Spring is here and there are plenty of plants growing that will help you cleanse and detoxify the body by supporting the vital organs.
Nettles, cleavers and wild garlic are all potent plants that can support your health.
Nettles (Urtica dioica) are pretty easy to spot - well, they're the ones that sting you when you brush past them. Did you know that nettles are a rich source of iron and other essential minerals? Use nettle in cooking like you use spinach, make nettle pesto or simply make an infusion of nettles. Take a bunch of fresh nettles (use gloves and scissors to harvest!) and infuse in a teapot or cafetiere of boiling water for around 5-10 minutes. Drink freely. Can also be taken as a cold infusion where you leave it to sit overnight and drink the cold nettle tea the next day.
Use nettles for: Iron deficiency anaemia, gout and the first stage of fevers. Use for detoxifying the kidneys and in skin disease. There is good evidence for the efficacy of nettle in the management of type 2 Diabetes. Nettle is also very therapeutic in the case of bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract, and can help with the elimination of kidney stones. Nettle tea is also an effective remedy for nettle rash, and the tea can also be used as a hair rinse to strengthen hair follicles in the case of hair loss.
Cleavers (Galium aparine) can be annuals or perennials and tend to grow as rambling stems with whorling leaves in hedgerows and cultivated ground. They have tiny white flowers that turn into green fruits - the kind that stick to you when you walk past!
Cleavers exert a powerful detoxifying action and are also diuretic, meaning they encourage the elimination of toxins through the urine. Cleavers actually have anti inflammatory effects similar to non-steroidal anti-inflammatories and have shown anticancer effects in clinical studies.
Use a bunch of fresh cleavers for a cold, overnight infusion. Drink freely throughout the next day. Repeat for 7-10 days for a proper clear out of the lymphatic system. You might notice you get spots or bad skin when you drink cleavers tea - this is normal. The skin is the body's largest organ of elimination, so toxins will be drawn out in the form of spots. Don't worry - stick with it and you will be left with clear, radiant skin after a few weeks (in combination with a nutrient-dense diet and plenty of water!).
Juice cleavers and store in ice-cube trays. Add one cube to your daily juice or smoothie.
Wild garlic (Allium ursinum) is growing in swathes at the moment in woodlands, stream banks and moist hedgerows. Wild garlic is a powerful tonic for the digestive system and ensures optimal functioning of the heart and circulatory system.
Wild garlic, of course, has all the medicinal properties of garlic, which are too many to mention! Use it as a spring tonic, for skin problems, inflammatory bowel disorders, bloating and flatulence, ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease.
The best way to take wild garlic is to make pesto. Simply blend a bunch of fresh leaves with enough olive oil to create a thick paste. You can add nuts (e.g. hazelnuts, pine nuts etc) and pecorino or parmesan if you like. It's so tasty and moreish that I highly recommend you make a big batch and freeze loads to use throughout the year!
The plants growing around us right now - dandelions, nettles, cleavers, wild garlic, common primroses and daisies are all edible and medicinal. Throw them all into a big salad to create a feast for the eyes and a boost for the immune system!
If you enjoy learning about the medicinal properties of plants, why not sign up for my Introduction to Herbal Medicine course which starts this September? Find out more here.