Spring Tonics, Herbs and Adaptogens

SPRINGTIME RENEWALa poem by Terri Andersonfrom shamanism.com Shaman sings creation songs Softly calls to other side Chants to earth mysterious words Corn sprouts, grows though mother’s toes Roots grasp hold, white veins alive Feed young plant, green stalk to thrive And now to pass new life along Each generation must learn the song
When thinking about the history of folk medicine and it’s interconnectedness with the seasons, ones mind goes instantly to the ways of the Native Americans. Native Americans believed (and still believe) that our lives are connected to the earth. That the rivers, plants and animals were relatives and not something that we just use for our own good. In fact many times when someone fell ill, it was believed that they had lost their connection with some part of nature.
In the medicine wheel spring is associated with the east and the spirit keeper, Wabun. It’s a time that brings new beginnings and rebirth. Many ceremonies revolved around this important change in season. The Seneca tribe performed a planting ritual as they got ready to plant their spring crops.

Create your own spring ritual We had talked about smudging and how important it is to cleanse ourselves and our surroundings. Try making a smudge stick of spring shoots and flowers.
Another great way (adapted from a Native American tradition) grab a blanket and set it outside. Gather flowers that have bloomed (if you don’t have any or enough growing on your property, buy some spring flowers from a local florist or super market) go outside and take of your shoes. feel the earth and grass beneath your feet. Take your flowers and spread them on the blanket. Lay on the blanket, grabbing handfuls of the flowers and throwing them up in the air allowing them to fall all over you. Lay there for some time. Feel the breeze, feel the flowers, reach and hand and touch the grass. Try to envision what you would like to “birth” this season. Ask for assistance in these endeavors.

Ancient Celts celebrate the spring equinox which they called “Alban Eiler” meaning “light of the earth.” It was thought to be the only day of the year when day and night stood equal with each other. As they also saw this time as a powerful time of rebirth, they usually sowed new crops on this day.

Spring has always been a time of relief and new beginnings. During the early years during the revolutionary and civil wars, as the weather began to warm up, there was a sense of thankfulness for making it through the harsh winters. A time of prayers and thanksgiving. Also a feeling of excitement as new foods began to sprout and come to life. After all, the winter had been bleak. Food had been scarce. Spring brought in relief.

Spring is also the time when animals that have been pregnant all winter are starting to give birth and birds are warm enough that they can sit on a nest and hatch little ones. It is always so fascinating to me how animals and foul can sense the changes in season before we can. Perhaps it is their continued connection with the earth which has been lost by the “smarter” of species. Maybe they are on to something.
Perhaps it’s time to go back to listening to our bodies and how they tell us about changes that it is encountering. The changes in seasons of this earth and the seasons of our lives. After all, our ancestors not that long ago knew how to do this. Although mostly out of necessity.
In the days before refrigeration, seasonal eating was the only option. There was no way for someone living in Connecticut to run down to the grocery store and buy a tomato from Florida where it was still growing season. Everything was about what could be picked or grown in that season.
In Appalachian history, the stories of the people who settled there is one of turmoil and determination. Many times even up to and including our lifetime, the residents of this amazing area of our country, relied on mother nature to provide part if not all of their meals and medicine.

A lot of young trees and bark provided great spring tonics that would help them through the changes in season. Sassafras or spicewood would be boiled to make a tea that was used as a blood tonic to strengthen ones system in the spring. Plantain and dock were used in salads. Ramps and wild garlic were picked to give extra flavor to evening meals.

Wild ramps Many of these plants you could most likely find outside your home and could add to your own spring diet.

It’s Spring!! A couple of months ago we were talking about how we can connect with the earth. Now we get to go out and do it! Everything is starting to bloom and bud around us. Plants we didn’t think were going to come back are suddenly seen with little green shoots coming out. It’s time to start exploring. So, let’s get out there.
One of my all time favorites is chickweed. It is so easy to find and can easily be added straight to a salad or saute. I have also been known to run out and grab some wild garlic(often called wild onion) to throw into an omelet.

Wild Garlic Early spring, it can be hard to come across berries as they generally bloom later in the spring to early summer. A wonderful exception to that is Silverberry. They are super high in vitamins and minerals, almost like taking a nature made multi vitamin. They can be very tart but so worth it!

Silverberry Spring Green Pesto
Another easy dish with spring greens is pesto. This recipe calls for dandelion greens but those could easily be substituted for stinging nettles (use care when picking!!), chickweed, purslane or so many other wonderful spring greens. Additionally, most pesto calls for Parmesan cheese but play with it! I love using feta or a great local goats milk cheese!
2 Cups chopped fresh Dandelion greens
1/2 Cup shelled pine nuts
3 cloves of garlic
1 Tbs ;lemon juice
1/2 Cup olive oil
1/2 Tsp salt
1/2 Cup Parmesan Cheese
Place all ingredients in a food processor until creamy, blend in cheese. Keep refrigerated.


Spring Jelly
Spring is also a time of blooming!! Flowers are popping up everywhere! I love making wild flower jellies with dandelions, forsythia, violets, peach blossoms and more. This basic recipe can be used for a myriad of different wild flowers or other herbs. Even a stinging nettles jelly!!

Start by boiling 3 1/2 cups of water. While the water is boiling, chop 1-2 Cups of fresh flowers/herbs. Remove the water from the heat and add your flowers/herbs. Allow to steep for at least an hour. Strain (If you make herbal infusions, you can also use that in place of this step)
Add the following ingredients to a saucepan:
2 3/4 Cups of your flower/herb infusion
1/4 Cup lemon juice
3 1/2 Cups sugar
1 packet of pectin
Stir to dissolve sugar and pectin and allow to boil for 2 minutes. Pour into jars and put aside to set for two hours. At this point, you could water bath can or refrigerate.

Adaptogen Tea
Spring is so much fun right? Everything is melting, things are blooming. But wait. Why are we all feeling so crummy? Well there’s several reasons, first is all of those beautiful blooms bring us pollen and so many of us have pollen allergies of one type or another. Then there is flu season. That’s right, flu season is still upon us and as we venture out with the new weather, we are more and more exposed to those with the flu virus. Finally and most importantly, it’s our bodies on overload. Changes in weather and changes in season bring stress to our bodies. They are working to move into this new phase and that takes work.
Your body needs your help! This is when we look to adaptogens. As we learned in the herbal actions chapter and adaptogen is “an herb that helps the body adapt to changes in environment (such as travel and seasons) and stress in a non specific way.”
There are only a few true adaptogens including Ashwagandha, Eleuthero (siberian ginseng) and Cordyceps. Many people see other herbs such as Holy Basil (Tulsi) and stinging nettles as adaptogens as well. A wonderful tea on a cool spring evening is a great way to get your adaptogens. Additionally, these herbs could be tinctured and taken as a daily supplement.
Download the recipe card and have fun adding new flavors and herbs to make your own blend. You may also want to add some local honey or pee pollen to help counteract the spring allergies!!

Posted by Jennifer Galbraith at 7:15 AMEmail ThisBlogThis!Share to Twitter

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