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  • Writer's pictureJaye Gould

Uncovering Spring

Spring has (almost!) sprung, and the winds of March are sweeping across the landscape, with the slow creeping warmth of the sun to freshen the earth once more. With the moveable fast of Easter appearing at the end of the month, we can begin March with the promise of chocolatey goodness and spiced buns to come.


We can expect the first signs on the spring cleansers pushing their way up from the waking earth. Cleavers (Galium aparine), Dandelion (Taraxacum off.), Plantain (Plantago major), nettle (Urtica dioica) and joyful Daisy (Bellis perennis) begin to flourish, a sign that, should we wish to, nature is also offering us a way to begin to refresh our systems after the long dark of winter.


As a herbalist and forager, I'm drawn to walking the woods and valleys of the countryside at this time. It lifts my spirits to see the first colours of these healing plants begin to break through the tired, drab beaten-down grasses and turf, thrashed by rain and snows of the winter.  Soon we will see sunny Primrose and Cowslip (Primula spp), the dappled leaves of Lungwort (Pulmonaria vulgaris) and the sweet, shy purple face of Violet (Viola spp) appearing – nourishment for the wild bees and other precious first pollinators.


One of my favourite ways of aligning with the waking of the natural world at this time is to begin to carefully harvest some of these cleansing plants, particularly Cleavers, pushing a wee bunch of fresh plant matter straight into my water bottle as I walk. Her botanical name, Galium, (Greek for milk) is due to the curdling property of the leaves, used in cheese making, particularly in England.


Spring is the traditional time to cleanse and detox the body from the sluggishness of winter. Cleavers' gentle clearing action begins to work as I walk, shifting any stubborn metabolic waste from seasonal overindulgence of richer foods and drinks, helping the body's clever lymphatic system that always works in concert with our circulation, to cleanse and restore. Cleavers' watery magic works sympathetically, gently stimulating the flow of waters around the body both physically and emotionally, releasing old tired, stuck emotions too, which seems reminiscent of the tiny hooked hairs that make her stick like velcro, and give her the Scots folk name of 'sticky willy'. She offers renewal, is a mild diuretic, hydrating the body and refreshing our minds. 



Tonic pot herbs' like cleavers, nutritive foody nettles, and the liver supporting properties of humble dandelion, were much anticipated ingredients of pottage, the rich nourishing staple soup of times past. Our forebears knew of the restorative properties of these first plant helpers. When winter stores were running low, and grains, root veg and cured meats dwindling, the iron, potassium, vitamin and mineral rich properties of fresh green edible plants would have seemed, rightly, like a gift. In The Scots Kitchen (1929) we are told to gather young nettles from patches growing high on the wall. We must strip the few most tender young leaves from the top of the plant and then wash in several changes of salted water which ensures they are clean and also remove any unhelpful, soluble oxalates. 


Perhaps you might consider adding a handful of clean, shredded young dandelion leaves or the rinsed new leaves of nettle to your next spring greens soup pot.


This year, Easter arrives at the end of March. We now understand that Easter is an adoption of an earlier spring festival during Eostramonath, the time of year which is derived from Eostra the pan-Germanic fertility goddess revered in spring, a time of rebirth and renewal.  Our only reference to the goddess Easter is Bede in 725AD yet people were celebrating the Paschal festival, and painting eggs centuries ago and using fluffy bunnies as fertility symbols before that.  


Easter often occurred around the spring equinox, which is the 19th of March this year. So this year, I invite you to talk a walk in nature this equinox, and notice which plants are awakening near you, in your gardens, parks, woodlands or wherever nature pushes her greening way through. Think about which plants are offering their healing where you are, and what, if anything, you'd like to refresh for the return of spring? 


*Information in this blog is not intended as medical advice. Please consult a registered herbalist or your GP for advice of herb/drug interactions with any medications.


Jaye is a herbalist, doula and educator, and a Director and Facilitator for Movement in Thyme.



Galium aparine from Prof. Dr. Otto Wilhelm Thomé's Flora von Deutschland Österreich und der Schweiz. 1885 (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Galium_aparine_b.jpg)


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