Early spring is the time of the year for food growers that is known as the 'hungry gap'; Winter stores from the previous year have run low and the new spring vegetables haven't quite come through. This leaves us without much seasonal food and it is a practical time to 'detox', giving our body space to rejuvenate with fresh clean foods. At the same time, nature provides us with the first fresh green herbs to be seen growing after winter - and they happen to have a particular influence on our body's natural cleansing and detoxifying systems. Not only that, but they also contain nourishing minerals and phytochemicals - normally lacking in traditional winter diets - to help re-nourish and replenish our depleted stores. Here is a description of three common traditional spring-cleansing herbs that anyone can easily recognise and which are still in common use today by medical herbalists. For rules about gathering and using herbs please use link HERE.
Aka sticky willie, sticky weed, goosegrass, clivers
Scientific name: Galium aparine
This long, stringy, sticky herb is recognised by some people as the tool of playground games: children enjoy throwing the plant at each other, with the goal of sticking it to someone's back without them noticing. However, look closely and you will notice that it is because of thousands of tiny hooks rather than a sticky glue that gives it this effect.
Folklore claims that 'whoever should only drink cleavers water for 9 weeks shall be so beautiful, everyone will fall in love with them'. It has been recorded in many ancient herbals including the 15th Century Herbal of the Royal Welsh Physicians of Mydffai. They recommended infusions of cleavers in seawater to ‘expel and completely destroy eruptive poison from the blood and humours’ and for boils and ulcers. This is reflected in the modern use for moving and helping the lymphatic system cleanse the body’s tissues and clearing skin problems. We wouldn't recommend the seawater recipe however; a more palatable and safer traditional detox recipe using cleavers is given at the end of this section.
Scientific name: Taraxacum officinale
There must be few people who do not recognise this plant, and who have not puffed the seed ball away on the wind on hot summer days. The name is thought to come from the shape of the leave which look a bit like lions teeth (if anyone has ever got that close and lived to tell the tale). It in the French for teeth: 'dent', hence: 'dent-de-lion'. Another traditional name in French 'Piss-en-Lit' reflects an old English name not often used now: 'wet the beds'. This suggest it's how it has cleansing properties. It is a diuretic and encourages detoxification through the increase of urine. Therefore it has an effect on the kidneys. Unlike many diuretics which can leach potassium out of your system, it is high in potassium, replacing what is lost. It is also a well known liver remedy, encouraging healthy liver function which in turn supports the body in excreting body wastes. An infusion of the root is a gentle and effective remedy for constipation, and safe enough for children.
Latin name: Urtica dioica
Nettles are another easily recognisable plant. It has been said everyone can find this plant, even in the dark. It is used by herbalists traditionally as a blood tonic, being full of minerals, particularly iron, magnesium and calcium, for replenishing the body’s post-winter depleted stocks. It is used as a diuretic in infusions like the dandelion to help cleanse the body. The best way to take it is by using the fresh nettle tops in nourishing soups: Add chopped nettles at the end of cooking for just a few minutes to break down the stings and gain all the goodness! NB: Nettles are at the best in spring or during the second growth in Autumn. During flowering time (i.e. Summer), they contain crystals that can get snagged in the kidneys and cause stones and backache. best avoided. Pick and dry in the spring for all round year use!
Dandelions, Nettle and Cleavers cold infusion:
for a cleansed body & beautiful skin:
Take a good handful each of cleavers, dandelion leaves and nettles (use gloves for this one!)
Rinse and place in a 1-2 litre jug of cold water.
Leave to infuse overnight.
In the morning, strain and drink the liquid.
Try it for nine weeks and let us know how your love life is!