Today after making extracts from dried plants we went outside to stack the last of the firewood. With the rain lately the new Mullein plant rosettes (second year plants of this biennial) had doubled in size. Because we have been without Mullein for a month or so now with so many people using it this winter with flu and colds we grabbed knives and started gathering.
What a joy it is every year to see and get o use the abundance of life emergin from the earth again. when that was done we spied the Valerian plants emerged though still purple leaved. perfect time to harvest roots still full of qi. and so we started digging deciding which plants to harvest and the babies to leave for next year. they smell TASTED so good. what a grounded feeling. This year for the first time we will gather the Valerian flowers which smell so divine and make a separate extract and then mix the two together. I feel like the lightness and aroma of the flowers will beautifully balance the deep grounded earthy and deeply relaxing roots.
Valerian is one herb that works best as an extract as the volatile oils will vaporize in a decoction.
Nettles are next on the list but this years cools has them hiding a bit longer. they are up though and next week should really be seen. This is the best time of year to eat them and get their huge nutritional benenfit.
After the big rain yesterday which washed away so much snow and the brilliant sun today I of course had to play with the compost and look at the woods and the garden. There they are again. My plant friends come back like the birds the only difference being that they migrate for the winter into the earth instead of going south.
I saw new fuzzy soft Mullein leaves, tiny red veined yellow dock rosettes, dandelion leaves looking just unfurled, and actually for awhile now the intrepid chickweed which tastes so good in a salad this time of year. I would guess the nettles are up and I did see the emerging heart of Echinacea on the very sheltered side of our house near the building. Second year teasel is already begun as well. Old chamomile plants are at it again with a second chance too.
Though it is cold here in the Northeast, it is so clear that winter is receding and spring is approaching. The sun is brighter and higher in the sky. Some early birds are already nesting like the ravens. On warmer days there is mud which gives birth to life.
And though it is still cold and ice still with us we can begin to think of getting ready for spring and moving smoothly and easily into the season of birth and renewal. We can begin to plan a detox for March and there are so many ways to do that.
We still need to nurture the Kidney/Water energy of winter (perhaps in our fast paced, over busy culture we always do) but we can begin to think about supporting the Liver/Wood spring season with hot lemon tea, or turmeric fresh in food or powdered and dried in warm Almond Milk with a little honey and oil as a drink.
We can use Dandelion Root, one of the first plants of spring, in many forms, from extract to tea to eating them as soon as they emerge or appear at our local coop, as greens in salad and roots in a stir fry.
Burdock also is a wonderful herb for this season as is Yellow Dock. In fact along with the Dandelion these three roots are a wonderful way to give the liver a boost and clear the way for Spring. They will clear out the heavier energy of winter eating of more meat, more fire filled cooked food and salt. Yellow Dock will create more bile flow and encourage greater elimination. Burdock clears and cleans the blood as well as nourishing the liver.
Sprouts like fresh pea shoots or mung bean sprouts or any of the sprouts (the baby plants) add new life energy and can really perk things up.
One of my favorite teas for this time of year is Goji Berries, Schizandra and Licorice. simmer them together for 10-15 minutes and you have a sweet and delicious drink that really lifts the spirit and nourishes us deeply.
Try any or all of these ideas and get ready for new life and a new beginning.
Herbs For a Healthy Winter Season
No one needs more to do. But a few simple additions to our daily lives can make a huge difference in staying healthy in the winter. I know I need exercise whether it is indoors or outside, a class, a practice, or a walk. For me shoveling and wood carrying don't count because they aren't relaxing enough and they are goal oriented. I want to play with my body to loosen it up and keep it strong. Also, I love to sleep and winter is one of my favorite times. there seems to be more quiet in the evenings because of the dark to nap or at least go to bed earlier. this is the season of going within, the dark time, to nourish seeds of ideas and also to nourish the body before it wakes up in the spring and gets going. Regardless of the holidays I try to do both activities, spending a lot of time quiet and alone and sweet time just being with people who i so appreciate, so I am more social (less gardening to do) and more internal and solitary in the winter.
Herbs of course are part of my repertoire. I always use an adrenal tonic, and an immune tonic. I find that nourishing my adrenals any time of year is useful in our culture where we work so hard and have so much stimulation but especially in the winter which according to Chinese Medicine is the season of the water and Kidney energy. I love Eleuthero, Licorice, Schizandra, Oats, Damiana. Nettles tea really augments and supports and is so rich in chlorophyll and minerals. There are many others (Rhodiola, Holy Basil, Ashwaganda, Ginseng) but these are my current favorites and they help to lift the mood that sometimes flounders in the winter from the lact of sun. if that is your issue St. Johnswort can help. i also like Lemon Verbena from South America. Everyone has allies in herbs, you just have to find yours and you will
For immunity I use Astragalus, and any or all of the Medicinal mushrooms. We are lucky in the northeast to be able to wild craft them but there are many combinations and singles available already encapsulated or tincutred or some like Chaga can be used just as tea. Chaga is delicious and can be mixed with other herbs. Just boil it 20 minutes, cool and strain and you have a jar of tea for the day or to share. I am very fond of Reishi mushrooms because they also calm the spirit, keep the deep immune potential strong, have an affinity for the heart and support against allergic responses. Maitake is also great as are Turkey Tails. My tonic includes Cat's Claw from South America and some Eleuthero which does support the immune system as well as the adrenals and improving our ability to withstand stress is worth a lot in preventing illness.
It is always good to keep some antimicrobial herbs around just in case one is exposed. here we can use Echinacea, Andrographis, Umckalaobo for upper respiratory viral infections is great, Boneset if you really slip into a flu like symptom.
Make or purchase a tonic and just do it every morning. You will reap the benefits in this season and the next.
My name is Bonnie Bloom and I am a clinical herbalist. Plants give us clothing, shelter, food and medicine. They are an intrinsic part of our earth ecology, diverse and essential. They breathe our carbon dioxide and generously give us oxygen. Where would we be without them.