If you imagine stepping from a freezing December day into a sweltering July day, you can only marvel at the body’s ability to adjust to new seasons. Beneath the surface, your body works hard to transition to new seasonal conditions. More than 5,000 genes change their expression from one season to the next, according to research done at Cambridge University.
The seasonal shift from winter to spring may be especially challenging. You can support your body by gently shifting your diet, rituals, and self-care for the new season. Herbs can also be powerful allies. Keep reading to learn some simple practices to help your body transition to spring and discover four herbs that may help you stay healthy this spring.
The Season of Renewal
During the spring, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners recommend simplifying food preparation. You may not be as hungry as the weather gets warmer. Take heed of nature’s cue and eat less. Steam your vegetables, and move toward eating soups with clearer broths and vegetables.
One season may change to the next in a single day on the calendar, but that’s not how your body experiences the transition. Rise slowly from your winter rest and take measures to stay warm in early spring. Avoid doing extreme spring fasts or cleanses. Instead, replace winter food with spring foods one by one, and gradually increase your physical activity as the days lengthen.
Nature offers an amazing way to know which foods and herbs are helpful when: Eat what’s growing near you when it’s growing near you.
Traditional Chinese Medicine emphasizes keeping the liver and gallbladder healthy during the spring months to ward off seasonal allergies and digestive problems. Not coincidentally, these common spring herbs are excellent for the health of your liver and gallbladder.
Two of these herbs are wild and two are domesticated. If you’re not used to eating wild foods, it may feel strange to gather food outside. But people have eaten wild plants for thousands of years, and the human diet was once 100 percent wild. Wild foods are usually far more nutritious than cultivated ones. Just make sure you know how to identify them before picking them yourself. Find out how in this article. You can probably also find these at a health food store, farmers market, or herb supplier.
Nettles grow all over the United States in the springtime next to rivers and streams. They’re high in protein, calcium, iron, and antioxidants. In a double-blind study, freeze-dried nettles were found to relieve seasonal allergy symptoms better than a placebo. I drink a nourishing nettle tonic a few days a week; find out how to make it here.
Don’t poison those sunny, yellow-headed blossoms coming up in your yard! Dandelion greens are some of the most nutritious spring foods you can eat. They’re available in the produce aisle of my local gourmet grocery store for $3.99 for a small bundle. Hopefully that makes you feel better about picking and eating them. For a complete primer on the health benefits of eating dandelion, how to pick them safely, and how to transform them into delicious dishes, check out this article.
You’ve likely eaten this herb in salsa or in Thai food. Some people love it; others hate it. If you love it, spring is a great time to enjoy it. It’s packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and it helps your body excrete toxins, according to a number of studies.
Like cilantro, parsley is high in a number of nutrients, especially vitamins A, C, and K, iron, and antioxidants. It’s a perfect aid for sluggish digestion. Chop it to add flavor and color to dishes or infuse it to make a refreshing spring tea.
Spring is the time to lighten up your meals and increase activity after a long, slumbering winter. Remember, your body’s working hard to adjust to the new season. You may experience annoying symptoms. Headaches, hay fever symptoms, sinus congestion, red eyes, and other ailments are common as the seasons shift. Instead of cursing your body, support it by stepping up your self-care, getting plenty of rest, and eating with the seasons.
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