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Excerpt from "Secret Medicines From Your Garden"

Chapter 2: Herbs of Spring

by Ellen Evert Hopman


I live in an oak forest in New England. There is very little light here for growing things, so I mostly rely on wildcrafted roots, barks, leaves, flowers, and berries, but I follow a few cautions before I pick. 

The first is expressed by an old Native American saying: “Walk by the first seven, leave the eighth for the animals, and you may take the ninth”; always leave enough plants behind to feed the wild creatures and to make seed for next year’s crop 

Gather one thousand feet from a roadway: to avoid the pollutants that abound there, such as those from car exhaust and brake linings 

Act fast, because Nature doesn’t wait: there is usually just a short window of opportunity for gathering from the wild 

Know your herbs: be sure you have a good guide or a teacher to point things out to you, and never pick endangered species in the wild 

Every season brings its own moment of opportunity; in the spring there are already an abundance of edibles and medicinals available in fields and forests, for those with the eyes to see and the determination to seek them out.

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) 

The delicate white flowers of Bloodroot are among the first flowers to appear in woodlands in spring. The roots were once added to tinctures and syrups for lung conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, and fevers. As they are now considered a toxic irritant, a better way to deliver the medicine is to put the tincture or tea of Bloodroot into a vaporizer and inhale the mist. It helps to open the capillaries in cases of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and other lung disorders. Bloodroot, an antiseptic, is used in toothpastes and mouthwashes. 

Chicory (Chichorium intybus) 

Chichorium intybus is a familiar bright blue wayside flower. Gather the young leaves before the blossoms appear and add them raw to salads or cook them like spinach. The leaves are also used in poultices for inflammations. Later in the season you can sprinkle the open flowers onto salads, open-faced cream cheese sandwiches, and cakes. Try freezing them into ice cubes for festive occasions. 

The roots can be gathered from March to May. Sauté the root when fresh or dry it, grind it, and add it to coffee. A tea made from the roots will aid the digestive tract. A tea can also be made of the leaves and flowers (don’t pick after blooming); it will clear mucus, aid in passing gallstones, and improve digestion. Acne, liver problems, eczema, rheumatic complaints, and gout may also benefit from the tea. Tea made from the leaves can also be used as a mouthwash for gum conditions. 

To make the tea: simmer one teaspoon chopped root per half cup water for ten minutes or steep one teaspoon herb per half cup water for twenty minutes. Take one tablespoon three times a day in separate doses, in water or milk. 

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) 

Dandelion greens are at their best in the early spring when they first appear. Soak them in cold water with a few tablespoons of sea salt or vinegar added to remove parasites, for about twenty minutes. Then rinse the leaves and eat them mixed into a salad, or cook them like spinach with a little butter, sea salt, and lemon juice. You can also dust them with flour, salt, and pepper and then fry in butter. A classic way to cook Dandelion greens is to sauté them with onion and bacon. 

The flowers are used to make Dandelion wine. Add the petals (but not the green sepals, which are too bitter) to salads for a calcium boost. 

Dandelion root tea is used for acne and eczema and for liver issues. To make the tea: After soaking the roots in water with vinegar or salt added beforehand to remove parasites, then simmer two teaspoons of root per half cup water for about fifteen minutes. Take up to one cup a day in quarter cup doses. 

Forsythia (Forsythia spp.) 

Yellow Forsythia flowers are some of the first spring blooms. Add a few to your salad 

Nettles (Urtica spp.) 

Nettles are antihistaminic and a nice alternative to allergy medications. Fresh Nettles should be gathered while wearing rubber gloves. Rinse for a few seconds under cold water in the sink and all traces of the “sting” will disappear. 
Caution: do not eat Nettles raw. 
Nettles can be added to soups, sautéed with other vegetables, folded into omelets, and so on. Try baking Nettles into a pie or adding them to quiche. Delicious! 

Nettles can be made into a warming tea. To make the tea: steep three tablespoons chopped Nettles for three to ten minutes in a cup of freshly boiled water. 

Norway Maple (Acer platanoides) 

Add the flowers of Norway Maple (Acer platanoides) to salads. 


Ellen Evert Hopman has been a teacher of herbalism since 1983 and is a professional member of the American Herbalists Guild. A Druidic initiate since 1984, she is a founding member of The Order of the White Oak, an Archdruidess of the Druid Clan of Dana, and a member of the Grey Council of Mages and Sages. The author of several books, including A Druid’s Herbal for the Sacred Earth Year, she lives in Massachusetts. 

Availability: Usually ships within 1-2 business days. Price: $18.95. To purchase this book visit B&N.com, Amazon.com, InnerTraditions.com, or your local bookstore. 

Secret Medicines from Your Garden by Ellen Evert Hopman © 2016 Healing Arts Press. 
Printed with permission from the publisher Inner Traditions International. www.InnerTraditions.com

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