“The soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer and restorer and resurrector, by which disease passes into health, age into youth, death into life. Without proper care for it we can have no community, because without proper care for it we can have no life.”
- Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture
I once read about a custom to ensure that a baby is born on ancestral land. Families bring a basket of dirt from their farm or homeland and place it under the hospital bed where the baby will be born. I have also read about babies being given a tiny taste of garden soil at birth. It isn’t just the cultural ties that are bound in these acts, but also the inoculation with and exposure to microbial life, where the outside ecosystem populates and strengthens the inner ecosystem. I know some of my family members are pleased to know that we did not follow these customs when our daughter was born in a hospital, but if we did, then she would have been given a blend of soil from many places. Ancestral homeland is a tricky thing for North American mongrels like me.
Studies have shown that early exposure to dirt can help lower the risk for auto-immune diseases. Even without this dirt inoculation, my daughter’s immune system is tough as nails. Maybe it is because she has always been active and energetic, needing to be outside surrounded by dirt and mud. Last year we were pleased to discover a play-based preschool near our house. It is a garden school with a huge yard, a sandbox, lots of plants, and a few chickens. If the children are not interested in structured activities, they can play outside, rain or shine. Our daughter loves her school and can't arrive there quick enough; she runs to school in the morning to gather eggs. Sometimes these gathered eggs are used in their morning group activity: Baking muffins for their morning snack. Our daughter is clearly thriving in this environment.
Our soil contains the cycle of life, and sometimes our immune systems are tested. As much as we love this preschool and all our new friends, the downside has been the introduction of new germs. I recently succumbed to a stomach virus that tormented me for two weeks. Toward the end of the illness, I remembered that strawberry leaves can help ease nausea.
Strawberry leaves make a good spring tonic. It is usually fine for pregnant or nursing mothers to consume strawberry leaves (see my cautions below). They are also good for young tummies, though little ones may prefer to sip chilled tisane, with a few chamomile or red clover flowers as garnish.
I made a couple batches of tisane during the course of this illness. For my first batch, I gathered some strawberry leaves to make a quick brew. The next day I used a blend of strawberry leaves, red raspberry leaves, lemon balm, motherwort, chamomile, and California poppy. To relieve nausea, I think I prefer the plain strawberry leaf brew the best.
Strawberry Leaf Tisane
Makes 2 - 3 servings
Add the following to a quart mason jar or your favorite tea pot:
A handful of fresh strawberry leaves, preferably from plants in bloom
Additional herbs, if desired: fresh mint, red raspberry leaves, chamomile, lemon balm, flowering thyme, anise hyssop, or bee balm
Hot water (not boiling) or cold water, if you are going to steep the tisane in the sun
If you use hot water pour it over the herbs; let it steep for a few minutes. If you are using cold water, pour over and let the brew sit it the sun for an hour or so. Strain into cups.
The strained brew will keep in the refrigerator for a few days. It is a nice brew to sip cold. To make it fancy, add some herb or flower filled ice cubes.
Caution: Although I wish I had access to fresh strawberry leaves when I was in my first trimester of pregnancy, I should include some warnings here.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, it is always best to make certain a herb is safe to use before consuming it. If you have a medical condition or are on medication, it is always best to see if there is a contraindication before consuming herbs or flowers. For example: California poppy and motherwort both influence the circulatory system, so I think it is better to be safe than sorry.
Also, it is important that you make this tisane from fresh leaves or completely dried leaves, as both strawberry and raspberry leaves can cause stomach distress and nausea when consumed when they are halfway between fresh and dried.