Spring is here. I know, we usually think of spring arriving on the equinox, March 21. But as far as nature is concerned spring has already begun. The days are noticeably longer than they were on the winter solstice, the sun warmer and higher in the sky. Seeds are beginning to stir in the warmer ground, starting to push their green shoots up through the soil. This renewal is gradual, so subtle that we may not notice it unless we really pay attention. So it should be with us. Spring is a great time to make changes in our own lives but we should do it gently, giving our bodies time to adjust.
We may be tempted to toss our winter gear into storage but we want to make sure we stay warm during this time. Cut back on fatty foods, caffeine, and sugar but do so gradually, not cold turkey. We can begin to up the pace of our exercise; spring is a great time to begin a new exercise regimen. Exercise gets our blood and our lymph moving to increase our energy and clear stagnation. The herbs that arrive early in the spring are perfect to help us in this work.
Dandelion is one of my favorite plants. Its yellow flowers always cheer me up and I can make wish before blowing the seeds into the wind. The flowers are a favorite of bees while the leaves get eaten by a variety of wildlife. Dandelions are so hearty, not to say stubborn, surviving in all kinds of places: parks, lawns, construction sites, and drainage ditches. The long taproot pulls nutrients from deep in the ground later to be released into the topsoil. The roots also create drainage channels in compacted soil, aerate and attract earthworms.
Dandelion clears and replenishes the soil and it can do the same for us. The leaves are used as a diuretic, removing retained fluids and encouraging elimination and optimal kidney function without depleting the body. The roots are a real friend to the liver and gall bladder clearing stagnation, stimulating bile flow, and providing nourishment. Our liver performs more than 400 functions and can use all the help it can get. Both the leaves and the roots serve as bitters, stimulating our digestive juices.
Dandelion leaves can be eaten as salad or steamed or sautéed like other greens and the root can be had as an extract or an infusion, warm with a little honey. The flowers can be turned into dandelion wine and the unopened buds into a pickle. Many people consider dandelions a scourge to be eliminated but in fact they are friends and allies. The next time you see a dandelion smile, and thank the plant for its work and for providing us with excellent medicine.