The herbs that grow at this time of year seem to be encouraging us to do just that – spring tonic herbs are often lymphatic and diuretic in function, moving the lymphatic fluids to eliminate deep waste from the tissues and increasing the filtering action of the kidneys to promote expulsion of toxins.
AN INTERNAL CLEANING FLUID
The lymphatic system includes a network of vessels and nodes that run throughout the body alongside the blood vessels. Vital to the work of cleansing the body the lymphatic fluid removes wastes at a cellular level, like a cleaning fluid that gets into the tiniest spaces and washes away the debris. In addition to this, the lymphatic system aids the immune system in removing and destroying pathogens, toxins and cancer cells.
EXERCISING THE LYMPH
Unlike blood the lymphatic fluid has no pump, it is squeezed along by the actions of your muscles contracting. So, in order to get the lymph moving, you need to move it! A brisk walk, or aerobic exercise of your choice is all it takes.
Also known as ‘stickyweed’ or ‘sticky willy’ due to the tiny hairs all over the plant which help it climb other plants to gain height. (You may remember this from childhood games, sticking it to the back of an unsuspecting friend!)
Cleavers is a good spring cleanser, clearing toxins from the lymph and circulation, enhancing immunity, purifying the blood and aiding weight loss. As part of medical herbal treatment it is helpful for lymphatic congestion and chronic skin disorders such as eczema and psoriasis.
At this time of year cleavers is delicate and mild tasting, a little like pea shoots, making it a perfect addition to smoothies, salads or soups.
Commonly found covering the exposed earth on an allotment or vegetable garden, chickweed is not considered a friend by gardeners! The value of this little plant is overlooked; it has a good nutritional profile and a fresh vibrant ‘green’ taste.
Used medicinally it is a cooling and cleansing herb which encourages the lymphatic flow, helping to regulate fluids in the body whist reducing excess fatty deposits. As a topical ointment Chickweed is one of the best herbs for cooling inflammatory skin conditions.
Nettle (pic right) (Urtica dioica): This infamous herb rarely needs introduction for identification purposes! Packed with minerals and vitamins, nettle is one of the most nourishing cleansing herbs available. It clears toxins from the tissues via the bowels and urinary system whilst acting as a tonic herb to rejuvenate the body and bring more energy.
The Nettle’s stinging hairs can be broken by friction or boiling so there is no stinging sensation when nettle is eaten in a soup or a well-blended smoothie. However, if you don’t have a powerful blender you may prefer to juice the nettle leaves first, adding this in as a ‘shot’.
Please consult a good handbook to assist the proper identification of wild plants. For courses on wild herb identification and preparation call The Herbal Clinic for details.
If you are taking medication or are pregnant, please consult a medical herbalist before taking herbal remedies.
THE SMOOTHIE VERSUS THE SOUP
Some people struggle to digest raw, cold foods, with resultant bloating, indigestion and discomfort. If this describes you, the raw smoothie is best avoided until summer time. However, you can still make use of the cleansing herbs in a soup.
Add the herbs at the end of cooking just to wilt them, like you would spinach. You can chop them and eat them whole or blend the soup with a hand blender for a smoother texture. Alternatively, if you’re determined to stick to the smoothie, ensure you drink it at room temperature and add some warming spices such as cinnamon and ginger. We advise this for ALL constitutions as cold foods disrupt the stomach.
HERBAL CLINIC SMOOTHIE RECIPE
We have developed a tasty banana-free smoothie recipe using soaked almonds, dates and berries. Imported bananas are picked when unripe and the sugars are yet to mature. We have found that they can cause indigestion and constipation.
Check our website for a nutrient packed breakfast smoothie that’s still high in potassium!