This week I have really felt the spring arrive! I knew immediately when I stepped outside and took a breath in. With that inhale I could taste the earth coming back to life. The sound of the birds singing melodies to one another and the scent of green that is springing up all around. It has been a feast for the senses that every year always brings me the same giddiness. I love it so much and try my best to savor every minute of it.
Spring is such a wonderful time, especially for herbalists because it means it's time to forage for wild medicinals! It is an empowering feeling to go outside and collect your own medicine and food. What's even better is that it's very easy as long as you know some important things.
1. Know your plants. Only pick plants when you are positive about what they are. Keep a plant ID book such as Peterson's Field Guides "Edible Wild Plants" with you when you're out foraging so that you can check and double check your plants.
2. Respect the plants, the animals, and the earth. Only take from areas where there is an abundance of the plant you seek. Take less than 1/2 of what is there and leave plenty behind.
3. Never take endangered plants from their homes. Let them be and find something else to forage. These plants are at risk of becoming extinct which is not something we need to be contributing to in any way. To find out more about which plants are at risk you can check out a wonderful organization called United Plant Savers who provide lists of at risk plants along with many other amazing things.
4. Always ask the plants permission. This may sound silly to you but when you ask permission, you at honoring another living thing. Maybe that plant needs to be there for some reason or maybe it's struggling and needs every bit to revive itself. Obviously it won't answer you by speaking to you however, if you slow down and become present enough, you get an intuitive sense telling you if it's ok. This can take time but trust what comes to you. Connecting with plants is a profound experience that will only help you become a better herbalist or forager.
5. When you take from the earth, leave something in return. My teacher taught me to leave a sprinkle of tobacco where we pick from. This is a Cherokee tradition that truly resonates with me. It honors an energy exchange between ourselves and the earth.
There are many wild edibles that are starting to grow right now. Some of which are right in your back yard. I will share four of them with you and their properties.... and maybe a recipe with one of the herbs :)
Chickweed (Stellaria media) -
-Nutritive herb containing Vitamin C, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, chlorophyll, as well as many other beneficial nutritious minerals.
-Can be topically applied as a poultice to areas of inflammation to draw the heat and swelling out.
-Speeds the recovery of wounds when applied topically.
-Diuretic causing increased passing of urine
-Astringent causing contraction of the body's tissue
-Demulcent so it relieves inflammation and irritation of mucous membranes
-Taken as an edible preparation it can help cool a fever
-Helps soothe bites and stings
-Helpful in soothing gastritis, IBS, gastric ulcers, and other gastrointestinal issues
Violet Flower (Viola)-
-Contains Vitamin C
-Stimulating liver, lymph, and bowel function
-Historically used in treatments with various types of cancers
-Nourish the senses.
-Syrup soothes throat, coughs, and digestive complaints in children.
-A splash of syrup in some chamomile tea at night can help with insomnia, nightmares, and general sleep troubles.
-The oil or syrup nourish and heal the sensory organs.
Nettle (Urtica dioica)-
-Nutritive. Rich in chlorophyll, calcium, magnesium, amino acids, and trace minerals.
-Helps to stabilize blood sugar.
-Reduce fatigue and exhaustion.
-Aquaretic (non irritating potassium sparring diuretic.
-Highly recommend for the pregnant and lactating woman. I drank this after my first child and would infuse my nettles in a mason jar of hot water overnight. In the morning I would strain it, put it the fridge, and drink it throughout the day. It was extremely refreshing, helped my milk be more abundant and rich, and gave me an almost surreal kind of energy that made my days blissful.).
-Blood and skin tonic
-Raises low hemoglobin levels
-Seed is nourishing to kidneys
-Makes hair thick, darker, grow, and shine when used as a hair rinse.
-Helps heal and strengthen bones.
-Strengthens thin skin.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)-
-Nutritive contains Vitamin B complex, C, D, carotenoids, and various minerals.
-Topically applied as an infusion to your skin, Dandelion flowers assist with lightening freckles and age spots, soothing insect bites and sunburn.
-Regular use can lower triglycerides and LDL/VLDL cholesterol levels
- Sap can be used to help dissolve warts.
-The leaves are used as a bitter tonic.
-Leaf is an aquaretic (non irritating potassium sparring diuretic.
-Flowers nourish the liver and the eyes.
-Flowers infused into oil are helpful in easing mastitis and lymphatic congestion.
These four plants are just a very small number of the many medicinal wild edible plants available to us in our back yards! Please stay tuned in for recipes made with wild spring edibles! To learn more, subscribe below to hear about upcoming classes or be notified when my next blog is up. I would love to hear about your foraging stories or answer any question you may have. Please comment below!