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The Willow Journal

Herbs for Mud Season: Late Winter, Early Spring

Herbs for Mud Season: Late Winter, Early Spring

Late winter, early spring can be one of the most challenging times of the year. We are no longer in the cozy darkness of winter, longer days remind us of the spring and summer season ahead. Under the curtain of grey trees, snow scattering the shadows, winter’s presence remains… but we start to long for the spring season ahead of us. We yearn to rid ourselves of the cabin fever, to grace our pale skin with the warm touch of sun. Yet the Earth is soft with mud, forcing our steps to trudge slower, not yet spring… not yet spring.

This time is the in between. The in between can be uncomfortable because we know what is ahead of us, and we want to get there already. The muck of the in between can feel messy. It can feel like one thing after the next, like everything is weighing you down, like it is taking a long time. Instead of propelling ourselves forward into real spring, what if we lingered in the mud a little longer? What if instead of distracting ourselves from anything uncomfortable, we dug our toes a little deeper into the soft Earth to uncover the seeds breaking free from their shells beneath the surface?

In order to “dry up the muck”, we must examine ourselves in an authentic way. Where are our relationships sticky? In what areas of our lives have we gotten stagnant? How can we live more fully in ways that light us up?

We are reflections of the Earth. Time and time again, I see how my physical or emotional experience is mirrored in the expression of the season around me. This is because we aren’t separate from Nature. Our bones are mineral, our blood is river, our skin is soil, our digestion is fire. This is portrayed in traditional medicine systems, from Ayurveda to Traditional Chinese Medicine to Unani Tibb. The understanding is we are made up of the elements, our environments, always seeking balance within Nature’s influence.

Physically, the late winter, early spring, can be a time of increased stagnation. A feeling of lethargy, sluggishness, depression, slow digestion, skin conditions, headaches, infections are all common during this time of the year. The past couple of weeks almost everyone is coming into the apothecary with boggy, thick respiratory conditions. There is a physical representation of “muck” season, which can be likened to the concept of “dampness”.

In Ayurveda, this season is considered Kapha. The doshic/elemental representation of the combination of Earth & Water. We can see this in the “mud”. The qualities of cold and damp are more pervasive than in summer for example, where (especially in our arid climate) the qualities of hot and dry reign. Cold and damp often lead to stagnation and many of the symptoms listed above.

The goal is to help support our bodies in finding balance by emphasizing the opposite qualities as the current season. For this reason, it is typically helpful to avoid cold and damp foods during this time in excess. Examples of cold and damp foods are dairy (unless balanced with the addition of warming spices, think: chai), nut butters, bread/baked goods, sugar, oily meats, cold/iced beverages. Instead, we want to focus on foods that help to stoke digestive fire in order to dry up dampness, and help to break up stagnation. Warm cooked foods, steamed veggies, ample good quality protein, colorful, fibrous foods, pickled veggies & aromatic herbs are great to incorporate.

From an herbal perspective we are looking for herbs that drain dampness, clarify/break up stagnation, and uplift the mind/spirit. Here are some of my favorite allies to lean on during this in between season. 

Warming Aromatics

Warming aromatic herbs help to increase circulation, move stagnation, and stoke digestive fire. These herbs tend to be warm and dry, which help to counterbalance the overarching muck. Warming aromatics also have the ability to uplift mood, awaken the senses and bring us more fully into our bodies- what better medicine for this time?

Interestingly, many of these herbs also happen to be seeds, which feel particularly kismet to work with during the time of year when the seeds are just starting to stir underground.

Some examples of warming aromatics:

  • Cardamom
  • Fennel
  • Fenugreek
  • Anise
  • Ginger
  • Cinnamon

Our formulas that feature warming aromatics:

  • Dancing Chai
  • Fire Tea

Bitter Liver Herbs

Bitter herbs drain dampness. They help to reduce stagnancy in the liver and digestive system by promoting the secretion of bile to better emulsify fats. When we actually digest our fats, they don’t cause dampness, and this is one of the reasons bitters can be so helpful. The bitter flavor is also extremely grounding. They help bring you into your body with clarity. Bitters tend to be cold, so consider pairing them with warming aromatics, until later in the spring when the weather warms.

Some examples of bitters:

  • Dandelion
  • Burdock
  • Yellow Dock
  • Artichoke
  • Gentian
  • Calendula
  • Red Clover

Our formulas that feature bitter/liver herbs:

  • Simple Bitters
  • LVR Tonic
  • Cleansing Blend
  • Skin Clear

Uplifting Nervines

Uplifting nervines help to stimulate the senses, elevate mood while also calming and centering us. This is important because while sluggishness or dampness in the mind might look like depression, we don’t want to overstimulate ourselves with harsh stimulants. It is important to stay grounded amidst the seasonal change and the in between. These herbs will help uplift, while also centering you so that you can navigate any of the uncomfortable feelings mud season is bringing up.

Some examples of uplifting nervines:

  • Lemon Balm
  • Tulsi
  • Hawthorn
  • Linden
  • St. John’s Wort (tincture)
  • Damiana
  • Lavender

Our formulas that feature uplifting nervines:

  • Flowers She Spoke
  • St. John’s Wort Plus
  • Rooted Heart Elixir

Other Practices: 

Anything that helps to move stagnation will support you during this time. Consider incorporating some of the following: 

  • Daily walks in nature (see if you can embrace the mud!) 
  • Exercise- strength training, climbing, biking, dancing, moving however you feel inspired to 
  • Dry brushing
  • Scrubs (like our Solaris Herbal Scrub)
  • Warm salt baths (check out our Herbal Bath Salts) 
  • Meditation/breathwork 

Hopefully this gives you some direction on ways to support yourself through the mud season. Remember, the Earth absorbs the water only as much as it is able to, and then lets the rest run off into rivers and reservoirs. We can't take all of the water in at once, and the muck that we are in as only ever as much as we can handle. It may feel like a lot, you will get through this! Rest assured, spring will always greet us on the other side.