In my dwelling nestled in the woods of Montpelier, Vermont, it only takes a short look outside to notice the growing presence of springtime.
Hills that were once snow-covered and incredibly silent under a blanket of white are beginning to awaken. The grass, birds and sunlight are all beginning their March stirrings. I have embarked upon a 12-month-long study of Therapeutic Herbalism, culminating in becoming certified, and I have found that as my knowledge grows, so does my ability to notice and see these plants and their lives in a greater, more complex way.
The frigid stagnancy of winter is slowly being replaced by the rebirth and renewal of spring.
Many schools of thought hold a common belief that the inner reflects the outer. Considering this, then, it is only natural to feel the urge to pull off the old layers of ourselves, our bodies and minds, as we rise up and create fresh intentions.
Plant healers can be powerful allies during this liminal time of transition and shifting, guiding us through nature’s processes of cleansing and assisting our own. The following plants have always been some of my favorites to welcome in this joyful new season.
Calendula, also known as Marigold, is a cheerful and vibrant healer that ushers in increased sunshine, light and joy. When used externally it proves especially useful in healing local skin problems with it’s anti-inflammatory properties. When taken internally, it shines as a digestive remedy, calming irritated stomachs, easing the gallbladder, and works as an effective anti-fungal.
2. Red Clover
I consider the beautiful plant of Red Clover to be an excellent springtime tonic, as it assists in cleansing the blood, an often needed action as we move into a new and lighter season. Its sweet, soft pinkish-red bud is a reminder of the flowers that are soon to return. Because of its detoxifying properties, it can be useful in clearing up skin conditions like acne, eczema or psoriasis. It can be mildly blood-thinning, however, so be mindful of its use if you are on certain medications.
Stinging nettle is one of the most versatile healing plants there is, with its benefits ranging from a high chlorophyll content, to treating arthritic conditions, to gently cleansing the whole system. Taken internally, it has diuretic properties, which increase the frequency and volume of urination and therefore aid in cleansing out the body. It gently supports the liver and kidneys. It can externally be “whipped” against painful, inflamed areas to reduce inflammation and promote healing. However, be warned: stinging nettles do sting!
4. Milky Oats (Avena Sativa)
Milky Oats has an incredibly soothing and nurturing maternal presence, nourishing the body with nutrition, as well as the endocrine system, specifically the adrenal glands. As we begin to move toward the warmer months, it is crucial that we keep our energy levels up in healthy and sustainable ways. Oats are a long-term, gentle and excellent way to promote overall health and keep the body’s stress response in check.
5. Dandelion (My Favorite!)
Remember those bright yellow weeds you used to tug out of the soil and craft elegant flower crowns with in grade school? It turns out they are one of the best plants for detoxification and digestive support around! Dandelion, specifically the root, is incredible helpful to gently stimulate the gallbladder and liver to release bile (improving digestion). It, like stinging nettles, has kidney-supporting diuretic properties. Its bitter taste makes it a reasonable candidate to replace a morning cup of coffee. It has a strong, resilient quality, encouraging us all to rise up to the occasion this spring, and come back to life with a new vigor!
“The deep roots never doubt spring will come.” ~ Marty Rubin
Happy Spring, and may we never stop healing!
“Medical Herbalism” by David Hoffman, AHG
“The Herbal Handbook” David Hoffman
“A Modern Herbal” Mrs. M. Grieve 1931
Author: Kelty Edraney
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Kathryn Decker/Flickr