Workshop: Finding medicinal herbs growing in sidewalk cracks

I'm really sorry I'm going to miss this Machine Project workshop on Wednesday, Dec 9th, in Los Angeles.
200912041502An after dark exploration of the sidewalk cracks around Machine Project for local medicinal plants, led by Nance Klehm. Get ready for the long winter dry, cold haul with simple knowledge on how to identify common wild plants that can be used in herbal remedies.

Nance Klehm is a radical ecologist, designer, urban forager, grower and teacher. Her solo and collaborative work focuses on creating participatory social ecologies in response to a direct experience of a place. She grows and forages much of her own food in a densely urban area. She actively composts food, landscape and human waste. She only uses a flush toilet when no other option is available. She designed and currently manages a large scale, closed-loop vermicompost project at a downtown homeless shelter where cafeteria food waste becomes 4 tons of worm castings a year which in turn is used as the soil that grows food to return to the cafeteria. More information on Nance can be found at her website.

Echo Park Medicinal Forage with Nance Klehm


  1. So, this is going to be a gathering of people who would willingly put something into their bodies that they found growing on a sidewalk in LA? That certainly qualifies as “radical” ecology. I applaud her courage, but I’m guessing this is kind of a self-perpetuating pursuit. She’s going to need a lot more medicinal herbs tomorrow to recover from the herbs she ingests today.

    I’m not a big believer in self-medicating with herbal “remedies.” But then again, I also don’t scrape up stuff off an urban street and swallow it, so what do I know?

  2. Not sure what she considers “medicinal,” but I’m sensing this is just new-age nonsense.

    Her composting projects look really interesting, however. I wish she had more pictures on her site.

  3. I hope those herbs weren’t growing in soils contaminated with heavy metals.

    Also, composting your own waste outdoors within city limits may be illegal, depending on where you live.

    Finally, @stevennatural what’s this “invigorate one’s immune system and maintain a bodily balance” mean exactly? Could you redo that sentence with some non-woo words, also known as “plain english” ?

  4. She has willow, the original source of an aspirin like compound, in her hands. I’m not big on eating plants from an urban environment, partly out of fear of heavy metals. Then again, I’m also not big on big urban environments in general.

  5. I live on the east coast, so my plants may be a little different, and I don’t do this on my day job. If you can find willow, you can make an aspirin like compound, not acetylsalic acid, but one similar. If you can find plantain (plantago, not the banana), the seeds of a similar species is used to make metamucil, other fiber products. Peppermint/spearmint is pretty benign, it’s not that rare to find it escabed in an urban environment, it’s had a couple studies suggest it’s oil can help with IBS. I think the method of activity has been suggested to be a decreased contraction of the smooth muscles (which line the gi tract), so they may be less spastic and hence decrease IBS symptoms. This is off the top of my head. Ginkgo is easy to spot, some mild benefit has been seen in some studies on dementia.
    Hawthorn extracts have been shown to have some cardiac benefit.

    Use at one risk, these statements will likely be labelled woo woo.

  6. Everything needs to be taken with a good dose of scepticism – on the one hand there are traditional remedies that do work but there’s also alot of junk sold to unwitting and desperate people.

    On the other hand you’ve got prescribed and OTC pharmaceutical drugs that have been (for the most part) rigorously tested and studied. Of course sometimes drugs aren’t as awesome as we’re told (Thalidomide for example).

    My take on all this is to research using interweb sources, libraries and health care workers if you want more information but take nothing as gospel.

    1. Agree w/ anon #11.
      Especially as the story is always changing as new research changes the picture.

      Thalidomide is an interesting one especially as ginger was already available a natural alternative for extreme nausea during pregnancy. It was not pursued in research at the time, partly because herbal meds were not considered legit, partly because their was no money as you can’t patent something that’s been around forever.
      Why push an opensource freeware med when there’s a promising copyrighted one that might bring in a bazillion bucks for some lucky CEO?

      And of course some oldies but goodies that have been around forever, like opium and tobacco, are not neccesarily wholesome and helpful for whatever ails you.

  7. Lol, Vegetarianism and Veganism in particular are totally unnatural. We evolved eating meat. Our distant ancestors at as much meat as they could scavenge whenever they could. They eventually domesticated animals so that they could eat it all the time. Meat eating is seen as one of the main forces behind what fueled our larger brains, which propelled us to where we are today. Not like those thick headed Australopithecus robustus vegetarian idiots. History put a dot on end of them.
    Vegetarians, in my experience, (dating actresses and all those other hot skinny types, as well as putting up with miserable customers at the health food store I used to work at) are sickly, moody, ill-tempered and often develop chronic conditions due to lack of minerals and vitamins in their diets. (The smugness and self-satisfied piety apparently isn’t brought on by the diet but is a mental thing.)
    You have to eat a tonne of vegetables in order to make up for a lack of meat in your diet. It doesn’t make any sense at all when you work it out by the numbers.

    1. “You have to eat a tonne of vegetables in order to make up for a lack of meat in your diet.”


      If you’re talking about protein, you can get all the protein you need from eating a varied, balanced, vegetarian diet. My wife (who has been veg for over 20 years) was completely veg during her pregnancy, and underwent extensive blood testing and monitoring, and was repeatedly told she was one of the healthiest pregnant women her doctors had ever seen. She was 38 at the time, and hasn’t been in a gym for years.

      Call it anecdotal evidence at best, but your insinuation that humans must gorge themselves like elephants to “make up for” not eating meat is total uneducated bullshit.

  8. “when in fact it’s one of the few ways to invigorate one’s immune system and maintain a bodily balance.”

    I love it when people string together words that mean nothing. “Maintain a bodily balance”, that’s a great one.

  9. Interesting that someone who “only uses a flush toilet when no other option exists” and who picks plants found growing in a big-city sidewalk would be telling other people about health. (I realize that the two are probably not directly connected, but it’s hard not to think about it!)

    Physician, heal thyself, indeed.

    disclaimer: I’m a regular user of herbal medicine — I go to a Western physician, too.

    (ReCaptcha: another defraud. snerk.)

  10. Am I the only one struck by the fact that she “only uses a flush toilet when no other option is available”?

    What are the “other” options? The shrubs in the park? Behind Taco Bell? I don’t know…

    1. Anon who asked “Am I the only one struck by the fact that she “only uses a flush toilet when no other option is available”?”

      Composting toilet. Yes, it seems literally anal retentive in a green way, but the article did label her as a radical environmentalist.

  11. I watched a show on bbc called ‘grow your own drugs’.
    He had some good ideas there and often got results from his plant derivitives.

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