Matricaria discoidea, commonly known as Pineapple Weed, is an astoundingly fragrant herb. It grows everywhere, preferring driveways and sidewalk cracks, almost as if it preferred to be stepped on. This humble little herb is usually ignored, and not well understood or utilized, even among herbalists. However, as the name “matricaria” denotes, Pineapple Weed is actually related to German Chamomile and shares many of its medicinal properties: it eases tension and stress, and can be made into a tea for indigestion.
The entry for Pineapple Weed in one of my favorite field guides, Western Medicinal Plants and Herbs by Stephen Foster and Christopher Hobbs, is short and sweet, just like the plant:
“Numerous American Indian groups used tea of the pleasant-tasting, fragrant leaves and flowers to treat upset stomach, stomach pain, gas, colic, indigestion, diarrhea, constipation, convulsions in babies, colds, fevers, heart ailments, and menstrual cramps and to strengthen the blood and facilitate delivery of the placenta during childbirth. Once considered a cure-all and tonic; used in the Sun Dance ceremony and in sweat lodges for its fragrance; added to many medicines to make them taste good. Used externally for infected sores.”
Pineapple weed looks like a common, “noxious” weed that we have here in the Colorado Rockies called “Scentless Chamomile”. Interestingly, this scentless plant is not related to chamomile, and does not share any of its healing properties. The most obvious difference is the flower head never develops petals, and you could even say it looks like a baby pineapple (this may take a bit of imagination…).
Pineapple weed may be harvested by hand, or using a small pair of garden clippers. I usually clip off the top two inches and then lay them out to dry in a cool, dark place protected from sunlight and from bugs. When your harvest is fully dried, carefully crush the tops and leaves into a clean jar and add it to your growing herbal apothecary! My three-year-old loves this tea right before bed, and I love it with a splash of brandy as my nightcap. (The resulting tonic tastes like vanilla flavored brandy!)
When properly identified and harvested, Pineapple Weed can be safely substituted for Chamomile as a tea to ease colicky babies, a relaxing drink before bedtime, and a simple, naturally sweet addition to tinctures and salves.