A friend of mine spends her summer weekend trying to wipe knotweed off the face of the earth. She comes back from trips exhausted, having used everything (including fire) to try to eradicate a patch of knotweed, only to find it in the very same spot the next year.
It’s an exotic invasive, but it is, in fact, a native plant in Japan. How do they deal with it there?
They do the only sensible thing you can do when a plant just won’t stop growing. You eat it!
Is Japanese Knotweed Edible?
Yes! Japanese knotweed is edible, and it’s tasty. It’s also medicinal, but more on that later. Once you know that it’s edible, I hope that you’ll look at this plant with a new perspective.
There are dozens of ways to eat Japanese knotweed, and I’ve included links to over 30 recipes at the end of this post. Everything from pies, and candies to quiches, curries, and pickles.
What does Japanese Knotweed taste like?
Most people say that it tastes a bit like a gamey version of rhubarb. Or a greener version of rhubarb.
I handed a stalk to my rhubarb-loving daughter and she bit right in and asked for more. It does taste like rhubarb, but with less acid and ever so slightly more “vegetable” taste. Rhubarb tastes more like a fruit, while knotweed is the other half of the coin, the vegetable version.
Cooked knotweed tastes more like asparagus than rhubarb, at least to my palate. The subtle tart fades away and it’s just a pleasant vegetable.
Medicinal Uses of Japanese Knotweed
There’s some promising research looking into Japanese knotweed as a treatment for Lyme disease. I first came across this in an Instagram feed from a local Vermont Herbalist at Old Ways Herbal:
I wish I could find a more scientific source, and I’m still searching for an actual scientific study to cite. Until then, this comes from Every Home Remedy,
“Japanese Knotweed Lyme specifically targets leptospira and treponema denticola types of Lyme diseases. It is considered to be the most effective herbal way to lower, or even eliminate Lyme disease and its symptoms. It supports the innate immune function to react to the infection caused by the Lyme disease. It kills the spirochetes that are found in difficult-to-reach areas by enhancing the blood flow and also helps other drugs to be more effective.”
Knotweed is also traditionally used to treat a number of conditions, including respiratory issues and skin conditions. It’s used to stop bleeding, and as a mouthwash as well. There is some evidence that it may be helpful specifically for gingivitis, and according to WebMD,
“Developing research suggests that a root extract of knotweed might be useful as a mouth rinse to treat gingivitis. Gingivitis is caused by plaque, a film of saliva and bacteria that builds up on teeth at the gum line. The knotweed extract seems to decrease bleeding and swelling of the gums, possibly because it might interfere with the formation of plaque.”
Identifying Japanese Knotweed
The first step to eating Japanese knotweed is finding it. Knotweed grows along roadsides and stream banks, and anywhere there’s continuous disturbance. Ironically, all the efforts to eradicate it only create more disturbance, and help to promote favorable conditions for more invasive growth.
Knotweed looks different as the season progresses, but the best time to eat it is when the shoots are young in the spring. In the early spring, the stalks unfurl with beautiful color and bamboo-like growth. Here’s a patch right alongside a country road, at the top of a streambank.
The shoots are bright green with pink/red divisions between sections. Take a look at the closeup below of a Japanese knotweed shoot.
If you cut into it, the stalk will be hollow except right where the pink line divides sections of growth. Leaves emerge from these division points.
The growing tips are pointed and curled as they reach skyward. When they’re very small, the leaves will be tightly curled around a central cone and it’ll vaguely resemble an arrowhead pointing upward.
As the season progresses, these young shoots can grow to 8 feet tall.
The young leaves can have a magenta hue, and the veins can range from magenta to white, turning lighter as the leaves get older.
For eating, you’re mainly concerned with the stalk and the leaves will be removed. The stalk is edible so long as it’s tender, and it’ll get woody as the plant gets older.
The stalks are hollow, like bamboo, and that leaves interesting culinary options. Some recipes make use of this and stuff the knotweed shoots.
I’ve seen hummus stuffed knotweed shoots, and a version of ants on a log with a knotweed shoot split lengthwise, filled with peanut butter and topped with raisins. Knotweed has a pleasant crunch, and it’d make a great stand-in for celery snacks.
Japanese Knotweed Recipes
There are so many ways to cook Japanese knotweed, and I’ve included a selection of recipes below. I personally made Japanese knotweed mini pies and there’s a knotweed gin infusing on my counter. I recently learned that rhubarb-infused gin is a popular drink and the tart notes in the rhubarb make a lovely cocktail.
I’m hoping that the knotweed will come through in the same way. It also has the added bonus of accidentally being a knotweed tincture, so I can drink my medicine this summer.
Knotweed Main Courses
- Japanese Knotweed Quiche – Kitchen Vignettes
- Sour Japanese Knotweed Soup – Very Vegan Val
- Knotweed and Lamb Curry – 66 Square Feet
- Fava Bean and Knotweed Meatballs – 66 Square Feet
- Japanese Knotweed Risotto – 66 Square Feet
- Knotweed Gazpacho – The Foraged Foodie
- Knotweed and Ramp Sushi – The Foraged Foodie
- Knotweed and Pork Banh Mi – The Foraged Foodie
- Japanese Knotweed Sorbet – Forager Chef
- Japanese Knotweed Bars – Leda Meredith
- Knotweed Mousse Cake with Maple Buttercream – Forager Chef
- Knotweed Pudding Cake – The Three Foragers
- Strawberry Knotweed Crisp – Our One Acre Farm
- Japanese Knotweed Syrup – The Three Foragers
- Japanese Knotweed Cold Dessert Soup – The Three Foragers
- Knotweed Tapioca – The Three Foragers
- Knotweed Dessert Squares – The Three Foragers
- Knotweed Peasant Wine – The Three Foragers
- Japanese Knotweed Vodka – The Guardian
Knotweed Snacks and Sides
- Boiled Knotweed with Sesame and Vinegar – Herbal Academy
- Knotweed Vinegar Pickles – 66 Square Feet
- Knotweed Pickles – The Foraged Foodie
- Knotweed Salsa Verde – The Foraged Foodie
- Japanese Knotweed Puree – Forager Chef
- Japanese Knotweed Bread – Edible Wild Food
- Knotweed Fruit Leather – Forager Chef
- Knotweed Muffins/Quick Bread – The Three Foragers
- Knotweed Summer Rolls Appetizers – The Three Foragers
- Knotweed Pico de Gallo – The Foraged Foodie
- Japanese Knotweed Jelly – The Three Foragers
- Traditional Salted Japanese Knotweed – Nakazora
What exactly do you mean by young? Seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever seen it as small as the picture you have on your page. It grows everywhere around here, but seems to go from nothing to over a foot high almost over night. How big is too big to use? I would love to try some of these recipes, but want to make sure I’m using knotweed that isn’t too old. Thanks.
I think things grow a bit slower up here in Vermont maybe? This patch has had harvestable knotweed for about 3 weeks now. Some of the shoots are about 3 feet tall now, but there are new ones coming out that are 6 to 8 inches tall. I’d guess the harvest window would be at least a month around here.
The issue with the stems getting “too old” is more about them getting too woody. The younger they are, the less woody they are, and the better they are as a steamed vegetable. Still though, I was able to eat some of the 3-foot tall stems and they were a bit stringy, but still ok, and I ate some of them raw. They’re just fine for making a tincture too.
If you’re somewhere without a harsh winter, like the south maybe, it might not die back like it does up here?
I just discovered your page and absolutely love it so far. I live on a small homestead up in Central Ontario, Canada and practice herbalism and survival skills as well. I have heard a lot of promising stories about people using knotweed for Lyme and I have started taking it regularly myself as a preventative. Apparently, knotweed has one of the highest concentrations of Resveratrol of any plant. I believe this may be one of the constituents contributing to its helpfulness with Lyme. I also have not found any scientific studies/paper on the topic though. If you come across anything please share!
Keep up the great work!
There are clinical studies and homeopaths and naturopaths are treating Lyme and many other chronic diseases with this plant( and many others) along side homeopathy, and it works very well; you can check out Robin Murphy website or blog for more info and he is brilliant
There can I get a start of this plant?
In many places, growing knotweed or even promoting knotweed that is already growing, is illegal. I do not believe there’s anywhere you can buy a start of the plant, and I would never suggest planting it even if you could. That’s a horrible idea.
This is one of those that’s best left in the category of foraging.
Oh My ! That is the last plant on earth you would want to start growing intentionally. There is so much growing wild that you would never need to grow it on purpose. I have it and there is nothing other than goats that have ever been able to sort of keep it cut back. I don’t use poison on anything but have read even that doesn’t work. So I have learned to make peace with it. I eat it along with the goats. The bees love the flowers and I use them in my pressed flower art. Their color lasts forever. The stalks can be used in many different ways such as as disposable straws, in crafts and to make a simple flute. In the winter the dried stalks make perfect kindling. There are many great recopies online and in foraging books. It is sooo invasive however, that I literally take care not to let any bits go down the sink when cooking with it. I have seen it grow thru concrete. I even have had thoughts of it growing out of the septic tank AFTER it has been digested ( well maybe not, but I still think it could be possible with this weed) So while you can do many things with it, don’t whatever you do , do not plant it.
Don’t ever plant it! It is severely invasive and once established almost impossible to eradicate. Actually impossible without toxic herbicides. The roots go down METERS, and I mean METERS.
Having been through removal of knotweed which necessitated digging 3 feet down, having contaminated soil removed, putting up barrier then paying to have fresh soil put in because the stuff grows on runners that can get through a building foundation I’d never recommend deliberately growing this menace. In fact, it’s illegal in some U.S. states and Canadian provinces to plant it anywhere
I understand that knotweed shoots have a high level of oxalic acid. When preparing foods, how do you deal with this?
It’s not something I’ve ever had an issue with, but I’m not eating it in huge quantities.
Am I missing something here? “This invasive is one of our primary defenses against Lyme infection—particularly fascinating, as knotweed thickets provide perfect habitat for deer ticks and the white-footed mice they parasitize. Knotweed and Lyme-infected ticks seem to spread together along our riverbanks, a built-in remedy at the heart of the problem. ” Why would you want to provide the “prefect habitat” for deer ticks? Maybe we have a problem with the ticks because of the knotweed. Get rid of the knotweed, get rid of the Lyme infected ticks?
I would never suggest planting knotweed, but it’s here to stay and notoriously difficult to eradicate. Yes, if you’re devoted enough you can eradicate it, in theory, but I to this day do not know anyone who has successfully removed it from their property once it was established. I even know one person who removed the top 6” of topsoil from a place, and it still came back. Definitly don’t plant it, but if you have it, you might as well use it.
(We do not have any on our property, thank goodness. I forage it on other’s land. We still pull at least 5 ticks a day off the family, sometimes many more. You don’t need knotweed to have ticks.)
Ashley, where did you find the information about knotweed being a habitat for ticks and deer mice?
I seem to remember a few of the sources that discussed knotweed being a Lyme disease treatment mentioned something like “the very same plant that provides habitat for ticks also helps treat Lyme.” That’s my memory anyway, but it’s not exactly a scientific source…
Just because you don’t like the idea of ticks, doesn’t mean you bulldoze all of the forests and woods.
Did anyone suggest such a thing in the first place?
We have a terrible problem with deer ticks and Lyme here in northern Wisconsin. The ticks thrive in any long grass. Our knotweed patch has less ticks than the grassy fields.
Where can I get some real and no fake tincture as I had Lyme two years ago amd am currently suffering post complications. Being a Vermonter , I don’t trust too many out of state sellers. There’s bad people online.
I did a quick search for you, and found someone in Brattleboro that sells it in capsules. Haven’t found any local tincture sellers, but if someone does, leave another comment…
We make our own tea and tincture out of the knotweed roots. Make your own. We just boil the roots after cleaning the dirt and it makes a wonderful tea that we drink three times a day to ward off limes disease
I am feeding Japanese Knotweed root power to my horses for treatment of chronic lyme. I also need it for the Reservatrol so i would like to ingest the root powder. I made a tea but of course the powder does not dissolve. I have it in the refrigerator but all the root settles to the bottom like dirt. Am I getting the benefit of the root in the solution? Or, do I have to actually ingest the powder. I know I need about 5 grams a day for my medicinal purposes. Thanks so much!
I’ll be honest that I’m not an expert at this, but when taking the root powder, the most common form I’ve seen is as capsules. You can either buy it in prepared capsules or fill your own gelatin caps. I’ve never tried to take it in solution as you mention, we mostly use the tincture.
How much do give to you’re horses and is it good for them for other problems
Read anything and everything by Stephen Harrod Buhner for scientific support of the medicinal uses. He has many books and an online presence.
So, to make tincture for lyme I just mix stalks and alcohol? Or should I use the roots instead? What about the leaves?
I’ve recently learned that the knotweed tincture that’s used for Lyme is made with the roots, and updating this article is on my ever expanding to-do list. I found the stalk “tincture” delicious in the same way as a rhubarb infused liqueur, but I’m not sure that it’s considered medicinal. The root tincture is what is more commonly used.
The dark red of the root is where the medicine is. We boil and boil the roots over and over until they don’t excrete the red color anymore. We get around 4 gallons of dark tea from 8 cups of chopped up large roots. I drink 3 large glasses a day. It might be my imagination but it seems that my hand warts (that I have suffered with for 35 years ) for the first time are literally backing down and hopefully soon to be gone. They are 75%down since JKWeed tea drinking. I have had 1 month of serious Japanese knotweed tea drinking. I am digging and storing large roots for winter tea making.
I don’t know of a better reference source than Stephen Harrod Buhner’s books, “Herbal Antibiotics” and “Herbal Antivirals.” His research is sound and I soul true his sources on any medicinal herb topic. Besides, that is how I got here. 🙂
thank you for your good research and fallow up.
Are there any uses for the flowers?
I actually harvested some flowers this year and tried to find uses for them. Though the bees love them, they taste horrible! I wasn’t able to find any good use for them, but if you do, let me know.
We purchased a little house and 18 acres of woods in Illinois. There was a huge area, about 50 feet by maybe 30 feet of knotweed at the back of our yard. I think someone planted it thinking it would be a nice barrier. It was so thick we had to machete it to get through; I cut it where I saw it blooming and dried the blossoms on a tarp then added to a burn pile – it’s illegal in Illinois to put it in the trash … in the fall I clipped each stalk and filled the hollow with roundup, again drying the stalks that I cut down and then burning them. This next year about 75% of it was gone, just a few tiny clumps keep coming back. Several times during the summer and fall I rounduped the little clumps; I expect I’ll have to do it for another few years, from what I’ve read. You don’t dare dig it or every tiny piece of root will grow a new clump. I’m also stockpiling roundup in the basement since with all the lawsuits it could be taken off the market. Then what will we do? I tried the new poison Costco is carrying and it didn’t do anything, nor did spectracide. I’ve read the best poison is something made by Dow Chemical but I was unable to find it anywhere. About 2/3 across the property on the border with vacant house is another patch, this about the size of a block. So far it’s all on their property. I’m looking forward to going and picking some shoots to eat; but will continue working to kill every bit I find on my property. Thank you so much for the information on Japanese knotweed! I had no idea.
POISON! OMG. I HAVE SAFELY ERADICATED ACRES OF KNOTWEED WITH 4 GOATS…THEY WILL BREAK DOWN EVERY KIND IF FENCE TO GET TO IT…ALSO , A COUPLE OF PIGS CAN ROOT IT UP. ON THE OTHER HAND, THE REASON THEY DO IY IS INSTINCTIVELY THEY ARE AWARE OF IT’S AMAZINGLY HIGH LEVEL OF MINERALS AND IT’S MEDECINAL VALUE…IT IS THE MOST EFFECTIVE TREATMENT FOR LYME DISEASE – I KNOW, BECAUSE I HAD IT AND FOUGHT THAT BATTLE.
Please stop using RoundUp if you care anything for this planet and all its inhabitants. Look it up. Poisons don’t magically disappear after you use them. Everything is connected to everything. Please wake up!
I’m sorry but using Roundup is an absolute no-no. It doesn’t just affect you, it remains in the soil and goes into the water that other creatures including humans have to drink and use for watering plants. Apparently goats get rid of it. You must try anything but Roundup or get to like it. This is serious.
i just dug up small patch of japanese knotweed that suddenly appeared , likely a gift from my wild birds. the ground had frozen hard here twice but then we got a week of 50 degree air and the ground was soft and loose from frost heave. so i have a tub of roots and rhizomes with budding stalks. i am searching for exactly how to make tincture, practical advice like how small to cut the pieces and does it have to be everclear? gin sounds nice too.
also, here is a link i found fascinating and understandable while quite scientific.
Just wash them well, then chop them up finely and submerge in alcohol to just cover. I just fill mason jars. Doesn’t have to be everclear, actually there’s some evidence that high proof everclear is too strong and harms some compounds in tincturing, and some water is good anyway (because it extracts the water-soluble compounds). I often use 80 proof (40%) vodka, but depending on how we’re going to use a tincture, I sometimes use either whiskey or gin too. I did whisky on Chaga recently, and we’re going to use that tincture as an additive in a homemade mushroom porter (beer).
So, a long winded way of saying, go right ahead with gin!
Do you know if the medicinal properties are strongest in this plant in the fall only?? Does it matter?? I’d think all the good stuff is busy in the rest of the plant spring and summer? What do you think??
I generally harvest in the spring because that’s when my attention is on the plant. By the fall, I’ve got so much else to forage! But from a technical perspective, I honestly don’t know if it matters for the medicinal properties.
Infor on Japanese Knotweed in “Healing Lyme” Stephen Harrod. Buhner
Can you freeze it in the spring and use it tear-round in recipes?
Yes, that should work. You may need to blanch it though, as you do for many other frozen veggies, for best results. I haven’t personally frozen it though, so I can’t say if it works better frozen raw or blanched.
If you’re looking for more on Knotweed, take a look at Stephen Harrod Buhner’s excellent book “Healing Lyme.” He talks about the science, and any available research. I didn’t dig into the research, but the Lyme Protocol probably saved my life.
I traveled from Minnesota to Mississippi in search of KNOTWEED. Found nothing but then again it may have been to early to spot . This was May. I came home and traveled another 3hours to where it is invasive.. a nice lady let me harvest as much fruit as I wanted. And we did 4 hours of digging and now it’s been 5 days trying to wash all the thick mud off the roots finally got that done after 3 days of working at it now it’s the roots those roots are like rock.
I have used a hatchet a sledgehammer a hatchet with the hammer and it’s very very difficult this is day five and I’m still trying to get through that big root any ideas to make this a little easier?
No ideas, unfortunately, it’s really hard to get through!
Hello ! Found your site because I have been trying to get a hold of Japanese Knotweed to grow. We have a small permaculture homestead in CA and I am interested in it for several medicinal reasons. I have not been able to get seedlings or seeds. I am wondering if you or someone reading this site would be interested in selling some if it grows where you live? We are in a dry part of California so I am not worried about spreading it and will most likely grow it in a container to be safe.
Love your site!
Sarah Forsythe MD
You might want to check your local regulations to be sure that you are able to plant there since it is a very invasive species.
I have been struggling with knotwood and have plenty in my back yard. It grows so fast I am old and can barely keep up with it anymore. If you want it, come and get it.
Big thumbs up for Stephen Buhner’s books….he speaks highest of using Japanese Knotweed (Polygonum Cuspitdatum) for Lyme treatment (also analyzes many other plants as well). One can buy it in bulk powder and other forms from 1st Chinese Herbs here in Washington state. They have both Plum Brand and NuHerbs.
I love this site, and will try to get my hands on some fresh knotweed to try some of these recipes!!
You’re very welcome. So glad you enjoyed the post.
If I want to make a quart of tincture how much root do I need? 1/2 , 2/3 cup????
I would just put whatever amount of knotweed that will fill the jar and then cover it with alcohol.
Hi Ashley, have you tried searching for Medicinal uses of Japanese Knotweed + Lyme Disease in google scholar? It searches only through scientific articles on google scholar.
Also if you use the plus + with your keywords in google, it will be searching for combinations of those words exactly.
Here s a link to have a look at. Hope it brings you some new info to look at. https://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&as_sdt=0%2C5&q=Japanese+knotweed+as+a+treatment+for+Lyme+disease&btnG=
Thanks for sharing that. We’ll check it out.
Oh wow I grew up in the finger lakes where we had a patch of this stuff on a shale hillside. I just noticed some growing in my rose bushes. I wondering can i feed it to my chickens and rabbits? It’s growing so fast! In the TX Rainy season. I best get started harvesting the heck out of it and attempting to kill it off.
It is my understanding that it is not poisonous and is safe for humans and animals.
ABSOLUTELY!!! ALL of my animals will break down fences to get to it!! And it is infinitely good for them as it is so full of minerals because of the rhizomes being so deep in the soil.