Tuesday, April 23, 2013

5 Herbs for Spring

As I described in my previous blog, Spring Cleaning for your Body, the lack of movement in the winter and slowed metabolism decrease the body's ability to rid itself of toxins, and make spring a great time to do some internal cleansing. Herbs can be extremely helpful with detoxification, and, at the same time, nourishing for the body with essential vitamins and minerals needed for health and growth. The great thing about the herbs listed below is that they all naturally become available in the spring time - a perfect example of the  connection between the earth and the body. 

Burdock (Arctium lappa) 
Burdock root purifies the blood by helping the body to rid itself of metabolic waste via many elimination pathways. It was used heavily during the industrial revolution to help the body deal with the intense pollution of the time. It is considered a vegetable in Japan and if it collected in early spring it can be added to soups and stir fries.  

Stinging Nettle (Urtica Dioica) 
May of you may know nettles from the awful sting they provide if you happen to stumble in to a patch of them, but any herbalist will tell you that this plant in no nuisance. David Hoffmann, a well known herbalist, once said "when in doubt, use nettles" and it really is helpful for just about everything. It helps to clear toxins, energize the body and build blood, and it is so high in vitamins and mineral that it is more nutritious than spinach. It also helps to improve the body's resistance to pollution and allergies and can tone blood vessels, skin, muscles and tissues. It is a diuretic and helps to remove acid metabolites from the body via the kidneys. The leaf can be cooked (which deactivates the sting) or the fresh leaf can be juiced. 

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinal) 
Dandelion is one of the most amazing plants around. I find it humorous that so many suburban dads fight so hard to rid their lawns of dandelions (this was my dad growing up), when in fact it is a valuable food and medicine. Dandelions are one of the 5 most nutritious veggies on the planet, and the whole plant can be used. The leaf is a diuretic and a wonderful remedy for the kidneys and bladder. Many pharmaceutical diuretics deplete potassium but dandelions have a built in buffer because they are very high in potassium. Pick the leaves before the plant flowers and you can add them directly to your salad. Once they flower, the leaves become extremely bitter (great medicine but not great food). The root stimulates the liver and gall bladder helping to cleanse the hepatic system and can be made into a tea or tincture. The flowers are delicate and tasty. I like to batter and fry them for a delicious treat.  

Alfalfa (Medicago sativm) 
Alfalfa is very nutritious. High in vitamins, minerals and chlorophyll, when fed to cows they produce more milk and when fed to chickens, they produce more eggs. The leaves and flowers can be added to salads and the sprouts (which are super easy and cheep to produce yourself with a sprouting jar) are very tasty! 

Red Clover (Trifolium pratense) 
Red clover is the final herb we will discuss today. It can help purify the blood by clearing toxins, stimulating lymphatic drainage and providing nourishment 

I feel that the best way to take advantage of these 5 herbs is to make a tea. Because many of these herbs are diuretics, releasing toxins through the process of urination, it is important to make sure you flushing your system with proper water intake. Making a tea allows for extra fluid intake and is also an excellent vehicle for the vitamins and minerals that these herbs provide. This is the recipe that I follow: 
  • 2 Parts Nettle Leaf 
  • 2 Parts Red Clover 
  • 2 Parts Alfalfa 
  • 1 Part Dandelion root or leaf 
  • 1 part Burdock root 
Mix all the ingredients in a glass jar. For every 1 cup of boiling water steep 1 tbs of herb mixture for at least 10 minutes. Enjoy 1 to 3 cups a day.  

Before closing, I would like to speak to the side of caution. Extreme toxicity can build in body tissues and cells If you do not practice regular cleansing measures. These herbs, especially dandelion root and burdock root, help to dislodge toxins from the tissues so that they may be eliminated from the body. This process can produce a worsening of toxic symptoms. When I was taking an herb class, one women did a liver flush and became violently sick for several days. This happened because the toxins stored in her body were being uprooted from their hiding places in the body and released into her blood stream where they could be excreted from the body. Although taking these herbs in tea form and at this quantity should not result in such extreme effects, it is possible and if it should happen consult your local herbalist or health care professional. 

I hope you can take full advantage of the spring foliage while assisting your body with some internal spring cleaning! 

Sources: 

Hoffmann, D. (2003). Medical herbalism: the science and practice of herbal medicine. Rochester, Vt.: Healing Arts Press.  

Mars, B. (2007). The desktop guide to herbal medicine. Laguna Beach, CA: Basic Health Publications.  

Mills, S. (1993). The essential book of herbal medicine. London: Arkana. 

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