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Natural Awakenings Central New Jersey

Medicinal Powers of Springtime Plants

By Cheryl Karcher

[dropcap]S[/dropcap]pring is a fabulous, nutritious and medicinal, green time of the year! Herbalists wait and watch in anticipation for the right moment to go and forage precious medicinal weeds and plants.

In early spring, the “Lion’s Tooth,” or dandelion, taraxacum of cinale, emerges in whorls of green before it flowers. One of the best aspects of the dandelion is that the entire plant is useful. The leaves can be used as any other leafy green purchased at the supermarket, gently rinsed for a salad or lightly steamed with a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper. For medicinal purposes, the dandelion leaves are best harvested in the summer, when they are most bitter. They contain vitamins such as C, D and B complex as well as minerals like calcium, potassium, iron and magnesium.

Dandelion is exceptional medicinal food for the kidneys and liver, providing a detoxifying action and building digestive juices. The leaves are categorized as an aquaretic- a non-irritating, potassium-sparing diuretic. This is an important characteristic, as most diuretics drain essential potassium as well as excess water from the body- potentially creating a new set of health concerns. The long tap root of the dandelion is best gathered in the autumn. Rinsed, chopped, roasted and ground, it makes an excellent coffee substitute. The roots contain inulin, a prebiotic, which is a necessary polysaccharide for gut health. The flowers, rich in lutein and flavonoids, nourish the liver and eyes.

Another wonderful flower harvested in the spring is nettles, urtica dioica, or stinging nettles. Not only is it a spring tonic, but also a veritable medicinal chest throughout the season. The early spring green tops are a nutrient rich blood tonic and also an aquaretic. The nettle seed is a great kidney restorative. The sting of the nettle leaf is most unique in that the same irritating sting caused by the leaves and stem is the same medicine that relieves the arthritic pain. Gently brushing the arthritic joint with a bunch of nettle leaves releases acids and plant compounds that actually reduce pain and inflammation of the arthritic joint.

Learn more about many other seasonal owers and herbs and their medicinal effectiveness by visiting Hilltop Herbals.

Location: Hilltop Herbals, 242 Country Road 579, Bloomsbury.

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