Make Herbal Tonics from Spring Plants

Rejuvenate your body and soul by incorporating safe, nourishing tonic plants into your spring diet.

| March / April 2018

Spring cleaning is a well-known task for the home, but seasonal cleansing can also be applied to our bodies. While winter provides wonderful opportunities for deep nourishment and rest, spring produces seasonal plants to help revitalize us. Traditionally, people have gathered these first green plants to reintroduce a wealth of vitamins and minerals to their diets, and to enlist the plants’ support for gentle detoxification and the overall strengthening of their bodies.

Many spring tonic herbs are bitter. Bitter flavors activate taste buds that promote good digestion by stimulating the production of digestive acids, enzymes, and bile. Some spring tonics are also diuretics, which aid the body in removing excess water and flushing out waste products. Yet other spring tonics, such as cleavers, chickweed, and violet, kick the lymphatic system into gear so it can filter and remove waste materials and pathogens that may have accumulated during the sometimes-sedentary habits of winter.

The following seasonal tonics are hardy, well-adapted plants that can be foraged or grown nationwide, or bought in bulk from reputable online herb stores.

Burdock Root (Arctium lappa): Typically harvested in the autumn of its first year or the spring of its second, herbalists use this mildly bitter root as an alterative to support eliminatory organs in clearing wastes from blood, and as a diuretic to help flush excess water from the body. Peel, chop, and enjoy burdock root in stir-fries and soups, or as a decoction (1 to 2 teaspoons of chopped root, simmered in 1 cup of water for 15 minutes, and then strained). Burdock has become more popular in recent years, and you may be able to find the root in local health food stores or Asian grocery stores.



Chickweed (Stellaria media): One of the first greens of spring and last greens of fall, chickweed loves cold weather. This plant’s botanical name means “little stars,” a nod to its star-shaped white flowers. As a lymphatic and diuretic, chickweed decongests the lymphatic system and clears excess water from the body. Juicy chickweed flowers, leaves, and stems are delicious raw in salads or steeped as a tea (add 1 to 2 teaspoons of chickweed to 6 ounces of boiling water). Chickweed has a fresh, green taste without any bitterness.

Cleavers (Galium aparine): Cleavers (also known as “bedstraw”) is easy to identify as it has small, prickly hairs covering its stalk and leaves, which causes the plant to stick to itself or passing objects. Harvest the aboveground parts of cleavers in early spring; these can be juiced, infused in cold water, or eaten in salads or on sandwiches. Cleavers has been used to stimulate and decongest the lymphatic system, and as a diuretic to help remove excess water.






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