A Spring Allergy Cure-all
Spring is the season of release, renewal, and growth—and with the new season underway, we tapped bioregional herbalist and earth steward Anja Rothe to share her go-to recipe for fending off the seasonal irritants that come with it.
Herbal vinegars are a year-round staple in my kitchen. In the winter, it’s usually a spicy fire cider, something warming and circulatory to stimulate the immune system. In the summer, I favor shrubs or oxymels, something a bit sweeter, hydrating, and cooling. Springtime is all about mineral-rich vinegars to cleanse, detox, and ward off seasonal allergies.
Spring is the season of release, renewal, and growth. Spring medicine is all about targeting sources of stagnation and toxin build-up in the body, while preparing it for the year ahead. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, spring is represented by the wood element, which corresponds with the liver and the gallbladder. These organs are usually the primary targets for spring cleansing protocols. The two flavors associated with these organs are sour and bitter, as well as the color green. To help facilitate the body’s natural process of detoxification, I try to focus on these three key types of foods - green, sour, and bitter.
My favorite variety of vernal vinegar features juicy, chlorophyll-rich greens that our body craves post-winter. Chlorophyll purifies the body by binding with toxins to hamper absorption and increasing oxygen flow in the body, which alkalizes, detoxifies, and neutralizes free radicals. The addition of bitter herbs, like dandelion and burdock, help stimulate our liver. Healthy liver function is the key to detoxification. When the body tastes a bitter flavor, the liver is stimulated, producing the gastric juices that are necessary for breaking down fats and cleansing waste in the body. Don’t mask the bitter flavor, embrace it! If your body can’t taste it, you’re not getting all the benefits!
SPRING VINEGAR RECIPE
1 CUP NETTLES: Nettle leaves are a nourishing and building tonic herb, rich in protein, iron, vitamins and minerals. Nettles are also high in histamines, serotonin, and quercetin, three factors that make them an effective remedy for seasonal and animal allergies.
1 CUP DANDELION LEAF + ROOT: The root and leaf of Dandelion are both classic tonic bitters that nourish and help strengthen the liver. Dandelion helps trigger digestive secretions by stimulating bile production as well as cooling liver heat when it is overtaxed.
1 BURDOCK ROOT: Burdock has an affinity for relieving skin conditions, which are often a product of liver stagnation. It targets liver congestion and helps encourage the natural flow of lymphatic fluid, escorting toxins and waste out of the body. Burdock’s prebiotics properties support the flora of your digestive system.
1/2 CUP VIOLETS: Soothing and mucilaginous, both the leaves and flowers are gentle and alterative. Violet makes a choice edible and wonderful lymphatic herb to relieve congested lymph and help flush the body of waste.
2-3 TBSP BEE POLLEN: Adds a subtle sweetness and mild floral quality that is very tasty. Look for a local variety to increase your exposure to native allergens. Taking bee pollen is an excellent way to prevent seasonal allergies, but it’s important to take regularly prior to exposure in order to build up your bodies immunity before experiencing symptoms.
APPLE CIDER VINEGAR: Vinegar is one of the oldest ways to preserve food and prepare medicine. It’s high in beneficial gut bacteria, naturally alkalizing, and exceptionally good at extracting all the minerals and vitamins that are not readily extracted in tinctures or teas.
Other herbs you could add or substitute: Chickweed, moringa, seaweed, cleavers.
Fill a glass quart jar with herbs, well chopped, and loosely packed. Cover herbs with apple cider vinegar and a plastic lid. Vinegar reacts with metal and will cause rusting, if you only have a metal cap, cut a piece of wax paper to fit between the closure and lid. Shake the mixture well and allow to rest in a dark space for 3-5 weeks before straining. I like to fill a glass bottle with my seasonal vinegar and keep it on the counter as a reminder to use often.
USE: Add a splash to a glass of warm water first thing in the morning or before a meal, to enhance digestion. Try adding a slice of lemon as well. Massage into salad greens with olive oil and a pinch of salt to help open up the salad greens, making them easier to digest and increasing bioavailability of nutrients.
Many of these plants grow abundantly across the country, I encourage everyone to try to get to know the plants in your bio-region. Fresh Dandelion, Nettles, and Burdock can often be found at your local farmers market or co-op. Fresh is best, but dried plants are easily accessible and affordable. Some of the best medicine you can take, is the medicine you make yourself. Enjoy!
An earth steward and traveler, Anja Rothe is frequently on the move to muse upon new lands and connect with the medicine of place through it’s native plants. Her mission is to share and honor the wisdom, magic, and abundance of the land. She aims to promote a cycle of health by nurturing the conviviality of all things. True holistic health is to nourish our bodies, minds, environment, and relationships. Her apothecary line, Fat of the Land is an extension of that thought.