The days are filled now with birdsong and the pitter-patter of melting snow dripping off the roofs, and the warming sun graces our evening skies making us dream of the summer nights to come. Spring is here!
Spring is the time of new beginnings and possibilities for projects, relationships, thought patterns, and of course our gardens. We have been resting, dreaming, and waiting and are eager for this new season. It is important though to enter this time of renewal and gentle growth at a steady pace, staying grounded and nourishing our roots as we move into action and expand our energy. Even young seedlings, as they sprout and reach for the sunlight, remain firmly rooted in the Earth’s nourishing soil.
Nourishing and grounding herbs, such as roots and food like herbs are very helpful in keeping us grounded, so we don’t fly off too quickly and burn ourselves out, and at giving our body the nourishment it needs during this time of change and adaptation from one season to another. Some of my favorite herbs for early spring are nettle, dandelion, and burdock.
Stinging Nettle: the incredibly rich and nourishing leaves of nettle contain much needed minerals (calcium, magnesium, and iron to name a few), protein, and vitamins A, C, and D. Nettle feels strengthening and reminds us of the richness that is to be found in the Earth. It strengthens the immune system and supports most body systems in their function. The best ways to have nettle are fresh from the garden as a food, dried in infusions (such as the Earth Goddess tea), or extracted in vinegar, and can be taken daily.
Dandelion Root: like so many roots, dandelion is grounding and helping us to drop down into our own root, feeling our connection to the Earth. It is very nourishing (vitamins A to E and many minerals) and is probably best known for its liver supporting and cleansing properties, making it an excellent springtime tonic. Dandelion root can be decocted in water, had as an herbal vinegar or taken in tincture form.
Burdock Root: this is another grounding, nourishing, and detoxifying root that can help our body systems through springtime. Burdock supports the liver and digestion, is soothing and moistening (as opposed to nettle and dandelion, both of which are astringent and drying) and feeds healthy gut bacteria. It also promotes better lymph flow and is known as a blood cleanser. Burdock root can be had daily as an overnight infusion (add 2 tsp dried burdock root to 1 liter freshly boiled water, let infuse overnight, and drink through the day; gradually work your way up from 2 tsp, depending on how it feels in your body, to 2 tbsp per liter) or can be taken as an herbal vinegar added to salads, cooked meals, or water (it is very tasty!).
So, be like a seedling, stay firmly rooted in the Earth, and let her nourish you, as you open your fresh, tender, and pretty new leaves and gracefully grow towards the sun.
Happy Spring Equinox!
We have reached the halfway point between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox, Imbolc as it is called in some European traditions, a time when we begin to see the hope of spring. In more temperate regions, this hope comes in the form of the first snowdrops and other spring ephemerals piercing through the snow and wet earth. For us in the North, the hope of spring is made of a delicately warm sunshine, longer brighter days and the joy of being able to spend more time playing outside in that newborn sun.
Last month, we discovered how thyme, rosemary, basil, and other herbs in the mint family you may have in your spice rack can support our bodies through the winter (if you didn’t get to read the newsletter, click here). These are not the only common spices that make wonderful self-care allies for the wintertime. In truth, most kitchen herbs and spices have invaluable medicinal properties. However, for today, we’ll focus on two that are easily found and truly shine when it comes to supporting us at this time of year…
Garlic, some love it, some hate it, but I hope you love it, or at least can tolerate it, as it is an incredible protector and healer! Garlic is strongly antimicrobial and can be used to prevent and fight coughs, colds, and sinus infections. In addition, it also helps the body clear the airways and detoxify the body during infections. By increasing blood and lymph flow in the body, garlic is warming and helpful for people with cold extremities. Finally, garlic also promotes a healthy digestion and keeps our gut healthy.
The best way to consume garlic is to add it to your food. It is the most potent when raw, so consider adding crushed garlic to your salads or waiting until the meal you cooked is ready to serve before adding minced garlic. But even cooked garlic is helpful, so if that is the only way you enjoy it, go for it! Honey is excellent at softening the sharp bite of raw garlic and you can make a garlic honey by adding some freshly chopped garlic to honey. Let it sit for 2 weeks, strain, and take 1 to 2 tsp per day.
Ginger is another spice rack superstar, so much so, that in ancient India it was called “the universal medicine”. It is probably best known for its warming and digestive properties: it warms and promotes digestion, eases nausea and bloating (very useful after heavy meals!), and improves blood flow to the extremities. Ginger also being stimulating, anti-inflammatory, expectorant, and antiviral is a very helpful ally when treating colds and flus.
Here again, the best way to incorporate ginger in your winter self-care routine is by adding it to food. Fresh is better than dried, especially since dried ginger is also hotter and more drying to the tissues, too much so for some. And fresh ginger root keeps well in the fridge. I like to add ginger to soups (it is fantastic with squash or carrots!) and stir-fry. Or you can make a ginger decoction by simmering 1 tbsp fresh chopped root in 2 cups of water for 15-20 minutes. Make sure to keep the lid on the pot while simmering the ginger, strain, add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice or honey, and enjoy! And as with any tea or decoction, adjust the amount of herb according to what tastes and feels good to you.
So, fill your thermos with hot ginger decoction to keep your body warm and comforted while you play out in the snow, drink in each delicate ray of this newborn sun, and let yourself dream and move slowly for a little while longer, spring will come in time.
With much love and blessings,
P.S.: a variation of the traditional fire cider recipe, this Wildfire Cider combines the wonderful properties of garlic and ginger with many other herbs, making it a potent brew to add to your wintertime self-care routine!
And even as we start into the new year, nature reminds us that there is much grace and beauty in slowness.
Slow down, be here now.
Watch the snowflakes dance from the skies, tiny little stars falling silently.
Watch the ice feathers grow, slowly, crystal after magical crystal.
Slow down, be here now, and let your own beauty and grace unfold.
Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year, marks the beginning of winter in our calendars, as well as the end of the solar year. But as it goes in the Yukon, the winter season has moved in quite a while ago already! Though it comes with many wonders (sparkling snow, northern lights, bright full moon nights…), it also brings a few challenges we are all too familiar with: colds and flus, low mood, icy toes and fingers, and the seemingly inevitable digestive issues that follow the heavy meals our bodies crave at this time of year.
And yet, mother nature provides us with nourishing ways to protect our bodies and take care of ourselves that make these challenges melt away like snow in the warm spring sun. You needn’t look any further than your kitchen cabinet or grocery store to find these self-care allies, they have been with us for ages and I bet you already know them!
Meet the spice rack superstars: thyme, rosemary, basil, and other mint family members. These incredibly common and easy to store herbs have a multitude of medicinal benefits to share with us: they are antimicrobial, support the nervous system, improve digestion, and ease respiratory ailments. Each of them has particular affinities and can be used differently, but if you find yourself in a pinch any one of them will help.
Thyme is ideal to support your body through respiratory infections, helping the body to fight bacteria and viruses, removing mucus with its expectorant action, and soothing spasmodic coughs. Thyme also has a strong affinity with the digestive system and will increase its function, warm the stomach, and ease gas and colicky pain. To make tea, use 1tsp dried thyme leaf per cup of hot water and let it steep for 15-30 minutes with a lid on (to keep the aromatic oils from escaping). For respiratory support, you can also make a steam inhalation by filling a bowl with boiling water, adding 1tbsp dried thyme leaf, and inhaling the steam holding a towel over your head (if the steam burns, you are too close). Make sure to keep a lid on the bowl until you are ready to inhale the steam, as the aromatic oils will escape with the steam.
Rosemary is a powerful nervous system and circulatory system ally. It improves blood flow to the extremities and the brain, relaxes us, and is excellent at easing headaches and improving cognitive function. Rosemary makes a wonderful morning tea, simply steep 1tsp of dried rosemary leaves in 1 cup of hot water for 15-30 minutes with the lid on. When the tea Is ready to drink, take a moment to breathe its aromatic scent!
Basil is a much beloved kitchen herb and while it will support your respiratory, digestive, and circulatory systems like other mints, it truly shines when it comes to lifting the spirit and comforting us. It combines wonderfully with chamomile and lemon balm (another member of the mint family) for a relaxing after-dinner tea (remember to steep it with a lid on) or can be used for steam inhalations.
These herbs, as well as other mints (e.g., oregano, sage, marjoram) can easily be grown and dried at home or bought in grocery stores. When buying them, organic is best, but any will do, as long as they are still dark green (not all brown) and have an aromatic scent to them. They all make delicious teas, but the simplest way to make them part of your daily routine is by cooking with them, especially in rich meals. Add them to soups and stews, meat marinades, root vegetables, salads, sauces, or anything that inspires you, be creative!
Make yourself a cup of rosemary tea and sit down with it to watch the sun rise and the light return on the first day of the new solar year this Thursday morning. Celebrate this moment and your beautiful self for bringing light into this world.
Wishing you a magical Winter Solstice!
P.S.: if you feel your respiratory and digestive systems need a little extra love, try the Tummy & Lung Love tea, which gives you the added benefits of the soothing marshmallow root.
Herbal tinctures are made by infusing plant parts in alcohol, such as vodka or brandy, to extract the medicinal properties of the herbs. Tinctures are generally much stronger than teas and are easy to take on the go.
They can be taken by adding a few milliliters to a bit of water. How much and how often will depend on the individual, the tincture, and what it is taken for. Here are a few examples:
As you can see, there are many different ways to use herbal tinctures and they are great allies to help us deal with some of the most common ailments. If you are curious to try them out, use the search bar located in the menu on top and enter a keyword (e.g. if you are looking for something to help you sleep, enter “sleep”).
Winter has settled in the Yukon. The days are short and snowy, and the nights are long and cold. The Wildwood greenhouse is empty and all the potions that captured the summer’s bounty are bottled up. The hustle and bustle of summer is over and there are no harvests left to process. So, what now? Why not do what Mother Nature does and rest, replenish our inner resources, and quietly wait for spring to return?
There is no better time to catch up on sleep than winter and there are plenty of herbs to help us disconnect from our busy modern lives to rest at night. These herbs, called nervines and/or sedatives, calm us down and promote deep sleep. Here are some of my favorites:
Everybody reacts differently to herbs, so it is best to try a few out to find what works best. Make sure you research them well before using them and consult a health care practitioner if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, have allergies or any medical conditions.
Happy tea time and rest well!
Weeds are, more often than not, considered noxious nuisances in the garden, and yet they have much to give. They grow in abundance, do not fear the harsh Yukon climate, and don’t need any fussing over to grow. Lamb’s quarter (Chenopodium album), also known as pig weed, is one such plant. It happily grows in every Yukon garden, self-seeds profusely, is among the first greens to appear, and I absolutely love seeing it in my garden!
Lamb’s quarter is in the same family as spinach, amaranth, and quinoa. It is packed with nutrients (proteins, vitamins A, B and C, essential fatty acids, iron, calcium, phosphorus, and potassium) and fiber, and has medicinal properties such as anti-parasitic and appetite improving qualities. Which of course is no surprise, considering how delicious it tastes, raw or cooked!
So why work so hard to get rid of this “weed”, when you can enjoy it as one of your most abundant garden greens, with no effort at all? If you have lamb’s quarter growing in your garden in the spring, simply clear it out of the area where you will seed or plant your veggies. While you wait on your salad greens to sprout and grow, you can harvest the young lamb’s quarter leaves and make salads with them. Start by harvesting the ones closest to where your other vegetables are growing and work your way out from there. And once the other salad greens are ready to be picked, the lamb’s quarter will be big enough to be harvested in bigger batches and cooked like spinach. Or blanch and freeze them for garden greens year-round. And the seeds can be saved and used in soups or baked goods for added protein.
Growing your own food in the Yukon is a lot of work, but if you keep an eye out for edible weeds, you may not have to work quite so hard. Other weeds to cherish are chickweed, strawberry blight, stinging nettle, clover, and plantain. They are just waiting for you to add them to your salad bowl!
Gray, Beverley – The Boreal Herbal. Aroma Borealis Press, 2011.
MacKinnon et al. – Edible & Medicinal Plants of Canada. Lone Pine Publishing, 2009.
Schofield, Janice J. – Alaska’s Wild Plants. West Margin Press, 2020.
At long last, spring has arrived in the Yukon. The snow is melting, the swans are flying north, and the humans are planting the first seeds for their vegetable gardens. It also is a time of new beginnings and so, this new venture called Wildwood Spirit begins.
My head is filled with ideas of herbal products and potions I’d like to create and share and as spring moves into summer, I will be able to harvest more local herbs too. You will see the products on this website evolve, some recipes will change, some will be replaced, some will remain, and some will come and go with the seasons. I hope you will enjoy these creations as much as I enjoy making them!