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'Tis the season of ... Autumn Roots

20.10.21

Folklore said that medicinal plants "live a year that is marked by the ritual of necessity" – different plants being at their peak during certain times of their growing seasons, and at the time of year when we needed the medicine, it was there and ready for us.

Take lemon balm as an example; in the spring, its leaves have hardly any aroma, yet by the time the plant is almost ready to bloom in mid-summer, the leaves are jammed with their potent lemony scent as its volatile oils become concentrated in its aerial parts.

Spring is marked with new growth, seeds sprouting, and sap rising in the trees as the days begin to get longer. Longer days mean more sunlight available for growth. Autumn, as the days become shorter, is all about the opposite - drawing down as the sap falls, preparing for rest and storing up reserves for the quiet of winter.

Roots also follow these trends of the season, but on a different timeline, with autumn being the traditional time to harvest them as plants rely on their roots to survive winter, so it makes sense that they’ve built up their store of energy by autumn. Take dandelion as a great example – in spring, the plant has sustained itself through the winter from its roots, so the roots are now small and less bitter,

even dry, with almost none of their characteristic milky sap. By autum, though, their roots are much larger and full of sap – the dandelion has stored up its energy, ready for winter again.

Harvesting roots can be a little tricky though - roots often go deep into the soil to access water and nutrients available further down, as well as helping to keep the plant firmly anchored. Most roots won't pull out of the soil easily, but gentle persistence can pay off.

It’s important to clean roots right after harvesting, as any soil left on the surface can contaminate them. Once dried, we can then keep them as thin slices, grind them into a powder, or grate them, ready to use in teas, syrups, salves, and other herbal recipes.

Here at EquiNatural we use many roots all year round in our herbal blends, but three in particular really stand out for equine autumn and winter health - the wonderful elecampane, burdock and liquorice.

Elecampane (Inula helenium) - A member of the sunflower family, elecampane is one of the most stunning flowers during summer – its roots are where the real magic happens though, being a wonderful tonic herb for lung health, especially for airway asthma-type symptoms. I love to blend elecampane as it has a cleansing yet fresh, warm, spicy fragrance.

Burdock (Arctium lappa) – Said to be nature’s finest blood purifier, burdock is both a nourishing and cleansing root, as well as an excellent digestive bitter. It’s a must for toning the 3-Amigos – liver, kidneys and lymph nodes, especially helping to keeping the lymphatic system in good working order. Burdock features in each and every one of our CARE Immunity Programme blends.

Liquorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) - Liquorice soothes! With its high mucilage content it coats irritated and inflamed mucous membranes in both the GI and respiratory tracts, while helping to open up the latter's airways. It’s such a harmonising ingredient in respiratory and gut formulas, as well as a powerful adaptogen immunoregulating herbs, with a particular calming affinity on the adrenal glands.