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Spring Tonics

A Spring Tonic, using the early greens of spring, may be just the thing you need to get through this month!

While the vernal equinox may mark the moment of spring, the appearance of the first greens makes it real. The early settlers were firm believers in the tonic effects of eating spring greens: they were said to stimulate the digestion, purify the blood, cure scurvy and ague, combat rheumatism, and repel kidney stones.

Let's face it—anything fresh and green no doubt tasted great after a wearisome winter of salt pork and dried beans.

Dandelions Tonic

Dandelions were so valued that they were cultivated in gardens.

Try using the tender young leaves in salads, either fresh or blanched, as the French and Dutch settlers favored.

Or, use the leaves as one would spinach or make them into soup. (Those who boiled dandelion greens in water often made a point of drinking the "pot likker" or cooking water, which was, in fact, loaded with water-soluble vitamins.)

Did you know? Dandelions can also be used as a relaxing body rub. See our Natural Remedies for Stress and Anxiety.

Rhubarb Tonic

Rhubarb, or pieplant, was widely regarded as a fine spring tonic to aid the blood and the digestive system. Cooked and stewed rhubarb was called "spring fruit" in early cookbooks.

Note: Only eat rhubarb stalks. Do not eat the leaves, as they contain high levels of oxalic acid, which is toxic in high doses.

Boil rhubarb and enjoy it as a soup (with some sweetener). Rhubarb is also delicious in preserves, puddings, and pies.

(See rhubarb recipes here.)
(See rhubarb planting guide here.)

More Cleansing Greens!

Another popular spring tonic was made by boiling together bunches of sweet fern, sarsaparilla, wintergreen and sassafras with water. After boiling until thickened, the concoction was drained and sweetened with sugar to taste. Sassafras tea is still popular today.

Rich in vitamins and trace minerals, these roots were prepared and drunk in early spring, providing much-needed nourishment and energy after a nutrient-poor winter. Tonics also stimulated the appetite, the circulation, and bodily functions as settlers got ready for physical farm labor.

Note: If you find these plants in the wild, make sure that you are allowed to legally dig the roots. If you make these tonics for ingestion, consult with a health professional so that you are making them safely. For example, sassafras can be toxic in large amounts and needs to be processed properly.

If you make or drink spring tonics, please share your recipes, tips, tricks, and stories below!

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The Polk and it berries can be used to worm fowl.
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By Eli'sMimi

I found a website called that gives more information about all their herbs and their site says sassafras is not to be taken carelessly as too much tea might be toxic on a long term basis. "All things in moderation!"

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By Eli'sMimi

What is poke and what are ramps? Also where does one find seeds for these as well as sweet fern, sarsaparilla, wintergreen and sassafras? As a child I had heard of sarsasparilla and sassafras tea. I would love to plant some and try it, or just buy the ingredients. I find that the old recipes had good health benefits that have long been forgotten.

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By TommyB1947

Don't know about poke, but Ramps are a wild onion-garlic which grows readily on the slopes of some hills in Western Pennsylvania, and the mountains of West Virginia. It's very strong and tasty. The old timers would make butter-bread and ramp sandwiches. The only problem is, that it's "bouquet" remains with you for days. But, BOY are they good.

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To buy seeds, I came across this site:
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I can't vouch for these sites, but I hope you find it helpful!
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Thanks, I'll check them out.

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Thanks, I'll check them out.

In the mountains of Georgia,

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In the mountains of Georgia, we like poke salad and ramps for a spring tonic. We also eat the dandelions.

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