With so many potent medicinal herbs in their prime this time of year, picking a favorite feels a lot like picking a favorite child. So, we rounded up our go-to herbal allies for spring, covering everything from lymphatic boosters to nasal decongestants. And on top of that, we included some easy, accessible ways that you can fit them into your daily routine to reap the maximum benefits and see real results. 

Herbs for Seasonal Allergies

Nettle – 

Well we can’t talk about herbs for springtime without talking about the clear stand out, stinging nettle. This remarkably gentle, versatile herb is safe for anyone to take yet packs a major punch when it comes to reducing allergy symptoms since it’s a histamine antagonist. During an allergic reaction, your mast cells release a chemical compound called histamine, which leads to classic allergy symptoms like sneezing, itching, watery eyes, and congestion. Nettle essentially comes in and blocks the effects of histamine, therefore reducing the intensity and duration of your symptoms (1). Additionally, nettle leaves can inhibit an enzyme released by mast cells called tryptase, which has been shown to trigger a cascade of inflammation in your body (2). This means that nettle not only reduces the severity of symptoms but also brings down any underlying or subsequent inflammation as well. 

Our favorite, foolproof way to incorporate nettles into your routine in the spring is with daily infusions. Simply fill a jar ⅓ of the way full with dried nettles, pour hot water over the top, cap it and let it sit overnight or at least 20 minutes. When you’re ready to drink it just strain and enjoy! 

Turmeric –

This common kitchen spice contains curcumin, a polyphenol with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Research shows that curcumin also prevents mast cells from releasing histamine, dampening your overall allergic response significantly (3, 4). And, finally, turmeric supports your liver’s detoxification pathways which are essential for healthy histamine metabolism.

To reap the benefits of turmeric, simply add in a teaspoon or two of turmeric powder to your curries, stews, roasted vegetables, marinades, smoothies, rice and oats. For something on the sweeter side, you can make golden milk – a grounding, warming Ayurvedic staple containing milk, turmeric powder, ground ginger, cinnamon and honey or maple syrup. 

Herbs for Detoxification 

Dandelion –  

After many months of heavier, richer foods, bitter greens like dandelion leaves are a lovely way to wake up your liver. While the bitter taste of dandelion roots and leaves may take some getting used to, it is actually what stimulates your gastric juices to improve digestion and encourages your liver to secrete bile, which is essential for proper detoxification and elimination. Studies suggest that the phytochemicals in dandelion root extract can even treat and protect against liver diseases, including liver failure. In particular, dandelion root was shown to reduce markers of liver injury and oxidative stress which can be seen through blood tests (5, 6). 

If you’re looking for a heavy dose of dandelion, brewing a cup of dandelion root tea is easy and effective. And if the sound of cooking with dandelion sounds fun to you, you can start by subbing in dandelion leaves whenever a recipe calls for any other leafy green. They’re delicious sauteed with garlic and butter or ghee!

Red Clover –

You’ve likely seen the fluffy, little pinkish purple flowers of this extremely common plant in yards and grassy fields around your neighborhood. Red clover is an alterative herb, meaning that it enhances your body’s natural elimination processes. More specifically, this plant stimulates your lymphatic system and helps filter your blood to remove toxins and waste from your body. In other words, red clover is extremely good at helping fluids move efficiently throughout your body. This is why red clover is often referred to as a skin herb, indicated for conditions like eczema, psoriasis, acne, rashes and more. 

Red clover adds a fruity and floral note to any tea blend. Drink it alone or add a few heaping teaspoons to other spring herbs for a mineral-rich, detoxifying brew that will have your skin glowing from the inside out. 

Herbs for Lymphatic Circulation

Cleavers –

This bright green spindly “weed” is one of the best herbs for clearing out any lymphatic congestion. Not only is cleavers absolutely thriving this time of year, it is also much needed medicine after a winter of less daily movement and more hanging out on the couch inside. It is known for its ability to break up any fibrous tissue or calcifications in your body which can be life changing for people with urinary issues, water retention and kidney stones. We included cleavers in our kidney health tea blend since it is so effective at flushing out any excess fluid, swelling or puffiness and keeping your renal system functioning in tip top condition.

Next time you make a pesto, throw a handful of cleavers in there! Alternatively, you can add cleavers to your green juices or smoothies for lymphatic drainage support. 

Violet –

In herbalism, there is something called the doctrine of signatures that basically says that the shape of a plant can offer clues to its function in your body. A perfect example of this is a violet leaf. Just by looking at it, you can easily see a system of distinct, dark green channels that run through every single millimeter of the plant tissue. Therefore it’s no surprise that violet leaves are known to stimulate and move lymph throughout your body. While your lymphatic system may seem quite similar to your circulatory system, the key difference here is that your lymphatic system lacks a pump. This means that we need to encourage our lymph to move and flow to avoid stagnation or stuck lymph, through herbs, exercise, massage and breathing. While most lymphatic herbs are quite drying to your system, violet does a phenomenal job of awakening your lymphatic system yet moistening and cooling your tissues at the same time.

An easy way to reap the benefits of violet is by making a salad of 50% greens of your choice and 50% violet leaves. Plus you can sprinkle the tasty purple flowers on top for a pop of color!

Herbs for Respiratory Health

Yerba Santa –

The sticky, resinous leaves of the Yerba Santa bush have long been used for any “wet” lung conditions. As an expectorant, Yerba Santa thins out and loosens any mucus stuck in your chest making it much easier for you to cough it up. Meanwhile, in your upper respiratory tract, Yerba Santa acts as a decongestant to keep your nose and sinuses clear of any stuffiness. Together, these herbal actions are absolute game changers for seasonal allergies and bugs. 

You can brew a tea with dried Yerba Santa leaves that is sweet, earthy and slightly bitter. If you’d rather go with a pre-made formula, Spring Defense Tonic contains a medicinal dose of Yerba Santa that helps to relieve any respiratory symptoms. 

Green Garlic – 

Although it’s more of an edible than a medicinal, green garlic certainly has a place on this list. If you’re not familiar with it, green garlic is essentially just immature garlic plants that are picked early to thin out the crop rows and make space for the underground bulbs. However, it’s gotten so popular in the culinary world that farmers now grow garlic with the intention of selling it in the spring. Similar to older garlic, green garlic is high in allicin, an organosulfur compound that is responsible for garlic’s pungent smell and its antimicrobial properties. In other words, allicin is great for fighting off upper respiratory infections, boosting immunity, and reducing inflammation. 

Simply swap out leeks, onions or scallions for green garlic in any recipe that calls for them. For a green pizza loaded with seasonal spring ingredients, top your crust with cream soaked nettles, green garlic and sausage (if you eat meat). Another delicious pie idea features green garlic, asparagus, peas, mint and burrata. Let us know if you make it!

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