At the beginning of this year, I wrote about entering the new year slowly, minimizing stress, basking in stillness and nourishing one’s soul. The middle of winter is not the time to start fresh and recreate our lives, at least not for me (and others like me who cherish the coziness and stillness of winter).
But something shifted recently; the world around me appears more active, brighter, fresher.
Do you feel it, too? Do the sounds of the birds chirping, the scent of new blossoms, and the warmth of the sun wake something up inside you?
Spring has arrived and I feel the need to stir up the stagnant energy and shake off the potential inflammation of winter. I notice myself feeling more energy and craving even more. My food cravings are changing from heavy, hearty foods, to lighter, crisper, and fresher foods. When I look around, I notice everything is bright and dewy and fresh and green! My mouth is watering for the spring greens, that merely a month earlier I found cold and undesirable.
Let’s take a look at some anti-inflammatory, nourishing, and detoxifying spring greens.
You can find Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) fairly easily in West Coast Canada at this time of year. Nettle grows in damp forests, along stream sides, and many foliage-rich places people trek frequently. I often recommend Nettle to people post-winter for a few main reasons: it is
anti-allergenic, nutritious, and helps cleanse the body of accumulated toxins.
Though spring is my favourite time of year, that spring joy can be stolen by the discomfort of hay fever. Starting to consume nettles as tea or food regularly in early April and onward can help prevent and reduce the symptoms of hay fever. Nettles are nutritious: they contain protein, fibre, iron, calcium, and vitamin C.
Nettle is helpful in anemia, as the vitamin C content helps iron absorb well. The detoxifying action of nettle makes it useful in chronic skin conditions, like eczema, and even dandruff. It is also anti-arthritic, reducing the inflammation and pain in joints, and related gout. Nettle also helps support milk flow in breast feeding.
All in all, this plant is wonderful, being cleansing and nourishing and medicinal all at the same time. The young leaves of nettle can be collected for use in the spring time, using caution, of course, to avoid the sting of the delicate needle-like hairs that the nettles don for protection. Nettle can be enjoyed as a tea from the dried leaves, fresh, added to smoothies, or cooked into meals. I like to blend it up with water to make ice cubes to add to soups or smoothies for the weeks to come.
Miner’s Lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata) is a fresh and succulent spring herb that always makes my mouth water. This juicy green plant comes up in the first sunshines after the big spring rains. It gets its name from having been food for the California Gold Rush Miner’s as its vitamin C contact made it helpful in preventing scurvy, though it has been food for Pacific-based First Nations people for hundreds of years. Miner’s Lettuce contains vitamins C and A, iron, and flavonoids.
It is nourishing and anti-inflammatory, helping prevent build-up of toxins in the body, and even reducing headaches. This delicious ‘lettuce’ can be added to salads or steamed like spinach.
Cleavers (Galium aparine) is such a cool plant because it clings onto your clothing as you’re walking past it (I like to think it is presenting itself to you as medicine when you most need it).
Cleavers can be found all year long, but the leaves are harvested in spring and early summer when it is less fibrous. It is a wonderful spring food and medicine, as it assists in detoxification via the lymphatic system.
Cleavers are gentle yet effective in encouraging the detoxifying function of the lymph glands, moving the stagnant build-up of toxins and releasing them from the body. It is considered an alterative blood cleanser and diuretic (encourages urination), reducing water retention and inflammation. These actions make Cleavers a wonderful spring tonic. It can be gently steamed like spinach, made into a juice or tincture, or dried and enjoyed as a tea.
These are just a few of the many fresh greens we can enjoy in the Spring, and I didn’t even get to Dandelion Leaf, Chickweed, or Clover.
I encourage you to take deep breaths of fresh spring air and look around at the beautiful new green life all around. You don’t have to consume the greenery to benefit from it; simply being in nature, viewing, inhaling, touching the leaves and the soil, can bring the fresh cleansing vibration of spring into your body. Let it inspire you. Happy Spring!
(*always consult a Medical Herbalist or Physician if you have any health conditions or are pregnant)
Lauren Truscott Waddell, RHT, CHHC