Health and Nutritional Benefits of Pigweed

Picture by Mike

Picture by Mike

Pigweed (Amaranthus blitoides) is also known as amaranth and it is now found on most continents except Antarctica. The plant is often considered to be an invasive weed, but like many weeds, it is quite edible and healthy to eat.

This edible wild plant originated in North America and has become naturalized in Europe, Asia, Africa and South America. The plant can be found in all US States and Canadian provinces. It has such great benefits that survivalists would be doing well to recognize it and to learn of its medicinal properties.

Pigweed appearance

Some species of pigweed grow more than three feet in height, but Amaranthus blitoides is low growing and sprawling, seldom growing taller than a few inches tall, with the branches laying upon the ground. It sometimes forms dense mats and the stems can be over a foot in length. The leaves are small, rarely over a half-inch in length and oval-shaped. The flowers are tiny and inconspicuous. The stems usually contain some reddish coloration and the leaves are normally dark green.


The prostrate habit and relative broad ovate leaves are distinctive of this species and distinguish it from Amarathus blitoides, which is another often prostrate amaranth in this area. Picture: Matt Lavin from Bozeman, Montana, USA

Pigweed in general

This annual grows well in sandy soil and doesn’t like clay soils that don’t drain well and which can become compacted. It is common in waste places, along fence rows, in fields and in lawns.

Some species are purposely grown as a food crop, particularly in Asia and parts of Africa. Besides the wonderful nutritional benefits, pigweed is easy to grow and all parts of the plant are edible. Native Americans primarily used the leaves and ground the seeds to make flour. This is a plant that was especially well-known to the Navajo and Apache Indian tribes. It was also known and used by the Aztecs.

Pigweed nutritionally

The young leaves are often added raw to salads. They can also be steamed or boiled as a pot herb. When the leaves become older, they can become bitter and tough, so the young leaves are the best ones to harvest. Naturally, they shouldn’t be harvested from any area that has been sprayed with pesticides.

A cup of boiled pigweed contains only about 28 calories, but the cupful is so high in vitamins A and C that it would furnish a person with 73% of the daily allowance of vitamin A and 90% of the RDA of vitamin C. The plant is also very high in manganese, calcium, and is high in Magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc and copper. Additionally, it contains 1.3 mg of Omega-3 fatty acids, but only a tenth of a gram of fat. If the pigweed is eaten raw, the vitamins and minerals would be in higher amounts.

Pigweed medicinally

Pigweed leaves are astringent and are made into tea to treat heavy menstruation, diarrhea, internal bleeding, bleeding from the gums, internal ulcers, headaches, sore throat and as a treatment for internal parasites. The astringent properties also makes it useful for treating cuts, scrapes, punctures and insect bites.

This is a plant that is excellent as a food source and which has some great medicinal uses as well. It is valuable as survival food. Most people who eat it do so because it tastes good, though. Pigweed is now so wide-spread that people should really get to know it on sight, if they don’t know it already.




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