Right now is truly an exciting time in American herbalism. Many and more people are answering the call of the plants – we are in the midst of an herbal renaissance. I am beyond grateful to live in an area with such a rich and thriving herbal community.
Last summer I attended a workshop with Margi Flint and she described herself as a mongrel herbalist, meaning her particular form of herbalism was shaped by many teachers and traditions. I resonate with this on so many levels! My formal herbal studies were at Sacred Plant Traditions (click here for a description of the program.) This program focuses on Western Energetics and pulls heavily from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurveda. They, and any energetic model, are simply a vocabulary to describe patterns of energy, both in the natural world and our bodies. We are not isolated from the natural world; we are simply one expression of it. With these diverse teachings and my own direct experience of plants and life, I, too, am becoming a mongrel herbalist!
Spring is in full swing here in Charlottesville – the nettles are up, redbuds are swelling, the early bulbs are blossoming and we feel a corresponding upsurge of energy ourselves. Spring is the time of rebirth, renewal and awakening. In our modern lives we aren’t living off dried meat and root crops in the winter, but there’s still an urge to lighten and cleanse. In TCM Spring is the time of the Liver (a system comprised of the anatomical liver and other organs), grannies of old pulled out bitter tonics to get the blood moving and in Western herbalism spring cleanses involved liver tonics. So what’s all the fuss about the liver? The liver is the second largest organ in the body (second only to our skin) and its functions are numerous. Generally, the liver is responsible for filtering blood that comes from your digestive tract, metabolizing nutrients, alcohol, medications, environmental toxins, etc. – really any substance that passes through your body. It also manufactures proteins and produces bile (working with the gallbladder) to prepare foods for digestion and in the breakdown of fats. The liver is also involved in producing glucose which can be seen as our bodies fuel, and factors into hormone production.
Here are some simple ways to support your body during this season:
- Go for a walk. Exercise gets things moving in your body and helps it function at its best.
- Pick some dandelion greens on your walk and eat them. Dandelion greens are rich in potassium, antioxidants, and vitamins A and C. Dandelion greens can be eaten raw, steamed, boiled, sautéed or braised. Be aware of where you’re picking though! You can also find dandelion greens at Integral Yoga or your local health food store.
- Start your day with a glass of water.
- Eat Nettles. Drink Nettles. Love Nettles. Word to the wise, it you have a dry constitution you may consider going easy with the nettles or combining them with moistening herbs (like marshmallow).