Backyard pharmacy and grocery store: spring 2020
Stay safe during virus outbreak and take good care about your health!
To boost our immune system and overall health, weeds and plants from our backyard and nearby forest or park come at no cost and with extreme benefits.
I hope you are self-isolating and you can do so without worries, since due to nature of their work, many people still need to be out and working.
You have time now, so, use it in a meaningful way!
The COVID-19 outbreak reached Canada in late winter and early spring. It is quite sensitive time for many Canadians because our internal resources get somewhat depleted during the long winter months when there is lack of sunshine and we stay indoors a lot. Now with the outbreak, we must stay away from other people in order to be safe and to prevent virus from spreading. Since we stay home, we can do many things which improve our immune system and provide ourselves with healthy extras.
Nature has taken good care that we always have a wide range of vitamins and minerals available to us. The best part is: everything that we require to sustain good health can be often found in our backyard, nearby forest or park. All we have to do is use our imagination, experience and knowledge and utilize the natural resources to our benefit.
Early spring is the best time for taking advantage of natural resources and also seeding and planting. Nature has everything, and that includes all health boosting substances, all minerals and vitamins in the most suitable and most balanced form with high bioavailability.
This year, I’m suggesting you keep nettles and dandelions in some garden corner. Especially, while their leaves are young and soft, they are a fantastic addition to either meals or preventive measures and therapy.
To survive without watering, many weeds have developed extremely widespread and long roots. Thanks to such roots, weeds can absorb a lot more nutrients than our cultivated plants. Weeds are also stronger and more resistant to plant diseases. They grow without fertilizers and greenhouse conditions. Biologically active substances which we can obtain from wild plants and weeds are also in greater concentration, in a ready-to-use form. Weeds are survivors among plants and they can withstand any harsh conditions. This is a very good reason to use wild plants and weeds for our benefit and for our nutrition.
Strong immune system means a lot for our health at any time, but especially during virus outbreaks. Weeds boost our immune system like nothing else. Weeds are also the first ones which come up as soon as the soil thaws. We collect different parts of wild plants and weeds: leaves, roots, flowers or the entire plant. The best time for collection is early morning or late afternoon before dusk. That is the time period when plants have absorbed nutrients and their content is high.
My family was living in the countryside, not far from a small Latvian town during 60-s of the last century. We didn’t have any pharmacies or drug stores in the area, and, therefore, we didn’t use any synthetic medicines. How did we manage any health issues? There were not many, and we used lots and lots of herbal remedies which were available in extremely wide variety and in abundance. At a very young age, I learned how to recognize each grass, plant, flower and herb and memorized what it does, how much and what way to apply it. Therefore, I am not sharing that much clinical trial findings, but my personal findings and Latvian traditional herbal recipes.
We collect wild plants and weeds only in safe, clean places, definitely not along roads or highways with lots of traffic. Parks, where people walk pets, are also not a good idea. For immediate use, we collect healthy looking, undamaged parts of plants and we definitely blanch most of them. Blanching will also prevent from consuming any undesirable insects or germs.
Each plant comes with its own complex or set of useful biologically active substances. These substances are available in a well-balanced way. You can use wild plants and weeds in salads, soups, green smoothies, stews, pesto, on bread together with other vegetables or specifically for health purposes as herbal tea, extract, tincture, infusion or mixture.
Nettles are definitely a champion among natural treatments and health boosters: stinging nettle Urtica dioica, small nettle Urtica urens L., white nettle or white dead-nettle Lamium album. They grow in almost every backyard. The same goes about dandelions. Quite soon in our area, it will be time to start collecting birch buds and pine-tree buds. I planted specifically a few healthy nettles in a small area where they will be controlled from taking over other plants, hence my backyard does not have rich soil and nettles do not grow there naturally.
Some properties of nettle
Dried and fresh common nettle and small nettle leaves and roots, as well as white nettle flowers and leaves (they are not as rich as common nettle) can be used for numerous conditions and overall improvement of health. Common nettle is high in iron, contains vitamin C, vitamin K, group B vitamins and practically any vitamin which is useful for humans. Nettle contains numerous minerals, carotenoids and fatty acids, as well as various essential amino acids, chlorophyll, tannins, carbohydrates, sterols, polysaccharides, isolectins. Nettle roots contain oleanolic acid, sterols and steryl glycosides. Nettle seeds have also high content of these nutrients. The amount of useful compounds in plant depends on location, season, daytime of collection and how young and healthy the plant is.
Using nettle benefits any body system, but especially the immune system, nervous, respiratory system, hematopoiesis (blood formation at cellular level), cardiovascular system, muscles and bones, improves also gastrointestinal health, treats kidney, liver and gallbladder problems. We traditionally used them for joint pains, as well.
Nettle can help with blood sugar stabilization in diabetics. It has been observed that nettle tea lowers blood sugar. Using nettle makes person stronger after exhaustion or treatment of disease. Nettle is an important herb for treatment of anemia caused by iron deficiency.
Nettle juice and tea has been used orally as an additive for treatment of tuberculosis, bronchitis, cough, whooping cough and other respiratory symptoms. Latvian traditional herbal treatments use nettle to stop bleeding in lungs, abdomen and uterus, to treat upper respiratory problems, and especially for cleaning blood and for removal of toxic substances from the body. Nettle stops also wound bleeding, and not only that: nettle also possesses highly efficient antibacterial properties.
Nettle boosts metabolism within the body, increases hemoglobin and red blood cell levels, constricts blood vessels (thus, you cannot use nettle in hypertension), facilitates blood clotting, development of epithelial cells and tissue granulation (wound treatment, bleeding), normalizes menstrual cycle. Nettle has antiseptic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, pain relieving, calming, anti-allergic and diuretic properties. Nettle can be used with many chronic conditions when immune system cannot fight and protect us from harmful impacts.
Who cannot use nettle products and supplements or must be otherwise cautious?
People, who have hypercoagulation, e. g., excessive blood clotting disorder, high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, bleeding caused by uterine tumors, cysts and polyps, people with kidney failure and those, who suffer from blood clot formation in veins (thrombophlebitis), as well as during last months of pregnancy.
Some medical literature suggests that nettle hardly affects blood coagulation (content and form of vitamin K), and other literature warns to observe caution. I would always go with moderate use which applies to absolutely everything we introduce into our diet or health routine. Always proceed with caution when it comes to health.
In April, and if it is warm, also at the end of March, we can usually collect new and bright green nettle leaves. We pick common or stinging nettle and small nettle leaves with gloves, and they also require blanching before we use them in salad, soup, omelet, stew or simply as tea or compress. Some sources advice to keep nettle leaves in boiling water for 3-5 minutes. We watch that leaves do not lose their bright green color. Then, we use a strainer and quickly submerge the strained leaves into ice-cold water. We dry them in paper towel and use as we please. Stinging or common nettle goes well with anything that uses spinach as an ingredient. Therefore, similar recipes can be used. We prefer them with green onions or chives and yoghurt, kefir or citrus dressing, plus our favorite herbs.
There have been clinical trials about herbal treatments. Review of some clinical trials about properties of nettle Exploration of nettle properties
Recipes and more suggestions will follow if there is any interest. Please, comment if you think you could make use of such addition. Since most people do not read anything, I’d just like to see whether it makes sense to post an article about nettle juice, nettle tea or some simple salad recipes and also dose suggestions.
Any herbal supplement can cause sensitivity or other reactions. I’d advice always try tiny amount (as with food) first or discuss it with your doctor in case of a chronic condition. Using herbal tea or tincture, as well as infusion requires to follow instruction about daily dose.