March 03rd 2012 - Winter is my season. I love the snow and the cold; I crave the deep and nourishing dark; I delight when the sun makes rainbows in the snow. The holidays grant us all permission to glitter and shine, to be golden and glowing, to twinkle like a star and smile at strangers; and that is nourishing to my soul.
But winter isn't for everyone. For some, winter is a time of sadness and exhaustion. The reduced hours of daylight can bring the doldrums. Too much permission to drink alcohol and eat refined sugars can leave one feeling less than lively, even leaden.
There are numerous remedies for those who wish spring were around the corner, but the two I like best are St. Joan's wort and stinging nettle.
St. Joan's wort (Hypericum perforatum) is also known as St. John's wort. But since it is a plant associated with fire, I figure St. Joan is the better name. No matter what you call it, this yellow-flowered plant is a real sun-lover. It soaks up as much sun as it can all summer, even stretching itself horizontal to catch those rays. And it stores that laughing sunshine in its leaves and flowers, which I harvest in the heat of July and tincture. You don't have to make your own, of course, you can buy it. Just be sure to get a tincture made with fresh plants, not dried ones.
I imbibe St. Joan's wort's sunny disposition by taking a dropperful in a little water or tea as often as every hour, or as needed, to chase the blues. Though the popular press seems confused by the studies, scientific medicine is convinced: St. Joan's wort is as effective in altering mood, even for those severely depressed, as the most commonly-used drugs. And even high doses of the tincture are without side-effects.
Do be careful, as capsules and tablets may increase skin sensitivity and interfere with the effectiveness of drugs you may be taking. For safety's sake, I use only Hypericum tincture, no other form.
Since St. Joan's wort is a powerful antiviral as well, it does double duty. Taking several dropperfuls a day can drastically reduce the number and severity of colds and flu episodes. And that makes everyone happy, as well as healthy.
Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) is a common weed throughout much of the world. The dried herb makes a nourishing herbal infusion that packs more energy per cup than any stimulant, and without the downside of caffeine or stimulating herbs like cayenne and ginger. Tired teenagers, sleep-deprived new moms, stressed executives, wakeful menopausal gals, and wise women of all ages depend on stinging nettle to restore mood, replenish energy, and guarantee sound sleep.
Nettle is amazingly rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals, especially the critical trace minerals: anti-cancer selenium, immune-enhancing sulphur, memory-enhancing zinc, diabetes-chasing chromium, and bone-building boron. A quart of nettle infusion contains more than 1000 milligrams of calcium, 15000 IU of vitamin A, 760 milligrams of vitamin K, 10% protein, and lavish amounts of most B vitamins.
There is no denser nutrition found in any plant, not even bluegreen algae; and nettle is much more reasonably priced than any supplement, especially if you buy more than an ounce or two at a time.
But we must consume lots of nettle to get this power-packed nutrition. I infuse a full ounce dried nettle in a quart of water to make a brew that nourishes my ability to think and supports my desire to work. Infusing nettle maximizes its energy-enhancing effects too. Teas, tinctures and capsules of nettle contain too little herb to make a difference in vim and vigor. To experience the miracle of nettle, you'll need to take the time to make a real infusion (directions follow).
Nettle builds energy from the inside out by nourishing the adrenals, which I think of as "energy central." Nettle smoothly and persistently carries optimum nourishment to every cell in the body, and brings a smile to your face. Because the minerals in nettle infusion are polarized to the blood, they are literally magnetized into the blood stream without needing to be digested. Drinking a glass of cold nettle infusion pumps so much nourishment into the blood you'll feel invigorated in just a few days.
Regular use of stinging nettle (I drink 2-3 quarts a week) not only increases energy, it brings a shine and swing to the hair, strengthens fingernails, clears and firms skin, restores elasticity to blood vessels, lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, counters incontinence, improves digestion, reduces cancer risk, and strengthens the lungs.
To make a nettle infusion: Measure out one ounce of the dried herb. Boil a quart of water. Put the dried herb into a quart jar and fill to the top with the boiling water. Stir with a wooden spoon and add water until the jar is full to the top. Lid tightly and set aside to brew for at least four hours, or overnight, whichever is easier for you.
To use: Strain and squeeze the liquid out of the herb. Be sure to refrigerate your infusion, as it will go bad at room temperature once it is done brewing. (If that happens, I use it as plant food. And you should see how my roses adore it!)
Nettle infusion is delicious over ice. Its rich green taste is not at its best when served hot. Adding honey can make it taste quite strange. Some folks like to add a little apple juice to sweeten it. Or stir in some miso, for a salty drink. However you consume it, do drink it up within a few days, as nettle infusion doesn't last.
Green blessings surround us, even in the middle of winter.
Legal Disclaimer: This content is not intended to replace conventional medical treatment. Any suggestions made and all herbs listed are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, condition or symptom. Personal directions and use should be provided by a clinical herbalist or other qualified healthcare practitioner with a specific formula for you. All material contained herein is provided for general information purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or consultation. Contact a reputable healthcare practitioner if you are in need of medical care. Exercise self-empowerment by seeking a second opinion.
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