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Beneficial Herbs in the Spring

Nettle and dandelion, ground elder and chickweed, are known to be annoying weeds—and you can find them almost everywhere! We can be grateful for that because, perhaps unbeknownst to most, they have powerful healing properties that those who takes the time and effort to use them can benefit from.


We all know that colorful is healthy, yet we shouldn’t underestimate green. Plants appear green to us because of their chlorophyll content. The chlorophyll from plants cleanses and builds up our blood. Green soups, herbs for salads and pesto, and teas, help keep us healthy. I am happy for this opportunity to share my years of training and personal experience in this area with you. I hope you enjoy reading this article and using the recipes given below.

Stinging Nettles (Urtica Dioica)

Whether we go for a walk, weed in the garden or in the field, or run through the woods, we’ll likely come into contact with this plant—it grows everywhere! We often see it as a bad plant because it’s a weed in our gardens or it’s painful to our touch. The Latin name urtica dioica comes from its size and the rash (urticaria) that is developed when we come into contact with it. Most gardeners try to destroy it but it should actually have an honored place in the garden. It’s really one of the most important medicinal plants because of its many medicinal benefits. In some parts of the world they even speak of it as the queen of medicinal plants! Stinging nettle is the queen and dandelion is considered the king, which we will cover later.

Stinging nettles belong to the family of nettle plants, “Urticariaceae.” We can find about 45 different types of it worldwide. They are annual plants, up to 1.5 meters tall, form rhizomes, and have hair on their leaves as well as on the stalk. Stinging nettles don’t have flowers but there are male and female plants, which pollinate with the help of the wind.

They usually grow on:

· Nutrient-rich grounds

· Moist soil

· Over-fertilized sides of fields

· Sites of waste disposal

· On the sides of roads

They are nitrogen detectors. Their hair is what is painful to us when we touch and break it. It actually protects the plant and releases an acid containing serotonin, histamine, acetylcholine, and sodium salt. The result is pain and inflammation. The leaves also contain lots of chlorophyll, minerals including iron, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, and silicon, and vitamins’ A, C, and K. Chlorophyll cleanses the blood and is often used in detoxing treatments. Due to its alkalizing properties, it helps us when our bodies are too acidic, and promotes water excretion when we suffer from edema and water retention. The hematopoietic effect of the nettle is well-known because it contains a lot of iron, among other things. It is used in the treatment of anemia. It acts as a vasoconstrictor, which is why it is also used to stop bleeding. Additionally, it is said to affect the digestion. The nettle contains secretin, promoting the production of pancreatic juice, bile, stomach acid, and encourages the motility of the intestines. In diabetes, it lowers blood sugar levels; in breastfeeding mothers, it promotes milk secretion, which is why breastfeeding women like to drink nettle tea. Stinging nettle should always be part of herbal preparations to treat rheumatism because it helps to excrete inflammatory substances. In the case of chronic skin conditions, fresh nettle juice, nettle hydrolate, or nettle tea, can be applied to the affected area(s). It cleanses, regenerates and beautifies the skin. It’s especially beneficial for those with eczema, rashes and/or acne.


For which conditions are stinging nettles helpful?

· Rheumatic diseases and gout

· Kidney stones

· Bleeding (nose or uterus)

· Indigestion

· Cholera, dysentery, colon inflammation

· Diabetes

· Lack of milk (breastfeeding)

· Skin diseases

· Anemia

· Hair loss

· Strengthening of the immune system—better than Echinacea!


You can use its roots, leaves and seeds.

Internal treatments:

Use as an infusion (tea); freshly pressed juice; powdered; nettle seeds make a nice muesli addition; as part of your soups, stews or a vegetable side dish instead of spinach or green beans

External treatments:

Use as a tincture; herbal distillate; hair tonic and/or facial tonic; fiber production; coloring and dyeing; fertilization


Teas & Infusions

Dried nettle is part of many tea blends (“bladder tea”, “rheumatism mix”, “women’s tea”, etc.).


Tea:

Pour 200 ml of boiling water over 1 teaspoon of the herb and let it steep for 5 minutes; strain and drink.

Infusions:

Mix 60 g of herb with 1 liter of water (prepare as above). This can be used for washing wounds and compresses. A compress is dipped into the infusion, wrung out, and applied to the diseased area(s). Let sit for 20 minutes, then reapply.

Pure nettle tea is especially used in detox cures, or mixed with birch, goldenrod and horsetail.

Freshly pressed juice

Blend a handful of fresh nettle leaves with 200 ml of water in a good blender; drink 1 glass, twice a day.

Alternatively, juice the nettle leaves in a wheatgrass juicer. Drink 1 teaspoon in 200 ml of water, 2-3 times a day. This juice cleanses the blood and is particularly suitable when purification is necessary.


Nettle powder

First, dry the nettles (young or mature; with or without seeds). Pulverize using a strong blender.

· 1 teaspoon of powder in 200 ml water

· 1 tablespoon of powder with 1⁄4 liter vegetable stock and some cashew, or other plant-based, cream

· Nettle powder can be sprinkled over salad, used as a soup, and prepared as juice.


Nettle seeds

· Help with infertility and impotence, and promote milk production

· Are dried and preserved for the winter

· Can be powdered

· Delicious when paired with avocado bread or sprinkled on a salad


Nettle seeds contain a lot of vitamins, especially vitamin E, and hormone-like substances.

Nettle tincture

Cut freshly harvested, slightly dried, young nettle leaves into small pieces and fill a jar hall-full. Fill the jar three-quarters with Ethanol-80.Seal tightly and label. Let it sit on a window sill for three weeks, making sure to shake well every day. After three weeks, strain using a sieve and coffee filter. Transfer to a dark bottle, labelled with the date. This tincture lasts for at least one year and can be used as a cream against rheumatic pain.



Nettle hydrolate

· is made from fresh, finely chopped, plant parts using a still

· Contains dimethyl sulphides and ketones

· Promotes hair growth, especially if the nettle is also used internally

· Thus: use nettles as/in a soup, tea or smoothie, and massage the scalp with nettle decoction or hydrosol.


Nettle hydrolate is particularly suitable as a hair and face tonic.


Nettle roots

Clean, chop and boil the roots of the plant. It can be used as a hair rinse after washing as it helps with hair loss.


Nettle manure (fertilizer)

Cut 1kg of nettles into small pieces and place into a bucket. Cover them with 10 liters of water and let ferment for 3 weeks, stirring every day. Dilute 1 liter of nettle manure with 10 liters of water and use it to fertilize plants—especially heavy eaters, all cabbage plants, tomatoes and peppers.


Nettle smoothie

- 1 handful of fresh nettle tips

- 1⁄4 avocado

- 2-3 lettuce leaves

- Juice of 1⁄2 lemon,

- 300-500 ml of water

- 1⁄2 teaspoon of birch sugar or fresh fruit (1⁄2 mango or 1 banana)

Blend until smooth. Drink 2-3 times a day before meals.


This smoothie is a dietary supplement, supplying the body with valuable vitamins and minerals. Its chlorophyll content improves oxygen uptake. Overall, it works to detoxify the body.

Nettle spinach

- 250g nettle leaves

- 150g ground elder or spinach

- approx. 100ml water

- salt

- 1 clove of garlic

- soup seasoning

- 25g cashew nuts

Wash the nettles and ground elder, and steam in a little water. Powder the cashews in a blender. Blend the leaves in the water with the garlic until creamy. Add the soup seasoning to the spinach and briefly mix again. Voila! This dish pairs very well with potatoes and herb patties.


Nettle spinach improves the blood, increases the oxygen intake of the blood, promotes digestion, helps with rheumatism and skin problems, lowers blood sugar level and promotes milk production.

Nettle pesto

- 100g nettle leaves

- 50g ground walnuts

- 1teaspoon salt

- 50ml olive oil

Blend until creamy. This pesto can be served with noodles.

Nettle soup

- 1 medium potato

- 1 small onion

- 2 handfuls of nettle leaves

- ½ liter water

- Salt

- soup seasoning

- 25g cashew nuts, or some plant-based cream

Peel and cube the potatoes. Chop the onion, and boil them in the water until soft. When soft, add the stinging nettles and boil briefly. Blend the cashews in a blender until they are powdered; add all the ingredients and blend until creamy. You may need to add more water.

Also to note, 2 tablespoons of nettle powder can be used instead of fresh nettles. This soup is especially suitable in winter.



Dandelion

Taraxacum officinale – a part of the asteraceae

The dandelion grows in meadows and pastures, fields and heaps of rubble, mostly on clay soils. It blooms from April to June and in springtime it brings delight with its yellow flowers. The stems can be up to 20 cm high. The leaves of the dandelion can be harvested year-round; the roots in spring and autumn. When the roots are dried they can be roasted, ground, and consumed as a coffee substitute.

The leaves and roots of the plant contain taraxin, a bitter substance that is similar to that of the chicory and to which the strengthening and digestive effects are attributed, as well as insulin. The leaves also contain flavonoids, coumarins and vitamins B and C. Dandelion stimulates the appetite and digestion, strengthens the stomach, and dehydrates and stimulates the formation of bile up to three times in the liver. It is an important herb in cases of liver failure, hepatitis, and cirrhosis.

The leaves and roots have the most healing power, little comes from the flowers. Its leaves are often used in salads, fresh juices and smoothies. They can be dried and also consumed as a tea. Take 2-3 tablespoons of fresh, pure dandelion juice before meals. This should be done as a spring regimen for a month.



Ground Elder

Aegopodium podagraria

This is a perennial plant in the carrot family (apiaceae) and is also called goutweed. It grows in meadows, shady and damp bushes, and, unfortunately, often in gardens where it can be hard to remove. It can grow to a height of ½-1 meter.

“The ground elder contains a lot of vitamin C, carotenoids, iron and manganese. It helps to loosen and excrete acidic deposits. This affects the joints and makes them more flexible again. A tea can be prepared from the roots, which has a diuretic effect and thus also deacidifies. A foot bath helps with sore feet. Monks used to plant it in the monastery garden because it can cure gout. ”

The taste of the young leaves is spicy and aromatic. They can be harvested for fresh salads from March to May. Alternately, the leaves can also be harvested in autumn and blended in smoothies, juiced, added to pesto, combined with spinach, herb butter, and added to soups.



Chickweed

Stellaria media

This plant belongs to the family of the caryophyllaceae and is a ground indicator for nitrogen. It grows as a weed in gardens, fields, vineyards, on roadsides, and is very much appreciated by chickens! Chickweed is valuable as a wild vegetable as well as a medicinal herb for bronchitis. Since it contains important minerals and vitamins, chickweed is a tonic and is particularly useful when you are exhausted and very tired. It contains magnesium, silicon, potassium, phosphorus, iron, copper, B vitamins and vitamin C. The saponins in chickweed are the main active ingredients in healing bronchitis. In the kitchen, this wild herb can be used as spinach, in soup, as a (diluted) fresh juice, smoothie, and in a mixed salad or in bread.


Chickweed bread

- 500g spelt flour

- 20g yeast

- 2 teaspoons salt

- 40g chickweed

- 350ml water

Blend the chickweed together with water in a blender. Dissolve the yeast in the chickweed water and stir in the flour with the salt, spoon by spoon; knead. Place the dough into a bread pan and let it rise. Bake for 1 hour at 180 degrees Celsius.


Chickweed soup

- 1 potato

- 1 small onion

- 1⁄2 liter water

- 2 handfuls of chickweed

- soup seasoning

- salt

- cashew cream (10g cashew nuts)

Peel the potato and cut into cubes; chop the onion and boil both in the water. Add the chickweed at the very end and scald briefly. Blend the cashews in a blender. Add the soup and seasoning, and blend until creamy.

Chickweed smoothie

- 2 handfuls of chickweed

- 1 apple

- 1 pear

- Juice of 1⁄2 lemon

- Water

Remove the cores of the fruit and chop. Place all ingredients into the blend and blend until creamy.



HEIDI KOHL was born in 1948 in Innsbruck, Austria. In 2007, Heidi and her husband moved from Tyrol to Leutschach. They bought a 10-hectare property on the Slovenian border. During the first year, they discovered many wonderful medicinal plants in their meadows. They lived partly as self-supporters with a big garden, giving health seminars and camps on their farm. In 2014, tragedy hit their family. Her husband became seriously ill and died that same year. In deep suffering, Heidi immediately wanted to turn her back on Leutschach, but that was not so easily possible. To get over the great loss of her husband she, instead, decided to start something new. She began her training as a qualified herb pedagogue in Graz and was able to complete it in June 2015. For her diploma thesis she wrote about the wild and medicinal plants in the Southern Styria Nature Park.

In her educational work, and for demonstrating her herbal products, she uses the wild, medicinal plants that grow in the nature park and from her newly grown herb garden. She shares how teas, natural soaps and cosmetics, hydrosols, tinctures and oils, can be made from local herbs. She also shares how wild and medicinal herbs can be used for our own health, as remedies, and for culinary purposes.

 



Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner's Guide: 33 Healing Herbs to Know, Grow, and Use by Rosemary Gladstar

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