Here in Portland, OR the earth is truly waking up from Winter Slumber. New growth is blanketing the ground, flowers popping out every which way, on every level of growth. The plants coming alive in the spring is one of my favorite moments in the seasonal cycles. The beauty stops me in my tracks, a much needed pause in a fast-paced day, and I inhale the moment. As these plants emerge, they lead me out of my contracted winter state. I watch the world around me come alive and I can't help but be affected. I feel my neck and shoulders soften, I feel my heart and chest open to the world around me: a thawing of my outer state of protection. I find myself smiling more.
But the beauty is far from the only reason why this spring awakening is so joyous for me: all the plant beings who died back last year are now returning, and it's so sweet for me to see them once more. It's like seeing old friends, reuniting and catching up.
Many of these plant friends are classified by the masses as "weeds." Unwanted, fast growing, bothersome plants. But to me they are powerful allies and medicine. They are actually some of the strongest most helpful herbal medicines we have around. Because they are so tenacious. Because they are so abundant. I wanted to share a few of my favorite spring weeds that grow prolifically throughout many areas of the country. While they each have a laundry list of personality traits, benefits and uses, I will just introduce you briefly. Like a first date. Who knows, maybe you will make some new friends!
Chickweed (Stellaria media)
Chickweed is delicious in salads, being crisp, sweet, watery and cooling. It is also incredibly nourishing (high in many trace minerals). It increases the absorption of nutrients in the digestive system and calms inflammation in the gut. Another major medicinal benefit of chickweed is that it helps dissolve boundaries. When we get too fixed with something or have put our defenses up a bit too rigidly, chickweed can help open us back up again. Physically it helps dissolve cysts (esp. ovarian), and will weaken bacteria by dissolving their cell walls, so it's a great addition to a wound healing salve.
Cleavers (Gallium aparine)
You may know cleavers as the hitchhiker who volunteered itself a ride on your pant leg while you were walking through your garden or field. It has little velcro-like stickies on it. This is one of the primary identifying factors as well (there is a plant that looks very similar that is smooth). So this is not typically a salad plant due to the sticky hairs, but a powerful medicine, especially great for juicing! One of my favorite medicines for springtime, it is a beautiful lymphatic cleansing plant. It helps us move and eliminate the sludge from the waters of our body, like a good spring cleaning will do! It also aids us in soothing frazzled and irritated nerves, which may happen if we move too quickly too soon with our external energy during springtime. In addition, it is a fabulous throat chakra medicine, helping us purify blockages that prevent us from speaking authentically or actively creating the life we desire.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
Dandelion has been documented as a medicinal remedy for over 1,000 years. Among other things, traditionally, it is commonly used as a spring tonic. Its bitter leaves help stimulate our digestive juices, and enliven our spirits. Dandelion helps us wake up our bodies and our beings again after the passivity of wintertime. It is a supreme liver and kidney tonic as well, helping to support, tone, and strengthen these organs. The greens contain a plethora of fiber, vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin A, C, B6, potassium, calcium, iron, manganese, thiamin, and riboflavin. Incorporating these greens into salads really ups the nutritional power punch.
Violet (Viola sp.)
Violet is such a sweet and tender plant, but oh so hearty and strong. It has been used traditionally for helping dissolve cancers, most notably breast cancers, but also has an affinity to reproductive and skin cancers as well. As with all these weeds, Violet is supremely nourishing, full of vitamins and minerals. Another great salad addition (both leaves and flowers), it helps support the digestive system, liver and gallbladder. Also very soothing and cooling, this medicine calms tension headaches, and cools an anxious, overthinking mind and nervous system. It has an affinity for the lungs, physically helping clear out hot congestion (yellow, thick, rattling, coughs), but also energetically clearing out grief (which is thought to be stored in the lungs). As with chickweed, violet is another good addition to a wound healing salve. Being antiseptic and cooling, it is especially helpful for hot skin issues such as burns, abscesses, sores, herpes, or other irritated and inflamed conditions.
I encourage you to look out for these plants growing in your yard, garden or neighborhood. If you see any, say hi! Nibble on a leaf, or simply acknowledge its presence. It will appreciate it, I promise! And if you're feeling especially brave, try having a salad with only wild greens (dandelion, chickweed, violet is a phenomenal trio).
ENJOY THE ABUNDANCE
*I want to mention that as living beings, plants appreciate us asking permission before we harvest them. So simply ask if it's ok, listen for an answer (a feeling of expansion or lightness, a "yes" in your head), thank the plant or make an offering.*