While it’s often viewed as nothing more than a weed, Daucus carota, also known as wild carrot, is an aromatic herb with an interesting history. This quick-spreading plant, which was originally native to southern Europe, is now commonly seen throughout the United States and Canada. It can be found growing in fields, along roadsides, and even in the home garden. The plant is also recognized as Queen Anne’s lace for its white, lacy-looking blooms and red center. This is thought to be reminiscent of a single droplet of blood from the Queen herself as she was pricked by a needle while tatting lace.
Grown for much more than its attractive lacy flowers and fern-like foliage, Daucus carota has exhibited various uses within the garden. Wild carrot is edible and has been highly valued for its medicinal properties. The root can be cooked or eaten raw, though this is best done while the root is still young and tender. The flowers can be cooked and eaten as well, and the seeds have commonly been used as flavoring in soups and other dishes.
Generally, the wild carrot plant is grown for medicinal purposes, harvested in summer, and then dried for later use. The most common use of Daucus carota has been that of a diuretic in the form of tea or other infusion. In addition to stimulating urine flow, wild carrot soothes the digestive tract. In fact, both the leaves and seeds of wild carrot can be used to help settle the digestive system, in particular gas and colic. It has also been found useful for treating conditions associated with the kidneys and bladder.
Additionally, Daucus carota has found use in treating the mild queasiness and other symptoms associated with hangovers. Since wild carrot can also stimulate the uterus in women, it has been used to help problems related to menstruation. The crushed seeds have been used as a form of contraception for centuries. Taking a teaspoon of the seeds with water throughout ovulation is thought to reduce the chances of becoming pregnant. Some women have even used this remedy as a morning after form of birth control.
Other treatments associated with the use of Daucus carota have included ridding the body of parasites, such as threadworms. Some people have found the remedy useful for treating coughs and congestion too. The essential oil from the plant’s seeds has been used in cosmetic creams, especially those for reducing wrinkles. In the garden, the root decoction has been used as a natural insecticide and insect repellent.
Although all parts of the plant are deemed safe for use, the leaves can cause skin irritability and mild rashes in sensitive prone individuals. In addition, proper identification of the plant is vital. Daucus carota closely resembles the poisonous hemlock plant. It may be helpful to remember that the wild carrot has a hairy stem while the hemlock has a smooth, purple-mottled hollow stem. To prevent mistaken identification and possible poisoning, use of wild carrot should be supervised by only those who are knowledgeable or qualified in herbal medicine.