Exploring Cycles of the Earth in Our Bodies -
Y'all, spring is in the air! Can you feel it??
The earth is stirring, the seeds are sprouting, the plants are poking their little heads out of the soil, the snow is melting and the waters are flowing.
Depending on where you live, you may already have lots of spring edibles and medicinals emerging.
These transitional times, the between-season times, and especially the shifting forward and back between what feels like winter and what is clearly spring, are an opportunity to listen to our bodies, to really feel into what we're needing, and give ourselves some extra support.
This episode shares all about listening to the cycles of the earth through our bodies, and how you can incorporate wild plants (many that are probably growing as weeds in your yard or a nearby park) into springtime tonics that support the releasing of the heavier, duller, denser energy of winter, and support your detoxification and elimination pathways in your body, so you can feel lighter, brighter and more vital as the spring really sets in.
Our wombs directly connect us to the cycles of the earth, so learning to live a more seasonal lifestyle helps us cultivate healthy foundations in our bodies, including in support of more balanced menstrual & hormonal health.
Listen to this episode to learn:
- two ways the cycles of our own lives as folks with wombs connect us to the earth
- how the energy of the wild weeds of spring are perfect antidotes to the heaviness we may be carrying after a deep winter
- the story behind how I started incorporating spring edibles into my life (spoiler alert: it involves living with a hermit, having no money, no car, and not enough food)
- ways to prepare these wild weeds in your foods or teas
- what these plants are actually doing in your body, including how they're supporting your liver, kidneys, and digestive system and why that's also helpful for your hormones
- why ramps are a controversial topic
- a deeper look into nettles, chickweed, garlic mustard, dandelion, burdock, & yellow dock
DISCLAIMER: This podcast and blog is for educational purposes only, I am not providing any medical advice, I am not a medical practitioner, I’m an herbalist and in the US, there is no path to licensure for herbalists, so my role is as an herbal educator. Please do your own research and consult your healthcare provider for any personal health concerns.
How does our womb connect us to seasonal cycles?
Whether we are in our cycling years, experiencing menstruation each month with some regular relationship to the moon itself, or we are just considering the phases we pass through in the course of our lifetime, our wombs connect us to the cycles of the earth.
As someone with a womb, you'll pass through:
- pre-menarche (childhood)
- post-menarche (maiden)
- fertile, generative years (mother, even if you don't birth any babes)
- peri-menopause and menopause (the changing times)
- elderhood (crone years)
These cycles of our lifetime are reflections of stages of natural changes that reflect our relationship to nature itself. That connect us to the waxing and waning moon, to the springtime possibility, the summer fertility and abundance, the autumnal changing times and the winter reflective times.
When we shift our relationship with these phases of our lives into honoring each phase as a brilliant expression of the earth's wisdom, we can embody and enjoy them more completely.
The fresh, vital, light energy of Spring is a natural antidote to the rich, heavy, dense energy of winter.
The dark leafy greens of wild weeds, the liver-supportive roots like dandelion and burdock that start to show their faces as the spring sets in, are all perfect tastes (bitter, astringent, nutritive) to counter-balance that heavier, denser energy of winter we are letting go of as winter wanes.
In Ayurveda, there is an idea that later winter and early spring relate to the term Kapha, which is representative of heavy, dense, dull, and slow-moving energy. There is often an excess of this energy when we've been immersing in the season for long enough, so it's wise to do some kind of intentional "cleansing" to release it from our systems.
In Western herbal traditions, we consider the spring to be a perfect time to add in the plants that are starting to grow around us, especially in temperate climates. These plants are often bitter or pungent, and support liver, kidney and digestive function. Some are also lymphatics which assist in moving excess wastes out of the body. Many are also called "alteratives" which is a term that basically just means restoring body systems to more optimal function.
Basically, we're talking about working with Spring Tonic plants that can help us clear out the gunk and renew our bodies so we can feel more vital and refreshed as we enter into the warmer, verdant seasons.
Rather than an intense detox or cleanse, the spring tonic herbs offer gentle food-like support for our organs of detoxification and elimination (liver, kidneys, GI tract).
We can incorporate these plants into our daily diets while they are abundant in our environment. Making wild greens pestos with herbs like chickweed, violet leaf, wild mustards, and dandelion greens is one of my favorite recipes. Just use these herbs in place of basil, and voilá, you've got a wild weeds pesto.
But any of these edible spring weeds can be added into stir-fries, soups, quiches, casseroles, in the place of spinach or kale. Garlic mustard or nettles can be delicious additions to any recipe where you would otherwise add spinach or mustard greens. I especially love nettle soup with a little extra butter or cream to balance out the astringency, some garlic and salt and pepper.
The possibilities are truly endless on how to incorporate these beautiful greens into your daily life. The point is just to do so, whether that's for a couple weeks or a couple months, to infuse your body with these nutrient-rich, bitter, alterative qualities.
Roots like dandelion or burdock can be eaten in stir-fries or soups. Or you can make a simmered tea with burdock root, dandelion root, yellow dock root and perhaps some ginger or cinnamon to warm up and support the blend. This kind of tea can be either drunk every so often, or more intensively for a few days in a more spring tonic cleanse fashion.
Of course, when adding herbs more intensively into your protocol, you'll want to refer to your healthcare provider to be sure it's appropriate for you. That said, most of these plants are like foods, and if you aren't checking in with your provider about eating grapefruit (which can interact with meds), then you may feel comfortable incorporating them on your own. If you feel concerned at all, just give your provider a call!
Proper plant identification is key, so find someone experienced to wildcraft with if you're new to it, and make sure you have at least one plant ID book in hand.
Some common weeds for you incorporate as Spring tonic food-like cleansing herbs are:
- Stinging Nettles (Urtica dioica) - An alterative that can support restoration of optimal function of various body systems. Reply nutritive, well known to build tissues and blood. Can be cooked and eaten in foods in place of spinach. Or dried for tea. Diuretic, helps move fluids through the kidneys to enhance filtration of wastes, which can be slightly drying. Astringent, so slightly drying and toning to tissues, so you may want to add something moistening to counteract this action if you tend towards dryness. Anti-histamine, especially in its freeze-dried form or tincture form when taken over the course of months, which can reduce allergic response and even potentially have a role in reducing inflammation in some cases of endometriosis.
- Chickweed (Stellaria media) - Soothing and cooling emollient vulnerary (moistening, wound-healing), great for hot and dry tissues. Lymphatic, so helps move lymph around the body and thus eliminate excess wastes. Nutrient-rich, and is far better fresh than dried. Can be eaten raw or cooked, or blended and made into ice cubes to preserve. Or can make an herbal vinegar to preserve nutrients.
- Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) - A pungent an bitter invasive (opportunistic) plant. Identify properly and harvest abundantly. Taste is somewhere between garlic and arugula. Use in place of spinach or mustard greens in any recipe. Wonderful for clearing congestion, and encouraging a moving and cleansing feeling in the body.
- Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) - Greens: Nutritive and bitter, can be eaten raw or cooked. Will stimulate digestive juices. Diuretic, so will help fluids move through kidneys and could be drying. Roots: Bitter and hepatic, so enhance secretion of digestive juices and support liver function. Especially helpful for encouraging gentle detoxification of wastes and in cases of hormonal imbalance. Also can help move the bowels gently.
- Burdock (Arctium lappa) - Both bitter and slightly sweet/earthy. Very nutritive root. Can be supportive for liver function, and also as an alterative specific to skin conditions. Supports lymph movement as well. Overall, a wonderful addition to a gentle food-like detoxification protocol.
- Yellow Dock (Rumex crispus) - Greens: Nutrient-rich, but high in oxalic acid, so need to be prepared in a specific way. Consult a wild foods guide to learn more and add these into your cooked soups, casseroles, etc. Roots: Bitter, aperient, so especially helpful with mild constipation to gently move the bowels and enhance elimination. Ideally, especially while enhancing detoxification, you'll want to be eliminating stool 1-2 times per day. As a hepatic and bitter, will stimulate digestive juices and enhance natural detoxification function of liver. Also considered an alterative and very specific for skin conditions. Best either made into tincture and used medicinally, or chopped and dehydrated to make into simmered teas (decoctions) or syrups.
This kind of "tonic cleansing" supports detoxification and elimination in a food-based, gentle way and is helpful for cultivating not only optimal overall heath, but also more specifically will be supportive in cases of hormonal imbalance.
Most importantly, tune into your own body. What do you need?
Tune into the earth. What is the earth offering?
When we start to live seasonally, and really re-connect ourselves to the rhythms of the earth, we often notice that our bodies are in fact responding to the environment around us.
Pay attention to what's growing around you, what the farmers are able to grow right now. How might those plants be exactly what you need?
Links mentioned in this episode:
Fundraiser for Mountain Gardens Herbs to help rebuild after the tragic fire: https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-mountain-gardens-rebuild
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