This time of year I receive a lot of questions about natural and botanical ways to keep the body fit, healthy and vigorous. We're all in the throes of winter (at my house right now, the yard is an ice skating rink upon which even our dog can't stand up straight). We're hovering around the woodstove and eating filling, hearty meals. Exercise may include going to the gym or working out in the basement; seldom do we have the snow-free or wind-free days that allow us to enjoy sunshine and safe exercise in the outdoors. It's during these months that people, rightfully so, concern themselves with weight maintenance and, symbiotically, the health of the liver and the digestion. As an herbalist, I guide many people toward herbs and nourishing therapies that can truly make a difference in these cold winter months.
This week's focus, then, will be on the liver. It coincides nicely with The Buttercup theme of tenacity, since the key herb for the liver is the Dandelion. We all know this weed--it's everywhere and it makes a point of sticking around. Just last month there were still blossoms peeking through the dead grass. It's a long-term herb for a long-term organ: your liver is vital to the proper functioning of your body.
Two years ago I happened upon a lush, two-foot high dandelion growing in the shade. I was astonished at the health of this plant--normally we see it as a flat, crushed, stepped-upon, forgotten weed. But this one was soaring up toward my knees with full green foilage. I won't belabor the metaphor--it could easily be compared to the healthy human body--but I will say that this herb, as do others, offers clues as to its purpose and use for human health. The old-fashioned Doctrine of Signatures is an outdated and superficial method of determining how to use a plant, although sometimes it happened to make sense: the yellow color of barberry and goldenseal roots comes from the alkaloid berberine, which does indeed help with the health of the liver (with which the color gold is associated). While dandelion contains no berberine (it contains choline), its orangish/yellow color guided early herbalists to use it as a hepatic (liver) herb. It is a wonderful liver tonic, a "loving massage" for the liver, if you will. Use it frequently.
There's also a metaphor with your emotional and spiritual health. Do you, like the dandelion, frequently feel flat, crushed, stepped-upon or forgotten? We all do, at times, but it's the strength of your tenacity that will determine how quickly you rise up again. Sometimes a vitamin or mineral deficiency can contribute to these "down" feelings, and simple herbs like dandelion can quickly and easily help the body's natural balance of vitamins and minerals right itself. This week's posts will show you how easy (and tasty) it can be to include dandelion as part of a mineral-rich, liver-strengthening diet.
So, dandelion. Tenacity. The Buttercup List this week will address liver health, perseverance, and ways to use that wonderful weed from your yard. Can't dig it up right now? No problem, we've done it for you. Prepared medicines and delicious dandelion beverages are available at http://www.vineyardherbs.com. Join us throughout the week for more complete information, helpful ideas and inspiration.