edible & Medicinal Uses of the Green Tea of Wild Plants

Table of Contents

Marsh speedwell is the main native speedwell you’ll find here, but we have quite a few species creeping around Ontario. All are edible and medicinal wild plants.

Around Haliburton, the most common speedwells are marsh speedwell (veronica scutellata) and thyme-leaved speedwell (veronica serpyllifolia). I most often spot marsh and thyme-leaved in lawns left to grow in, meadows hidden in the woods, or in creeping mats along old paths and forest roads. American brookline (veronica americana) and heath speedwell (veronica officinalis) are uncommon here. Water speedwell (veronica anagallis-aquatica) and corn speedwell (veronica arvensis) are listed in Haliburton Flora as rare. There are probably more species here now than listed in Haliburton Flora decades ago.

Only one of the above is certainly native – marsh speedwell.

Speedwells - Veronica SPP.
Speedwells – Veronica SPP.

Edible Uses of Speedwells

Most veronica species are edible. The leaves are best harvested before flowering and can be used in salads or as a potherb. The young growth tips are edible through the spring and summer. The flavor is comparable to watercress.

The bitter leaves and stems make a green tea substitute.

Just beware to not harvest near polluted water.

American brookline (veronica americana) is the most popular speedwell both for edibility and medicinal usage.

Medicinal Uses of Speedwells

Speedwell is primarily said to support these body systems:

  • Integumentary
  • Respiratory

Medicinal tags include Astringent, Diuretic and Expectorant. See Medicinal tag key for more information.

Common usage includes an infusion of dried plant for coughs and catarrh, as an expectorant.

Speedwells - Veronica SPP.
Speedwells – Veronica SPP.

Alternative Uses of Bird’s Eye

The popular brookline species is also used in hair and skin treatment recipes, massage oils, etc.

Growing Veronica SPP.

Marsh speedwell is native to Ontario and reminds me a bit of chickweed. Western purslane speedwell (veronica peregrina var. xalapensis) is also native to Ontario and can be found in Algonquin park. It’s an annual that looks more like a hairy purslane or sedum. I based my native or not on the Checklist of Vascular Plants of Algonquin Provincial Park, but should note there is some disagreement. Thyme-leaved may be native too, or a subspecies of it, for one. It doesn’t sound presently like any of the introduced speedwells are invasive. It’s generally recommended to start the seeds indoors.


And the Usual Cautions:

1) Most medicinal herbs, if edible, are meant to be eaten in moderation, even sparingly. Some require extra preparation. Tannins are toxic if consumed in excess.

2) People can be allergic or sensitive to nearly any plant; try new herbs one at a time at your own risk. For instance, saponins commonly cause stomach upset.

3) For medicinal use, I must recommend receiving a diagnosis and working with a reputed health care provider. I generally do not post specific treatments and dosages because I think that is best between you and your health care provider, and ideally monitored.

4) Anyone pregnant, nursing, or taking prescription drugs should talk to a health care professional before adding new food items to their diet.

5) Many plants have look-a-likes, and sometimes they are poisonous.

#ads in References

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How Indians Use Wild Plants for Food, Medicine & Crafts (Native American)

Edible and Medicinal Plants of Canada

A Modern Herbal (Volume 2, I-Z and Indexes)

Field Guide to North American Edible Wild Plants (Out of Print)

Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs

Reader’s Digest Magic and Medicine of Plants

The Herb Book: The Most Complete Catalog of Herbs Ever Published (Dover Cookbooks)

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