10 Ways to Stay Healthy Through Seasonal Transitions: Winter into Spring

Winter-harvested Cranberry

Winter-harvested Cranberry

It's currently that weird in-between time when winter is turning to spring, and seasonal transitions are a time when we are especially vulnerable to colds and flus, as any of you who have had a dreaded spring cold can attest too! Here in New England, the weather famously goes back and forth much faster than our body's can keep-up with, and a week of warm weather in March can easily be follow-up by a blizzard. What are some ways you can stay healthy during this transition of winter to spring?

1. Stay Warm.

It's simple yes, but important. Resist the urge to leave the house without your trusty scarf and hat. Dress in layers.  Even on the "warm" days!

2. Get enough rest.

Simply put, the more rest you get, the better your immune system works.

3. Stick with routines.

It's easy to get out of routines when seasons shift, but sticking to them is of the utmost importance! Keep-up with your winter routines. Don't let Daylight Savings mess-up your sleep routines- still get to bed early.  Avoid shifting to new spring routines until spring is *really* here and the flowers are blooming and the bugs and birds have returned!

4. Emerge from the winter sloooooowly.

It's easy to jump right into things, but resist the urge.

chickweed.jpg

5. Start eating more bitter foods.

Leafy greens like collards, chard, kale, and dandelion. Raddichio is an under-used bitter green that can be eaten raw in salads and is delicious. The bitter flavor wakes-up and nourishes the liver, the organ associated with the spring.  Buy burdock root and start grating it fresh on your salads or putting it in your soups!

6. Start eating more sour foods.

Cranberries, citrus, berries, fermented veggies like saurkraut and kimchi, herbs like hibiscus and rose hips. The sour flavor invigorates and wakes-up the liver too!

7. Eat wild foods.

Any and all you can get your hands on!  Dandelion Leaves (pictured left) are quite abundant in a our area and a wonderful bitter for the liver. Cranberry (pictured above) is a wonderful wild food that is extremely sour, so also a great one for the spring. Even though these ripen in the fall, they persist through the winter under the snow and even into the spring. They're a very hardy berry! And nutritious too, ridiculously high in vitamin C and outranking most common fruits and veggies in antioxidants. They are one of my favorite wild foods. Recipes and ID tips for wild foods on this blog abound! Search the "wild foods" and "eat the weeds" tags for more!  Here are a few of my favorite wild food recipes: Wild Salad, Garlic Mustard Pesto, & Irish Nettles Soup

8. Take Digestive Bitters

Spring is an ideal time to tonify your digestive system and strengthen your organs of elimination- the bitter herbs do this.  Some nice digestive herbs to work with include Dandelion, Burdock, Artichoke Lf, and Turmeric, for a start!

Here's an easy Bitters Recipe:

Digestive Bitters

Turmeric Rt 1 part (fine to use the powder)
Dandelion Rt 1 part
Rosemary 1 part
Orange Peel 1/2 part
Fennel Seed 1/4 part

Directions: Mix your dried herbs together in a bowl.  Pour into a glass jar. Cover with vodka (100 proof is best) until you have- by volume- about 4 times more vodka than you do herb. So the final ratio you are going for is 1 part herb: 5 parts vodka.  Let it steep for at least one month, and longer if desired.  Strain and pour into a glass bottle. Keep out of direct sunlight if possible or put into an amber jar.  Take 1 tsp in a small amount of water (1/2-1 cup) 5-10 minutes before major meals.  It's fine to take them after a big meal too if you forget!

Wild Salad

Wild Salad

9. Move your body!

It's easy to get antsy and frustrated this time of year, as we transition from the quiet and stillness of winter to the upward, outward, and expansive energy of spring. Movement helps you integrate this shift in energy and "go with the flow" with more ease.

10. Consider a kichari fast

In Ayurvedic Medicine, it's traditional to do a 5-7 day fast on just kichari- a basmati rice/mung bean stew that is full of spices.  It gives your body a rest, so your organs of elimination can move-out accumulated metabolic waste and get to work! Recipe here

 

Once Spring is here, then you can start working on harmonizing with the spring. Read more about that here!

Harmonizing with the Spring

Are you wanting some support?

Consider an herbal consultation to get you "tuned-up" and ready for the spring! I can make you your own personalized bitters blend and/or herbal formula, and offer dietary recommendations, to help you emerge from the winter gracefully and in good health, ready to move into the spring and summer ahead!


Herbal Consultations

Held at Blue Dragon Apothecary in Greenfield, MA
Tuesdays & Thursdays, by appt
Initial appt $75, Follow-ups $60
Friday Community Herbal Clinic, low-cost herbal consultations $35-75 siding scale

More info on Jade, her availability, rates, and schedule a consultation here!

Happy almost spring all!.
Jade Alicandro Mace, community herbalist

Eastern Hemlock Medicine

Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis):

A Materia Medica

Part Used:  Needles, Inner Bark, Sap/Pitch.  Traditionally, the entire young twigs were used.
Habitat & Ecology:  Prefers moist, well-drained, acidic soils.  Often grows in pure stands in moist cool valleys and ravines. Also found in rocky outcrops and north-facing bluffs.  Along with white pine, definitely the most common evergreen found in our local woods.  Grows to about 2,400 ft elevation.   Frequently associates with White Pine (Pinus strobus), and Yellow Birch (Betula alleghaniensis), or forms pure stands.  A common medicinal found growing beneath hemlock is Goldthread (Coptis groenlandica).   The pure stands create their own moist and slightly humid microclimate, and provide excellent winter shelter for many species of wildlife. These trees play a key role in stream ecology, shading the waters of mountain streams and headwaters and keeping them cool, thus creating habitat for native fish and invertebrates.  They also stabilize the soil in the steep ravines they commonly grow in, preventing erosion.
Description:  Along with White Pine, definitely the most common evergreen found in our forests.  Grows in a distinctive pyramidical shape.  Short needles (3/8-5/8”) growing in 2 rows off the branch.  Flat, flexible, and rounded at the tip (not sharp).  Shiny dark green above with 2 white lines below.  Has very small cones (5/8-3/4” long).  Could be confused with the poisonous Canada Yew (Taxus canadensis, Fam Taxacaea/ Yew Family), sometimes called Ground Hemlock, (a low-growing native forest shrub that can be toxic at large doses internally, but this species has dark green needles both above and below.  Can reach up to 175 ft tall and over 6 ft in diameter. Shares a common name with Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum), but is a completely different plant.

Collection: The needles can be collected anytime, as well as the bark.  To get the medicinal properties of the needles, inner bark/bark and sap all together, harvest the twigs.  The young, bright green needles that grow in late spring are especially high in Vit C and make a great trailside snack and medicine. Never girdle a tree when collecting bark, as it will kill the tree. 
Taste: Bitter, Pungent, Sweet, Sour
Energetics: Warm, Dry
Constituents:  Essential Oils, Tannins (esp in the bark)
Herbal Actions:  Astringent, Circulatory Stimulant, Diaporetic, Diuretic, Expectorant, Immune-enhancer,
Medicinal Uses:  The needles are the most medicinal parts of this species, and the inner bark and sap have some use as well.  The young new growth at the tips can be eaten and are a spring tonic.  They are deliciously sour, tonifying the digestion, promoting digestive secretions, and waking up the liver. Like White Pine, the needles are very rich in vitamin c, and build immunity during the cold and flu season, and can help lessen the duration of an illness if it has already set-in.  Hemlock has an affinity for the lungs and is helpful for wet, boggy cough and as over-all tonic for the respiratory system. It makes a delicious tea, especially when mixed with wild medicinal fruits such as Rose Hips (Rosa sp), Elderberry (Sambucus nigra), and Hawthorn (Crateagus sp).  Rich in tannins, the bark is very astringent, and can be used as a wash for any skin irritations, diarrhea, to tonify the skin, and help reduce excess secretions in the body.  The sap is also medicinal and can be used similarly to Pine species- as a warming expectorant in a chest rub, as an oil for sore muscles, rheumatic pains, to draw out splinters, and so on.  Also, hemlock is a host for our native adaptogenic muchroom, Reishi (Ganoderma tsugae)!  In the forest, hemlock has a very calming, soothing presence, and it tends to do the same in medicinal preparations.  It is a wonderful addition to any bioregional incense blend.
Preparation:  Tea, Salve, Smudge, Incense, Elixer, Honey, Infused Oil, Cordial, Ghee, Syrup, Vinegar, Bath Salt/Scrub, Essential Oil
Dosage: Tea- 1 tsp: 1 cup water. Drink freely.  Vinegar, Honey, Cordial, Oil, Salve, Cream, Elixer/Cordial- Enjoy freely
Contraindications:  Avoid in high dosages in pregnancy due to high Vitamin C content
Other: The inner bark can be used as survival food, and is very nutritious.  It can simply be chewed and swallowed, can be cut into strips and boiled to make “hemlock noodles,” or dried and ground into flour for baking.  This inner bark can also be soaked to produce a pink dye.  The bark is very high in tannins and was formerly much used in the tanning industry, and at one point the tree was even threatened in the northeast due to overharvest.  Tsuga, derived from the Japanese words for tree (tsu) mother (ga): the “mother of trees.” This tree is currently also being attacked by the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid (Adelges tsugae), an aphidlike insect from Asia that looks like white wooly fluff on the underside of Hemlock needles. DO NOT harvest from this tree or surrounding trees if you find this insect.

Hemlock Cordial✨

To Make:
Roughly chop your Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) needles and thin twigs (kitchen scissors or clippers work great for this). Put in a glass jar and cover the Hemlock with roughly 75% brandy (or any liquor that is at atleast 40% alcohol) and 25% raw honey. Let sit for a month (or as long as you want) and strain. This can be sipped on as a cordial, added to bubbly water or tonic water (it's esp nice mixed with tonic and blueberry soda) or take by the spoonful as medicine. It's delicious and tastes like the forest! Hemlock is warming and a very gentle circulatory stimulant. It is rich in immune-stimulating essential oils. Hemlock has a special affinity for the respiratory system, which makes sense-remember, trees are the lungs of the earth! It helps promote respiratory health, heals wet and boggy coughs, clears congestion from both the lungs and sinuses, and has some anti-microbial properties as well.
Enjoy!

Registration is OPEN for our bioregional herbalism series and apprenticeship, From the Roots Up, if you'd like hands-on experience working with our local medicinals!
More info here!

Bone Broth Gravy

Bone broth is a staple in our home, and I'm always looking for new ways to incorporate it into my family's diet and get my clients excited about it! Hence the origination of this recipe.  This stuff is nourishing, versatile, and makes everything taste better. And an added bonus is that this recipe is also gluten and dairy-free!  If you're just learning about bone broth, check-out this piece I wrote about its myriad of benefits and how to make it here.

Bone Broth Gravy
4-6 cups bone broth
Olive oil or ghee (made from pasture butter)
1 small onion, finely minced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 tsp rosemary pwd (or spice of choice)
Black pepper and sea salt to taste (can also use tamari here)
2 tbsp arrowroot powder
½ cup cold water

Sautee the onion and garlic in the oil or ghee until soft, with the spices. Then add the bone broth and simmer on medium heat for 5-10 minutes until it reduces a bit.  Meanwhile mix the arrowroot pwd in cold water. After the bone broth had reduced a bit add the arrowroot pwd/cold water mix and stir it all until it thickens.  Add more arrowroot pwd/cold water mix if you’d like it thicker! Put on everything! Meat, mashed potatoes, roasted root veggies, pot pies, etc. I have also found that this is great way to get bone broth into kids! Enjoy!

 

We'll be learning about recipes like this in my upcoming class series on kitchen herbalism- Spice Rack Medicine.  Tuition includes a course packet that has dozens of recipes included!
Spice Rack Medicine Winter Class Series
1 Sunday/month Jan-March
Greenfield, MA
More info here: http://www.milkandhoneyherbs.com/spice-rack-medicine-winter-series