Spring Ephemerals for Spring Ailments
Violets & Nature Providing the Perfect Medicine
You know it’s spring in New England when it snows on Memorial Day weekend, right? As my family made a journey to New Hampshire for this three day weekend, a part of me was sure the odd weather was a blatant sign of the Earth being out of whack… but I was glad there were still spring buds and flowers to enjoy at our vacation destination.
Back home in western Massachusetts, May had already ushered in summer-like foliage and the heat waves to back it, but during our road trip to NH we were on the highway watching rain turn into thick flurries of cosmic snow. It was distracting enough to take my mind off the fact that we would have to get out of the car soon with sleeping children and all our gear to nestle into a different bed.
I like being able to leave the reminders of home and the to-do’s behind, but the other end of the spectrum is feeling a little stuck without the predictable tools, comforts, and rhythms of our own space…
Opportunity arose though for me to find my groove, even somewhere new. I guess that’s something we carry with us. It was when my 14 month old woke up with a cough that I hadn’t come prepared for that the idea of a walk to find some violet flowers came to mind, as this early spring flower was still likely to be around in this cooler northern climate. The violet flowers are mucilaginous (meaning they coat/soothe the mucous membranes) so it’s great for a cough and they are gentle enough for children. Similar to that adage that every season has its reason, I feel taking in the food/herbs that grow in the spring are helpful for cleansing our systems from the winter’s ailments.
Now I was excited. I had a hunt ahead of me and I knew I could come home with flowers to process with my older kids when they woke up. I headed out into the neighborhood of manicured lawns and felt a little deflated. How was I going to find this wild weed amongst the trimmed grasses? I knew from my wild weed walks that I shouldn’t harvest from the side of the road where it was wild because of the run-off, so I just kept walking with my gaze towards the lawns looking for a sea of purple. Before I saw the color indicator I noticed a home for sale. The lawn had grown unkempt; it was bound to be a weed paradise!
The quiet yard was the perfect place to pick and I felt a certain unexplainable endorsement from the very beautiful large moth that was nesting in the limbs above as I filled my hands tightly full of violet flowers. They stayed warm in my grasp as I got back. They were slightly bruised, but that was actually good for breaking the cell walls and releasing the medicine. I tossed them into the base of a saucepan and had a moment of relief. I had picked enough to cover the whole bottom! I poured cold water about an inch or more above the flowers and set it to a boil. Once it was simmering I went down to find the kids. I was excited to get them involved. I brought over the pot that had been simmering for 10 minutes to show them the flowers that had lost their pigment. The petals lay translucent in a pot of dull green. ‘What plant do you think this is,’ I ask? There was one guess that I can’t remember and then my daughter said ‘Violet!’
I grabbed them each a half a lemon from the fridge and set them to squeezing juice into their own tall glass. Then I poured the ‘tea’ from the pot into a separate glass, holding back the flowers. This dull green liquid was about to turn bright purple right in front of their eyes! Once it hit the lemon juice the reaction happened. We mixed some honey in to sweeten and voila! We had medicine. It is such a gentle spring tonic we could all enjoy it. It was warm, tangy, and sweet. My 14 month old loved it. It was the perfect mix for this perfect storm.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Angie Gregory settled in the Western MA in 2007 after many years of traveling the country. She lives in Northampton, MA with her husband and three kids and is an avid gardener and studies herbal medicine. She has worked in the community fostering projects like Grow Food Northampton and started Mother Herb Diaper Service out of her home after the birth of her second child. Her business is now a cooperative venture and has relocated to Holyoke, MA under the name of Simple Diaper & Linen.
Originally published: June 5, 2013