QUEEN ANNE'S LACE (Daucus carota)
Queen Anne's Lace (QAL in the following text) also called wild carrot, is now a widely distributed temperate zone biennial and the ancestor of domestic carrots.
The leaves, flowers and seeds of QAL are used for food and medicine. The roots are eaten as small first year taproots. Chopped finely, the young first year leaves are a very pleasant carroty salad green. The ground mature seeds are a major component of Madras curry powder (up to 25%). We raised rabbits for meat and fur. We tried to feed them an all-wild green diet. One early March we had over 100 bunnies and cool weather had retarded spring green growth; my daughter, head chef for the bunny brigade, could not find enough greens (dandelion, plantain, wild mustard, chicory). I saw an ad in the 5-Center for cull field carrots, about 2 ton truckloads delivered for $20.00. I ordered a truckload at once which was dumped in the driveway whilst I was off teaching at the university. That evening Hillary placed several large misshapen carrots in each bunny cage. About 10 PM the bunnies started to mutiny and have fits. They raced around their cages, thumped repeatedly for hours on their sitting boards and made weird snorty noises unlike any heard previously. Eventually we slept but not the bunnies. In the morning the big lumpy carrots were shoved into cage corners and had been barely nibbled. They don't eat carrots unless totally starving. In reality, they eat the greens, leaving the carrots for QAL reproduction the following year. Gophers and muskrats eat carrots. Bugs Bunny is really an imposter gopher.
QAL and Gout: I regularly prescribe wild and/or domestic carrot greens for my gout patients (men are 20 times more likely to develop gout than women). This treatment is long-term (lifetime) to tolerance, especially for high-protein diet-induced gout. The best results are from finely chopped leaves in salads or soups, or leaves juiced in a wheatgrass juicer.
I have not used the flowers medicinally. Phyllis Light of Clayton College, AL uses mainly leaf and blossom infusions and syrups therapeutically to treat apparent endocrine disorders (pers. comm. From PL to RD).
QAL Seeds: For a decade (1973-83) I used QAL seed heads, gorgeous green and pink half-mature, harvested in Cancer, with mature seeds at the umbel margin and tiny immature seeds in the umbel center. This was exactly how I was taught by Ella Birzneck, as the way to get optimal patient results.
Her main use of QAL seeds was for cystitis (generically speaking, most uncomfortable bladder and lower urinary tract discomfort presentations). The dried umbels were used as a strong decoction (1 ounce herb to a pint of water), long-steeped after about 20m minutes of boiling, for 4-12 hours. This decoction was to be consumed as 4-ounce doses 4-6 times daily. She also prescribed at the same time at least 4 quarts of plain water daily and no other beverages (tough on cryptic substance abusers).
My first outside case of cystitis in 1973 was a very attractive mid-30s professional woman referred to me with a "bladder infection". She had just begun a very exciting sexual relationship after several chaste years. The presumed bladder infection was not only painful but socially disruptive. She continually had an urge to urinate but usually could squeeze out only a few dark yellowish brown drops of burning urine, no matter how hard she "squnched". Fortunately she had no blood, cloudiness, or cellular masses in the scanty urine. She had very carefully limited her water intake so she would not need to urinate while cuddling and copulating. This exacerbated a usual case of "honeymoon cystitis". I suspect now that a few days of abstinence (oh horrors) and forced fluids would have brought resolution. Instead, I gave her 1 pound of the dried green QAL umbels and instructions and urged abstinence from copulation until the symptoms resolved. And, abstinence from coffee and alcoholic beverages. She was not pleased and threatened noncompliance. Cruelly, I said "So, suffer for love." She was compliant and had complete resolution of symptoms after three days of treatment. She shared the unused Daucus seeds with women friends as their needs occurred in the following several years.
Since then I regularly prescribe QAL seed decoction for mild urinary discomfort in both men and women. I frequently add marshmallow leaf or root and Irish moss. A curious side effect in some men was positive symptom improvement in cases of both BPH and non-infectious prostatitis. Now, I regularly prescribe QAL seed decoction for early stages of BPH and persistent prostatitis. To speed up the decoction process, I recommend putting the seeds in an automatic steam percolator coffee maker and process the same water three times through the seeds. The resulting dark aromatic drink is very tasty.
Daucus carota for Birth Control: About ten years after my first cystitis case, herbal gossip declared that wild carrot seeds were not only an emmemagogue, but a reliable, functional morning after(after unprotected heterosexual vaginal intercourse during ovulation) herb to prevent pregnancy. Details, cases, and proposed mechanisms were sketchy at best. I quickly realized that Daucus carota is truly contraindicated during pregnancy. John Riddle in his books on abortion and contraception discusses wild carrot seeds as herbal birth control and early abortificent. He suggests that hormonal disruption is the mechanism. We would discuss this, my female apprentices and I, when we sat around on rainy days hand garbling mature wild carrot seeds by finger, scooping out the seeds from individual basket-bracketed umbels for the retail market, wondering if the seeds were reliable. In 4 of 8 known cases, they were not, and pregnancy occurred. This made us wonder about the form in which the seeds needed to be taken. Various suggestions were made by herbalists, notably Robin Bennett, to use a teaspoon of whole seeds and chew them up. A challenging task. Others suggested oil infusions or strong decoctions. No one suggested blending immature seed heads for a slurry. There were no experiments which could indicate if incipient infertility was the real reason pregnancy did not occur in some cases.
A curious phenomenon occurred with several of the women who spent long hours hand-cleaning the seeds. For 8-10 of them, their respective menstrual bleeding began a few days (1-3) after seed cleaning independent of where they were in their respective cycles. All were surprised. I noticed no personal endocrine effects. This seems more complicated than prevention of embryo implantation, one of the speculative mechanisms suggested for wild carrot seed birth control.
I believe that there are human endocrine hormone analogs in Daucus carota seeds. This is discussed in the notes for Herbal Human Hormones elsewhere in this text. Correspondingly, medical anthropologist Farid Alakbarov describes recorded ancient medical and modern folk medicinal usage of carrot seeds to treat impotence and loss of libido in men (Herbalgram 49:76-7.2000)