After a long winter, Spring is finally here! For us Spring comes with a renewed sense of energy. It's the perfect time to detoxify and nourish your body with the power of nature. And what better way to do that than with herbs that you can forage yourself? In this blog, we're diving into the world of cleansing herbs that you can easily find in the wild and use to refresh, nourish and uplift your body and mind.
From nutrient-rich nettles to liver-loving dandelions, lymphatic-supporting cleavers to cleansing and scrumptious wild garlic, we've got tips and tricks to make your spring detox foraging a breeze. Join us on this herbal adventure and discover the rejuvenating power of nature's very own medicine cabinet…
In this blog, we’ll take a look at these classic spring detox herbs:
- Nettle: A vibrant herb rich in vitamins and minerals, boosting energy and vitality while promoting healthy digestion and reducing inflammation.
- Cleavers: These sticky leaves work to flush toxins from the body, promoting healthy skin and a clear complexion.
- Wild garlic: Pungent and potent, this antibacterial powerhouse boosts the immune system, fights off infections, and supports healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
- Dandelion: This liver-loving herb detoxifies the body and promotes healthy liver function, while reducing inflammation and promoting healthy digestion.
- We will then have a look into our 360 Detox Power Mix, which contains nettles, cleavers and a lot more!
- To finish we’ll share a DIY foraging recipe: a delicious nettle and wild garlic pesto.
Look around your garden or local green spaces and you’re bound to see some young nettle shoots starting to appear, or even quite established already. Nettles are very common across temperate regions and it’s fair to say they have a bad reputation! Everyone knows about the burning sensation after contact with their stinging hairs.
Although it’s seen as an annoying weed, nettle is a fantastic and abundant edible and medicinal plant. Young nettle shoots widely available all around us for the weeks to come are delicious and nutritious, rich in vitamins A and C and minerals (particularly iron, calcium, silica and potassium), and they can be used in many ways, such as made into pesto or infused as a tea.
You need to be careful when harvesting nettles to avoid stings. We recommend using thick leather gloves, popping the leaves into a reusable bag, and adding them into a pan with boiling water to blanch when you get home, or onto a dehydrator, a blender or any other processing method of your choice (look further down at the end of this blog for a delicious nettle & wild garlic pesto recipe!).
Nettle leaves, seeds (which will come later in the summer) and roots (to be harvested in the autumn) have a variety of much-valued medicinal uses, and nettle fibres can be made into textiles.
Adding young nettle leaves to food and drinks in this season is a great way to connect with nature and to take a nourishing spring tonic, especially if you feel a bit tired and sluggish. They are an excellent detoxifying remedy, as they help the body get rid of metabolic waste. As a diuretic, nettle relieves fluid retention and enhances the excretion of uric acid, which is good for gout and arthritis. It is also often indicated in a variety of skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis or acne. Nettle also has an antihistamine action which is very helpful in hayfever for example, which may soon become a challenge for many of us!
Nettle really is a bit of a wonder-herb – and as such, it is one of the much-loved plants you will find in a variety of Zen Maitri’s products, including our Detox, Joint and Muscle and Male Vitality teas.
Also known as sticky willy and goose grass, cleavers is easily recognisable, with its narrow, pointed leaves borne in whorls all the way up a square stem — and the fact that it will easily stick to your clothes or pets on walks!
Cleavers starts sprouting at the end of the winter and is an excellent spring tonic for the lymphatic system. It is a cooling, detoxifying plant which helps clean up our system after winter. Young leaves and stems can be added to salads, soups or infused in cold water for a few hours (or overnight) for a gently cleansing drink.
Later in summer, its tiny white, star-shaped flowers will rise from the axils of the leaves in small clusters. They will then give place to small, rounded fruits also covered in hooks — and also very sticky.
Cleavers belongs to the same botanical family as coffee (Rubiaceae), and its seeds can be ground to make a coffee substitute.
You will find cleavers in our Zen Maitri Detox collection, to support your lymphatic system in particular to clean up metabolic waste. Cleavers has been described as a ‘pipe cleaner’ for our lymph vessels.
Although it also works dried throughout the year, it is best to consume it fresh. So now is the time to go foraging and make yourself a cleavers cold infusion! You can make it a daily ritual while in season (before the leaves go too stringy).
Finding a swathe of wild garlic in a forest is one of the joys that early Spring can bring. Wild garlic leaves are popping up across the UK – if you haven’t seen any yet, keep an eye out for their bright, green leaves and strong garlic smell. They are at their best at the moment – before the flowers open (although the buds and flowers themselves are also delicious a bit later in the year).
Wild garlic is a cousin of the cultivated garlic used in our kitchens, and shares similar properties with it. However, even if you don’t like or don’t do well with garlic or onions, it is still worth giving wild garlic a shot, as it is usually much better tolerated.
It is delicious and very nutritious, and as a gift from the woods, it usually forms rather abundant carpets wherever it grows.
With their bright golden flower heads that turn to silvery seed balls that fly away with the wind, dandelions are one of our most prolific 'weeds'.
They are a member of the daisy family (alongside daisies of course, but also lettuce, sunflowers or chamomile), and a great source of food and medicine for lots of creatures over history — including humans!
Dandelions are easily recognisable by their long, deeply toothed leaves ('dents de lion', meaning lion’s teeth in French) that grow in a rosette close to the ground, throwing up flower stalks through the spring and summer.
All parts of the plant are edible. The fresh spring leaves are a traditional Spring vegetable, which can be cooked with oil and vinegar. Their bitter taste stimulates elimination of toxins via the kidneys and liver after the winter. Flowers can be added to salads. Dandelion roots support liver function and aid sluggish digestion. They can be chopped, dried and roasted and used as a coffee substitute!
Extremely resilient, dandelion can grow from the most inhospitable cracks: it is a transformer, loosening compacted soil by growing deep roots, creating a microclimate that draws earthworms who rejuvenate the soil.
You will find dandelion root in our Detox tea and in our Digestion tea – to support your body to eliminate toxins and to aid the digestive process. This Spring, as fresh dandelion appears in lawns all around us, we encourage you to give it a try fresh as well!
Foraging Safely and Responsibly
As fun as foraging can be, do keep in mind some of the ground rules below if you go foraging this Spring:
- Please remember not to take more than you will consume;
- Do not uproot or disturb bulbs or roots (particularly relevant for wild garlic!), so that the plant can continue to grow for you and others to enjoy in the years to come;
- Always make sure to check if you have the right to forage where you are: check for any bylaws that may be in place (e.g. on park boards, signs and online);
- Never consume anything before you are certain that you have identified it correctly – a flora, a local foraging guide and lots of practice will be of great help;
- Make sure that the area you are foraging from has not been sprayed, and that it is not heavily frequented by pets (avoid highly maintained urban parks / dog walking areas for example);
- Please be careful not to damage the areas you are collecting from.
Make it at Home: Nettle & Wild Garlic Pesto Recipe
Back home with the bounty of your spring foraging? Here’s a delicious and nutritious recipe to take in all of the goodness of nettle and wild garlic, in a pesto sauce.
The beauty of it is that you don’t have to be very precise from the start — you can try it as you go, adjusting proportions and seasoning as needed.
Simply blanch or gently steam your nettle leaves (to make sure that their stinging hairs don’t find themselves intact in the blended pesto) and add a handful of them, alongside a handful of wild garlic, to a blender. Add some organic, extra virgin, unfiltered olive oil and a smaller handful of your nuts or seeds of choice (this can be pine nuts but also sunflower seeds, cashews or pumpkin seeds, for example). Add salt and pepper to taste.
Try it and adjust proportions as needed — you can add some nutritional yeast or Parmesan cheese if you’d like. Add the final product to a jar and cover with a splash of olive oil to help preserve it.
A Word on Our 360° Detox Mix
If you feel the need to help your body clear out toxins accumulated over the winter (or after a not-so-dry weekend?) and replenish with vibrant nutrition, but you don’t have the time to go foraging for all of these herbs, you may be interested in our 360° Detox Mix, which contains nettles and cleavers — and much more!
It is designed to be taken as a tonic over the course of two weeks - a couple of teaspoons (about 5g each) per day. Containing herbs that support digestion, liver function, lymphatic drainage and urinary health, this is a well-rounded formula to support the body’s organs of elimination and to help clear out metabolic waste. At the same time, it contains nutrient-rich plants such as nettle and liquorice to invigorate your system for the Spring!
It is much recommended for a little boost to the system, in Spring or after any excesses throughout the year.