Folk Herbalist Guest Blogger: Herbs For Spring Detoxing
Hey All, I am excited to introduce our first guest blogger, Amber Kennedy owner of Bohéme Botanika and Carter & Stevens Farm employee. Amber offers an array of all natural items through her apothecary on Etsy. She can often also be found at The Canal District Farmers Market and her products will also soon be available on Carter & Stevens Farm shelves!
Spring in New England has finally arrived! Is it just me or does it seem to show up later and later each year? As the days start to get warmer and the first tulip and crocus bulbs poke through the late snow we are patiently waiting for the ground to fully thaw to start planting, watching for chicks to hatch or longing for our favorite farm store to open! This is a time of transition and of new life! This winter was graciously mild but we felt it in our bones nonetheless. In cold seasons the natural world tends to slow down and reserve energy stores and warmth and humans are no exception. Cold weather makes us sleepy and since we are not hibernating…hungry! It’s common to overindulge in rich, nourishing foods and unless we ski or snowboard or have a great gym membership we all tend to be a bit less active during winter months too. While a more sedentary lifestyle and a higher fat diet may have worked well for our ancestors who had to conserve energy to get through harsh winters it doesn’t quite work out the same for us in our modern lives and our digestion might be feeling tired and sluggish as it wakes up from the long, sleepy, dark days. The lack of daylight may have us moody or even depressed and our sleep patterns may be off as we adjust to days with more light. We may even be fighting off a lingering cold virus or bacterial infection that just won’t seem to leave us in peace. With the first warm days do you feel the urge to throw open the windows and take deep breaths of the healing air? Start a deep clean of the dust that has accumulated over winter? Begin new health or exercise programs and get back on track? Do you feel the need to de-clutter and eliminate everything unnecessary, especially those few extra pounds? Do you find yourself craving green foods and healthier,lighter fare this time of year? You even feel like you could finally successfully kick a bad habit or start a new routine? All of these things are your body syncing with natures wise rhythms! It may feel uncomfortable but be thankful your body is telling you what it needs now! It’s time to detox! And it makes sense to turn to nature for a little assistance during this time of transition.
We might not be paying attention but the plant world gives us an abundance of natural medicine to help us easily transition through the seasons. Many of the bursts of green you are seeing pop up in the world are actually there to help! Let’s talk about several that you can harvest from your own backyard!
One of the first wild flowers and to show up on lawns and roadsides and one of the first sources of food for our friends the honeybees in the early spring, Dandelion (Taraxacum Officinale and spp.) is an amazing ally to sluggish digestion and a great natural detox for spring. Dandelion has got a bad rap as a pesky weed but it’s an amazing and FREE superfood, high in a ridiculous amount of minerals and vitamins like A, C, K, potassium, manganese, iron and more. Toss some fresh, young dandelion leaves into salads or lightly toss in oil in stir frys. The leaves only get unpleasantly bitter after the plant sends up a flower so gather them from young plants with no blooms. While the leaves are tasty and nutritious, the root is where the potent medicine in the plant is stored. Dandelion root helps in the production of bile which acts like the machine oil to keep our digestive tract moving smoothly. It has also been known to regulate blood sugar levels, lower blood pressure, and aid in the detoxing of liver, kidneys and gallbladder. It can improve urinary tract function and improve skin. Make a tea of the dry or fresh root and drink several cups a day in early spring. Once flowered, the bright yellow blooms make excellent wine, jams, jellies and tonics. 2.) Stinging Nettle
Next on the list is Stinging Nettle (Urtica Dioca) which you may have been harshly introduced to when trying to pull it out of your garden. The tiny hairs on the leaves and stalk are a skin irritant and can cause redness and stinging for hours if handled but don’t let it’s abrasive exterior deter you, once dried or lightly cooked all of the sting is eliminated from the plant and Nettle becomes another incredible source of nutrition and a great detox in early spring. So put on a pair of gloves and go find some! Nettle is known as a wonderful, gentle but potent and nutritive, alternative herb due to its high mineral level. It contains mineral salts, amino acids, Iron, Vitamin K, Vitamin C and many more nutrients that your body is craving this time of year! Nettle will stimulate the lymphatic system, build the blood and kidneys and improve urinary tract health and detox the body of metabolic waste. It will even eliminate Uric acid from the joints easing arthritis and rheumatism pain. Taking a nettle leaf tincture or tea in the spring is one of the best things you can do to improve your immune function and over time your energy level and overall health. And it is a great example of food as medicine. Right now the leaves are small and tender and taste great in soups, stir frys, omelettes and other dishes so if a tincture or tea isn’t your thing just eat the weeds! 3.) Wild Violet
New England is home to dozens of species of violets in the Viola genus of plants and they all share similar medicinal properties, namely blood purifying and lymph moving. The violet is a highly medicinal plant with a romantic history. It was widely used throughout Victorian times in culinary, medicinal and symbolic arenas. Both the leaves and flowers (which come in blue, purple or white) are edible and delicious! Once again the fresh leaves and flowers are excellent tossed into salads or a tonic or tincture can be made from the above ground parts of the herb. The flowers make a lovely, delicate syrup and garnishes for desserts and dishes. Violets contain many vitamins including C, bioflavonoids and carotenes. Violet will help to clean the blood, move lymph through the body, reduce inflammation and swollen glands and can improve coughs and colds and the mucilaginous nature of the plant will moisten and soothe battered mucous membrane and lung tissue. Long term use will improve the appearance of skin by cleaning the blood of toxins, help with moisture retention in the skin and even improve the appearance of varicose and spider veins. Violet leaf has been known to contain tumor reducing properties. All of these wild growing herbs can be found readily and easily in your own backyard and used together will greatly contribute to your spring detox program and improve your health and vitality. And if you need help identifying them visit Amber at the farm for a class! These spring detox herbs and many others can be found in products and medicines in Bohéme Botanika’s Herbal CSA beginning in May. And Carter and Stevens Farm Veggie CSA is another great way to ensure your health and vitality throughout the season!
--Amber Kennedy is a Folk Herbalist located in Central MA. She is the owner of Bohéme Botanika, an herbal practice and apothecary. When she isn’t working at Carter and Stevens Farm she tends her gardens and makes and sells herbal medicines, tinctures, botanical skincare and handcrafted teas. She offers private health consultations and teaches gardening and herb workshops and leads plant identification and foraging hikes. She is also launching the Bohéme Botanika teaching garden located at Carter & Stevens Farm this summer! More information about Bohéme Botanika, classes and CSA can be found at: www.facebook.com/bohemebotanika