Seasonal Herb Crafting: Herbal Allies for Spring Part 2 (Dandelion)

by Meadowlark

Due to the early Spring's much needed rainfall, longer days, and warmer weather, we see activity and signs of life everywhere we look. The buds on the trees have turned to leaves, and the flowers are blooming- in parks, gardens and roadsides alike. People are coming out of their homes on weekends and evenings- jogging, biking and working in their yards and gardens. The stillness and dormancy of winter has fully given way to the movement and growth of Spring. No matter what is going on for us now, or what has happened to us in the past, this season provides us all with a chance for fresh starts and fertile beginnings.

By aligning ourselves with the changes and growth all around us, we can leverage the momentum of the season to cultivate our own desires, and manifest our own wishes and dreams. What that looks like for each person will be different. Some might strive increase their energy and vitality, to enable them to get moving and take action; Others might work on exploring their desires and dreams and determining what's needed to plant the seeds of change; Others might make wishes and work magic to enable those wishes to come true. For each of these physical, energetic or magical challenges (and more!), Dandelion (Taraxacum) can be a powerful herbal ally.

Yes, Dandelion, the nemesis of suburban lawn owners, despite its reputation in this country as a nasty lawn weed, is actually a medicinal and magical herb! Dandelion is thought to originate in Asia, but spread before written history, and is intentionally cultivated worldwide as an essential plant for food and health. All of the dandelion (flower, leaf, root and stem) is edible, and high in minerals, especially potassium, and vitamins A, B, C and D, as well as beta-carotene, choline (essential for liver function) and inulin (beneficial for diabetics). Medicinally, it helps to cleanse and support the liver, blood, kidneys and gallbladder, aids in bile production and digestion and reduce gas, blood pressure, fat and cholesterol, as well as increase muscular strength.

Dandelion has a tap root that can extend up to 3 feet underground, and is an extremely hardy plant. Even if the surface plant wilts or is destroyed, it will regrow from the root. From this quality, as well as its life restoring medicinal qualities, it has been considered a magical underworld or otherworld plant, and is magically aligned as such. Dandelion is sacred to Hecate, and according to mythology, she fed this herb to Theseus for 30 days, thus giving him the strength and vitality needed to defeat the Minatoar in the Cretan Labyrinth.

Spring Herbcrafting with Dandelions:

Health & Healing: Sometimes a gentle herbal energy boost may be just what's needed to restore and revive energy and stamina to get those spring projects off the ground! In March, we talked about “Spring Cleaning” and clearing away any dark, negative or sluggish energies of winter to prepare ourselves for the fresh, new growth of Spring. Hopefully, you had a chance to work a bit with Nettles in this endeavor. If not...its not too late! However, If you have been working with nettles and you still feel like you need some additional “spring cleaning”, dandelion can be taken in combination with nettles or by itself as a nourishing and cleansing tonic.

  • Young Dandelion leaves clear blood and lymph and can be used to add flavor and nutrition to salads and sandwiches.

  • The leaves can also be taken as an herbal infusion to support liver and kidney function. To make the infusion, place ¼ cup to ½ cup leaves (either just Dandy or ½ Dandy + ½ Nettles) in 1 quart mason jar, fill with boiling water, lid tightly, and allow to steep for 4-10 hours (I find overnight to be the simplest). Strain well, composting the spent herbs, and drink 2-4 cups a day warm or chilled, as desired.

  • For a healthy herbal coffee substitute, the roots can be roasted, ground and brewed like conventional coffee.

  • The roots can also be added to soups and stews as they simmer, adding additional nutrients and healing qualities. A little goes a long way with this, as dandelion can be bitter, but it is this same bitterness that aids in bile production and digestion.

  • Externally, a strong infusion of the flowers can be used in the bath or as a wash for skin and hair, to ease dry skin, dandruff, excema, etc

Fertility: Spring is a time associated with fertility. Dandelion, with its own fertile nature, can be an ally for those who are trying to conceive a child and prepare their bodies for pregnancy.

  • Magically, dandelions can be used in fertility spells. One only has to visualize the flower in its seed form to realize the power this flower has to germinate and reproduce in great numbers. Make an offering to the spirit of the plant, blow a seed head to spread the seeds across the land, and ask for support with your own and/or your partners fertility.

  • Nourishing and tonifying the liver is an important part of supporting overall reproductive health. The liver helps filter toxins and waste from our bodies, including excess hormones. Taking herbal infusions of the dandelion leaf, decoctions of the root and/or adding leaves or roots to foods (as mentioned above) will help to cleanse the liver and regulate hormone levels in the body. Of course, if there is a medical condition preventing or complicating fertility and pregnancy, additional measures will need to be taken, but liver health is essential for proper hormone balance and functioning.

Divination, Communication & Wishes: Magic is in the air! The wheel has turned to Beltane, when we honor and celebrate birth, life and all things living. Fairies, nymphs and nature spirits abound!  At this time (as with Samhain at the other half of the wheel), the veil between the worlds is thin. It is a perfect time for making wishes and working big magic.

  • Psychic Tea or “coffee” made from the root is said to promote psychic power and can be a useful ally when preparing for divination or dreamwork. For an extra magical boost, save some tea and place it next to your bed to call spirits.

  • A strong infusion of the plant makes an excellent wash for scrying mirrors, or you can make a scrying bowl by filling a suitably reflective bowl with this tea and gazing into the liquid.

  • For protection while sleeping as well as during astral and dreamtime travel, include Dandelion in dream pillows, sachets and mojo bags.

  • Blow on a seed head to make a wish, or use dried flowers in sachets and charms to make Spring wishes come true.

Happy Spring Herbcrafting!

Herbal Allies & Herb Crafting for Spring (Part 1): Nettles

by Meadowlark

nettles.jpg

Humans and plants have co-evolved together on this planet since the beginning of life as we know it. We live in a symbiotic relationship--literally sharing every breath. By honoring this relationship and getting to know and sense the unique qualities of different plants and herbs and how they interact with our own unique qualities (physically, chemically, energetically, etc), we can cultivate powerful allies for our magical, medicinal and spiritual work. These plant and herbal allies can also assist us in cultivating harmony within ourselves and with the world around us, as we move through the ever changing energies and challenges that tend to manifest during the various seasons of the year.

This past weekend marked the Vernal Equinox--one of two magical times each year when light and dark, day and night, coexist in perfect balance with one another. It is a time of transition and change. While we may still feel the lingering cold winds or the occasional (and much welcomed) rain shower, we also begin to experience the budding of the trees, the singing of the birds, and the sprouting of delicate new leaves of the spring herbs and flowers. Spring has sprung! It's a time to clear away the winter debris and prepare the fields for planting. For a farmer or gardener, this may literally mean “clearing your fields”. But even if we are not farmers, we can still do this metaphorically. It could be about doing a good spring cleaning of our homes; Or it might mean an internal cleanse of our bodies; or it might be about cleansing and re-consecrating our magical tools. Fortunately, for any of these applications, Nettles (or Urtica dioica) can be a powerful herbal ally.

People have been using nettles for magic, food, medicine, fiber, and dyes since the Bronze Age. Nettles' long, fibrous stems were important in Europe for weaving, cloth-making, cordage, and even paper. Native Americans used them for embroidery, fish nets, and other crafts. In ancient Egypt, reports are found of the use of nettle infusion for the relief of arthritis and lumbago pains. Nettles have also been used magically in various cultures to dispel fear and darkness, and to cleanse an object or space of evil and negativity.

Nutritionally, nettles have the highest percentage of protein of any known vegetable (10% protein), and are very high in vitamins (A, C, K, D and most B) and minerals (especially iron, calcium, selenium, sulphur, zinc, chromium and boron). Nettles contain biologically active compounds that reduce inflammation and may help prevent or reduce seasonal allergy symptoms, as well as help the liver build blood proteins to transport nutrients throughout the body and support healthy immune, digestive and reproductive systems. Nettles are also used to help nourish and prepare the female body for pregnancy, increase the strength of the fetus during pregnancy, and promote lactation in humans and animals.

Spring Herbcrafting with Nettles:

  1. Nourishing Infusions: As a spring tonic, drinking nettle infusions will help to nourish the whole body, gently cleanse the body of metabolic wastes, and purify and build the blood and liver, after a winter diet rich in fats and/or sweets. To make an infusion, place ¼ cup to ½ cup dried nettles* in 1 quart mason jar, fill with boiling water, lid tightly, and allow to steep for 4-10 hours. Strain well (composting the spent herbs) and drink warm or chilled, as desired. For best results, drink 2-4 cups a day for at least 30 days.

    *Note: Since the minerals and other phytochemicals in nourishing herbs are made more accessible by drying, dried herbs are considered best for infusions.
     

  2. Herbal Bathing: As an external body cleanse, bathing with nettles can cleanse the body energetically (washing away negative or dark energies), or physically (nourishing and fortifying the skin and hair). To make a nettle bath, infuse (as above) and add 1 -2 cups to the bath, or use as a hair or body rinse in the shower.
     

  3. Space Cleansing: To cleanse a space or home of evil and negativity, nettles can be hung, strewn or burnt (as an incense or smudge), alone or in combination with other purifying and/or protective herbs.
     

  4. Personal protection: To dispel fear and darkness and protect your energetic and personal space, small bags or pouches of nettles (alone or in combination with other purifying and/or protective herbs) can be sewn in a pocket, worn, carried, etc.
     

  5. Cleansing magical tools or objects: To cleanse magical tools or objects of negative energies and infuse them with protective energies, wash them in a strong infusion of nettles (prepared as above) or hold them over the smoke from burning nettles.

Wheel of the Year Activities: Flower Offerings for the Fae and Fast & Slow Water Collection

Flower Offerings for the Fae

March, and Spring in general, is a great time to interact with the fairy folk that live out in nature. Flowers are budding and beginning to bloom, and it can be a lovely time to get outside, to go for a walk or a picnic, or just sit outside.

Tie up a few small nosegay-sized bundles of flowers to make offerings to the fae and to the spirits of a local stream. Pick a day that looks like it's going to be really nice (not too terribly difficult in the Bay Area), and go to the head of a creek, such as Sausal Creek in Oakland, then hike up to the very top of the creek (or as close as you can get), where the waters flow out from the hills, and take some time to sit quietly and enjoy just being outside.

After a short meditation, find a place to leave your flower offerings to the spirits of the place, and to the fairy folk.

 

Fast and Slow Water Collection

The second part of the activity is to collect fast and slow waters from the creek. Slow waters can be collected from smaller pools where the water is sitting and still. Fast waters can be collected from where it spills over natural dams and rushes downstream. Collect the waters in small glass jars (you can label them simply with permanent markers). These kinds of waters can be very useful in spell work; fast waters can be added to a potion to make the result come quickly, or slow waters can be used in a potion designed to aid calmness, contemplation, or sleep. There are as many uses for them as you can think of.