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Springtime Relief

Spring has finally sprung – sort of. Regardless of the chillier than average temps we’re all experiencing, pollen is out and about in full force. While most of us are grateful for the warm weather, the runny noses, itchy eyes, and all around heaviness that springtime blooms bring is stifling. And although you could just as easily run over to the store and grab a box of “this will fix all of your allergies we promise” pills, those things often lead to a dried out mess in your sinuses. Plus, what’s even in that stuff?

Skip the meds and head outside, because the plants that seem to be causing all the problems can actually help ease your springtime woes.

Echinacea.  If you’re the least bit familiar with herbalism, then this name probably rings a couple bells. Also known as coneflower, Echinacea is one of the most popular immune-boosting herbs out there. It works a little something like this: Echinacea is full of phenol compounds, which control a lot of the plants interworking and just so happen to have antioxidant properties that are beneficial for the human immune system.

You can grow your own Echinacea (they’re hearty lil plants, even if don’t have a green thumb), purchase the plant locally, buy supplements from health food stores, or even grab a Echinacea tea (I prefer Yogi, but any brand will do).

Eat or drink up daily and your immune system will be one happy camper!

Nettle. Stinging nettles, nettles, whatever you want to call it this plant will be a lifesaver during the blooms and blossoms of spring. – And just so we’re clear, make sure to not ingest the “stingers” (fuzzy lil hairs that hang out on the nettles) because they will cause some annoying irritation and not at all help with your allergy recovery. – The stinging bit aside, nettles actually contain a lot of wonderful anti-inflammatory properties and quercetin (a chemical compound that can help block released histamines).

Unless you’re experienced in concocting tinctures and such, I wouldn’t suggest trying to grow and harvest your own plant. Instead, check out your local health food or grocery store for nettle extracts, tinctures, or teas.

Nettle tastes a bit like green tea, so add a little splash of lemon juice or your favorite citrus and you’ll be well on your way to springtime relief.

Bee Pollen. You know the saying fight fire with fire? Well, the same holds true for allergy season. One of the best ways to combat spring allergens is with chowing down on some good ole fashion bee pollen. While you can eat a spoonful of local honey to try and ease the pollen pain, nothing beats a pile of bee pollen. Unlike honey, bee pollen (the lil bits that the bees bring back to the hive during pollination) is full of protein and compounds that help reduce the amount of histamines your body produces in response to seasonal changes.

Finding bee pollen isn’t too difficult these days, but I would recommend trying to get something that’s locally source. If it’s from the area, then it’ll help your body build immunity to the plants in your area.

Take it as a liquid, pop it as a pill, or sprinkle a tablespoon of it on your morning yogurt or oatmeal.

 These are only a few basics of the dozens of plants and herbal remedies that can help get you through till summer. If you’re interested in something more, visit your local health food store or plant nursery and talk to a bonafide herbalist.

Ditch the medicine cabinet and stock up your teas and supplement.           

spring foraging

Even though it may feel like the Southeast missed its spring this year, the wildflowers are telling a very different story as they stretch out in full bloom during these warm nights and warmer days. These plants, having dusted off the frost and cold of winter, are the true epitome of springtime magic and what better way to celebrate that magic with a little spring foraging!

Pull out your baskets and get ready for plenty of yummy spring flowers, fresh salad greens, and all the spring foraging adventures!

Here’re a few favorites to get you well on your way to foliage rummaging.

 Dandelions: The sweet little plant that everyone knows and loves, these guys can be used for just about anything. The flowers, leaves, and roots are both edible and medicinal, plus it’s hard to misidentify. And if you do, don’t worry because even their twin plants are edible, so you’re in the clear no matter what.

Make tea, salve, coffee (from the root), or use for a nice spring salad. Any way you turn it, dandelions are a treasure to have in your kitchen and your medicine cabinet.

Wild Violets. In colder climates, these purple gems are often some of the first flowers to bloom, reminding us all that the harsh cold of winter is quickly coming to a close. And for those who live in much milder temperatures, wild violets can be spotted frequently during the winter as well, making them a real treat when the blankness of winter becomes too much to handle. And the best part about them? Both the blossom and their leaves are edible and can be used medicinally.

Whip up a tea, use them as decorations for a cake, or get creative and make wild violet candies – the sky is the limit!

Chickweed.  Similar to wild violets, these guys join in the spring fun early and are some of the first to come out and play. And sometimes they stay out and grow throughout the winter as well in milder climates. Completely edible, and extremely tasty, chickweed is a must for refreshing spring salads and pesto, but you have to gather them up early on in the season or else they’ll shrivel up as temperatures rise. Especially in the Southeastern United States, the sooner you start picking, the better, so grab them while you can.

Clover. Most are pretty familiar with this flower, both the red and white variety. Both beautiful and beneficial, these blooms offer endless nutrients essential to living a healthy, happy life. The flowers on both varieties are edible and sweet, making them a perfect baking or candy component. Or, if you don’t have much of a sweet tooth, both the white and the red (thought the red is more pungent) make a nice, refreshing tea to enjoy after a relaxing day out in the woods. 

Yarrow. Easily one of the most nutritional plants to pop up during the spring, yarrow has exponential medicinal qualities. (It’s also edible, but very bitter, so be warned if you try to cook with it.) Yarrow is incredible easy to find due to its frilly leaves and can be used for a wild variety of things.

Stock up on yarrow for fevers, coughs, or even to help with decreasing blood loss with cuts and scrapes. And you can use yarrow for other household products, like soap and detergent.

The possibilities are endless when it comes to yarrow, so get to gathering and utilize all that this wonderful plant has to offer.

 Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale). meteo021 / Getty Images Plus

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale). meteo021 / Getty Images Plus