Tag Archives: winter

Clever Cleavers

Cleavers, Galium Aparine

At this time of year, just before the winter sets in, I like to ally with an herb called Cleavers for a 2 week period to prepare my body for the warrior season of winter. Cleavers, botanically named Galium aparine, are also called Everlasting Friendship, Grip Grass, Sweethearts, Love-man, and Sweethearts. Sounds romantic, doesn’t it? While it’s not an aphrodisiac herb per se, there is a lot to love about this clingy little plant friend.

The cleaver plant is found in hedgerows and fields where there are bushes, with tiny flowers and small prickly green fruits. The stems are “hairy,” and stick to animals, other plants, and people passing by it. It is one of the first wild plants to sprout as early as January.

Cleavers is an excellent tonic for the Lymph System.

When we think of winter, we usually think about building up and strengthening our immune systems for potential dangers such as colds, flus, and viruses. That is true. We must also be aware of the importance of the health of our lymph system in building our immunity. The lymph system, part of the circulatory system, “provides a vehicle for the elements of the immune system to travel about monitoring the body’s internal environment and maintaining the stability of the body functions.” (Rosemary Gladstar) Different parts of our bodies are protected by groups of lymph nodes. For example, nodes on the neck protect the head, nodes under the arms protect the chest, and so on. Often the first indication of an infection in the throat is that swollen feeling in the glands (which are really clusters of immune system cells), an indication that the body is waging war on a foreign invader, and healing itself.

A clear, flowing lymph system is pivotal in our overall health and wellness, though it can be prone to toxic buildup or stagnancy. That is because another function of the lymph is to carry various wastes from the liver and cellular metabolism. When the lymph system is overburdened with wastes, it is unable to filter and neutralize waste properly, resulting in inflammation, chronic fatigue, and reduced immune response. Cysts, tumors, prostate infections, urinary infections, and even pimples are also caused by buildup of lymph toxins. When the lymph system is weakened or backed up, the immune system cannot function optimally by any means.

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Celebration of the Changing Seasons tincture, with Cleavers & Milk Thistle

That is why cleavers are such a treasured ally at this time – before winter comes, and also in the Spring, to cleanse the body once more. Cleavers are Nature’s gift to us in relieving lymph buildup. They actually help the lymph system in its job of neutralizing metabolic wastes! Oftentimes, chronic skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, acne, and eruptive infections are lymph-related and can be improved with lymph-cleansing. Other conditions related to the lymph are ear-infections, swollen adenoids, glands, and tonsillitis.

Last year, I allied with Cleavers and Milk Thistle for a 2 week period. I made a delicious tincture that I called “Celebration of the Changing Seasons tincture,” featuring these two herbs. Cleavers for the lymph and Milk Thistle for the liver. I felt great, did not have a flu shot, nor did I get sick once throughout the winter. This 2 week Cleaver cleanse in conjunction with exercise, eating seasonally, dressing warm, and allying with other herbs for warmth and nourishment in the winter are all you need to build a fortress of wellness around yourself for winter.

Try cleavers :tea, tincture, infused in vinegar or honey, or fresh in salads.

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Ginger for All

this beautiful ginger rhizome resembles a sea coral or a bouquet.

this beautiful ginger rhizome that bearded dragon found resembles a sea coral or a bouquet.

I adore those herbs that blur the line between medicine, food, herb, and plant. They defy any standardized definition and bring people medicine without too many bold claims, disguised by their taste appeal and typically, a rich folk tradition passed down in family recipes over the ages. One of the most versatile and well known of these “all-around” herbs is ginger (Zingiber officinale). Countless cultures and peoples look to this root for healing, medicine, flavor, and other gifts. In the U.S.,  ginger is quite a “mainstream” herb (or food, whichever you like to call it), being used in popular treats such as ginger-ale, gingerbread, and ginger snaps. During the holiday season ginger perks up in coffee blends and desserts like no other herb does. I like to believe that it has made its way into so many bellies by virtue of its many healing gifts as well as its delicious flavor. I believe that these herbs have conspired over countless generations to make sure they are a part of our lives because we really do NEED them. After all, it is one of the greatest herbs for winter wellness, bringing heat to the system and stimulating circulation.

Loved by all. An ancient Indian proverb says “every good quality is contained in ginger.” Traditional Chinese medicine views the “hot root” as the ideal remedy for a “devastated” yang, in other words a condition or body type/constitution that is overly cold or damp. It’s no surprise to learn that ginger is an herb of Aries whose element is fire. The root helps stimulate energy and is reputed to have been used by Madame du Barry to help the notoriously sluggish Louis XV reach the heights of lust (yes, it’s an aphrodisiac). Ginger’s effect on the body is cleansing — it promotes circulation and helps rid toxins and stagnancy, a deep form of healing. It is called a gem for the heart because it lowers cholesterol, prevents clotting, and reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke!

Ginger brings the Belly Bliss. The rhizome (the root that we eat) is shaped like the digestive tract, and using the doctrine of signatures, early healers instinctively used ginger to help soothe stomach problems and digestive complaints. We follow these early teachings today and can eat or drink ginger as a remedy for diarrhea, flatulence, stomach cramps, and gout. Originally, the Japanese ate pickled ginger (called gari) to ward off any illnesses or bacteria that might be found on raw fish, a practice we still follow today. Indeed ginger is antiseptic and antiparasitic, a warrior food. Ginger is the go-to plant for treating nausea and morning sickness. It also helps the body to metabolize and digest food by stimulating saliva and digestive enzymes.

Warrior Root. For winter-time, ginger is a fierce protector and ally against any yin type illnesses such as colds, flu, chills, poor circulation and frostbite. It is like a match that lights the fire within and burns all the bacteria and viruses to smithereens. The recipes for ginger teas, honeys, syrups, and candies are delicious and unfailing. Juliette de Baraicli Levy recommends using powdered ginger for toothaches!!

Remedy. One of my favorite ways to use ginger is to make a ginger hand/foot soak. I have Raynaud’s syndrome, so this is a great way to get my circulation in my hands and feet going. Using one small ginger “finger,” (about 2-3 inches) and 3 cups of water, I make a strong decoction of fresh grated ginger root. I then add half of it to a large bowl or basin with more warm water to fill. I dip my hands in it while it’s warm and feel the circulation flowing. When you apply ginger externally, it is normal for the area to turn red as bloodflow increases. Then I use the other half of the ginger brew diluted with more warm water for a foot soak. You can also use the water from the ginger brew as a compress to soothe pains, injuries, arthritis, rheumatism, or sore muscles. Simply dip a clean cloth in the brew while it is warm (not burning) and apply directly to effected area. You can also reuse the grated ginger from the decoction as a poultice applied directly on the skin where needed. What is your favorite ginger remedy/recipe?

Wishing you warmth and wellness xx gem

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