As the days are getting longer and the weather is improving we are taking advantage and getting outdoors more. Its amazing how the seasons affect us – we seem to hibernate in the winter on a diet of rich warming foods, now that spring has FINALLY arrived we are spring cleaning, getting in the garden and going out more.
Winter has made our body quite sluggish so it helps that the type of herbs which are growing around us are the ideal ones to boost our metabolism and help us to detoxify and cleanse our bodies in preperation for the Summer (fingers crossed – I hope I haven’t jinxed us!!). As you walk outdoors you will find cleavers (Galium aperine) and Stinging Nettles (Urticaria dioica) growing abundantly. Both can be made into a Spring tonic to banish away the winter blues and help you to make the most of every day.
I would recommend that you wear thick protective gloves when harvesting nettles – I allow them to grow in my garden as I know that they haven’t been sprayed and are organic. Collect the leaves, you don’t have to dig up the roots, you will get another crop of leaves which you can either eat, drink or use as medicine. Nettle root also has medicinal properties but is best harvested in the autumn. Nettles are rich in vitamins and minerals. If you want to access these delicious nutrients I would recommend that you make a nourishing nettle infusion. I want to make a spring tonic with them so I want to make a fresh herb tincture out of them.
You will need a bottle of vodka which is 40% alcohol, this will create a weaker tincture than the one I make but as a herbalist I purchase ethanol with thanks to a government license. It will still be delicous and will have the same properties and actions as the one which I make. Fresh nettle tincture will help to cleanse the body of any toxins which have built up over the winter months. It also helps to bring about a state of peace. This is because of the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS). Many people are in a state of anxiety/stress, there are numerous digestive, reproductive, urinary and immune problems which come about from being constantly alert and on edge. It severely depletes your adrenal glands which are the seat of your vitality and can lead to low energy/tiredness/exhaustion where you cannot get enough refreshing sleep. Sound like you? Nettle tincture will help when taken regularily over a long time period.
Collect some cleavers too- I have childhood memories of playing with these plants, where I live in Grimsby they were called sticky buds and it used to be a regulary childhood prank to stick them to an unsuspecting friend and giggle like an idiot. Cleavers are an amazing lymphatic tonic. Our lymph system is the other waterworks in our body which deals with all of the extra-cellular fluid in the body (pretty much everything but the blood and the wee). A sluggish lymph system can contribute to cellulite. The lymph system also contains several glands which are hives for our immune system – you will be well aware of the tonsils as they are the main ones for repeat infections. The lymph glands sift through all of the extra-cellular fluid and catch and attack any possible germs which can make us ill.
You don’t want to wear gloves collecting these beauties as they will stick to them and annoy the hell out of you. Instead when harvesting them use their inherant stickiness to your favour to collect more and more.
Once you have both herbs please wash them. I am a lover of nature and believe that a bit of dirt is good for you but both herbs need washing to reduce the risk of Weils Disease which is passed onto us humans from mice and rats weeing everywhere. Both rodents do not have good bladder control, cannot help urinating over everything and it cannot be seen so anything which is harvested from ground level (fruits, vegetables and herbs) need to be washed.
You can them dice up the fresh herbs using a knife – this is because the more surface area there is the better the extraction of active constituents and nutrients.
You have the choice of making an elixir or a tincture. The difference is that an elixir contain half sugar/honey and half alcohol mixture where a tincture is just the alcohol mix.
Place the herbs in a large jar with a lid. Cover with the chosen liquid – I prefer tincture as I feel that sugar is pretty much poison (we have way too much of it in our diet). Honey is amazing and I love it, I recommend it for a multitude of things including face masks, sore throats, skin infections etc – but I like to flavour my honey with herbs or use it to make a herbal cough syrup.
This needs to be placed in a dark cupboard and shook daily. You will notice that the alcoholic mixture will have changed colour instantly – but the whol;e thing is best in four weeks (but you can help yourself to some in two weeks).
Once the time is up you can decant the liquid into a bottle (preferably an amber bottle to reduce the damaging effect the sun has on herbal medicines/essential oils etc) making sure that you wring out the moisture from the herbs to get the best bits of it all. Always shake well before use. If you made the tincture it will last for several years and therefore can be used each Spring to kick start your immune system and metabolism. It can also be taken whenever you feel that you have overdone it and need a cleanse.