I was walking along the lanes near my house and was pleased to see the nettles and cleavers coming up strong under the hedgerows.
Most people wouldn't even notice these powerful, tonic herbs that grow in abundance in the UK, Europe, the USA and Canada. Even more useful is the fact that these two herbs often grow together - and they can be used together to create a wonderful tonic to flush the lymphatic system and restore nutrient balance to the body.
Cleavers (Galium aparine) is sometimes called 'goosegrass' or 'sticky willy'. It sends out bright green shoots that climb over everything else and sticks to your clothes if you walk through it.
Now is the time to harvest cleavers - before they become tough and hairy.
Cleavers promote the flow of lymph throughout the body and help to eliminate metabolic waste. They are great for swollen glands, tonsillitis and earache.
Cleavers also act as a diuretic so they encourage the elimination of waste products through the urine. They are very soothing on the urinary tract and can be used as a remedy for cystitis, urethritis, irritable bladder and inflammation of the kidneys.
To use cleavers, it's best to harvest them fresh as they're not that effective when dried. Use in salads, or make a poultice to apply to burns, psoriasis and nettle rash.
I like to juice a bagful of cleavers and freeze the juice in ice cube trays. This can then be defrosted each day and mixed with some spring water to create a tasty Spring tonic.
Cleavers are a very safe herb and can be used for infants and children. Place a handful of fresh cleavers in a large jug of spring water or in your water bottle and sip throughout the day.
Next to the cleavers you will find fresh nettles starting to sprout. Everyone knows nettles - they are notorious for their sting!
Nettle (Urtica dioica) contains high amounts of chlorophyll, vitamins, serotonin, histamine and minerals including iron, calcium and silica.
Nettles are a great blood tonic and are hypoglycaemic - which means they can help to reduce blood sugars. They are also antiseptic, diuretic and hypotensive - which means can help to reduce blood pressure.
Nettles are a very good choice for remineralising the body and exert an antirheumatic effect by eliminating uric acid from the body.
Use nettles for detoxifying the kidneys and to clear the skin.
Nettle is best prepared as a tea which can be taken up to three times daily. Simply steep a handful of fresh nettle leaves in a teapot of boiling water. Allow to infuse for 5-10 minutes. Drink hot or cold.
Another great way to benefit from the medicinal properties of nettles is to eat them! Nettles make a great substitute for spinach in cooking, and they also make a tasty pesto which can be frozen for future use.
Pick nettles in the Spring when the young leaves are bright green and tender. As you keep harvesting them, the nettles will produce more leaves. Leave them well alone when they go to seed as their sting becomes very powerful! Always harvest nettles wearing gloves, and snip the tops off with scissors to encourage new growth.
Incorporating nettles and cleavers in to your diet now will help to eliminate the toxins that accumulate in us over Winter, helping our bodies get ready to absorb the nutrients and sunshine coming our way over the next few months!
They are both very safe herbs and they grow everywhere! Be sure to identify them correctly and harvest sustainably.