Thursday, March 6, 2008

Spring Forward -- Even if it's not yet Spring!

It’s that time of year again! We spring forward from Standard Time to Daylight Savings Time. Thanks to the Energy Policy Act of 2005, Standard Time has actually become a misnomer. Daylight Savings Time now spans nearly 3/4's of the year, which makes Standard Time less standard than it has been for nearly 30 years.

Interestingly, even the concept of a standardized time is relatively new to modern world, being used in the United States for under a century. Before the concept of Standard Time, the entire world operated on Solar Time, or “Sun Time.” For millennia, time had been measured based upon the position of the sun with noon being the moment when the sun was highest in the sky. Prior to the invention of mechanical clocks sometime during the Middle Ages, people used sundials to measure time. Villages and cities would set their clock by measuring the position of the sun, and every city was on a slightly different time. Thus, time measured by the sun on a sundial is called Apparent Solar Time, or true local time. When time was measured based upon a longitudinal meridian, it was called Mean Solar Time.

During the 1800s, Great Britain instituted the first Standard Time because those who operated the railroads were most concerned about the inconsistencies of time from one town to the next. During the late 1800s, the railroads in the United States began to feel constraints due to these inconsistencies between town to town, and the initial steps towards time standardization began. It wasn’t until 1918 however, that Congress enacted the Standard Time Act of 1918, and time thus became standardized for the entire country. Well, sort of. Included in the Standard Time Act was the concept of preserving daylight for 7 months of the year and beginning on March 31.

The option to use Daylight Savings Time became a matter of choice for individual cities. Most chose not to implement it. Most cities and counties around the country used their own guidelines for following Daylight Savings Time, and there was no consistency from coast to coast. It wasn’t until the Uniform Time Act of 1966 that the Government once again stepped in and established the rules for Daylight Savings Time: it would begin on the last Sunday of April, and end on the last Sunday of October. If a state chose to not use Daylight Savings Time they could pass a State Law regarding the issue.

Jump forward to 2007, when a quick glance at the calendar left me befuddled and confused. “What?! Daylight Savings time begins now? Holy smokes! What has caused this atrocity? It’s not even officially Spring yet!” While, I’ll be the first to admit that more daylight in the evening is a great thing for those of us who crave nothing more than getting out on the bike or on a hike, or out for a run, or a walk with the dogs, or a quick session climbing, etc. But, for those of us who wake with the sun, and rely upon daylight to regulate our internal clocks, this whole change from the end of April to the second Sunday in March is no good at all!

Just as I’m finally able to get up and moving before the hour of 7 am, suddenly I’m forced to rouse earlier than my body is ready to, and thus a straggling and harried morning confusion ensues. At least for a couple weeks.

As that chaos ensued last March, I had to know who I could thank for this disruption to my internal clock, and a quick Google search gave me the answers I needed. I could wholeheartedly thank the manipulative Dick Cheney. Yeah, “Thanks, Dick” pun intended. Thanks to the Energy Policy Act of 2005, I am now a walking zombie a whole 6 weeks earlier. I won’t even bother going into the controversy surrounding the development of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. It will just make my head hurt.

However, the fact that Daylight Savings Time is considered to have some sort of energy savings associated with it does seem somewhat puzzling. It seems to me that if it is dark and cold when I wake in the morning, it is unlikely that I'll be helping to conserve energy by igniting my lights, or raising the thermostat. A couple of researchers at the University of California at Santa Barbara are curious too, and their interesting draft paper can be read here. Their conclusions are that there is no energy savings at all, and in fact, Daylight Savings Time increases energy demands. How's that for smart policy, Dick?

So, here we are, poised to Spring Forward this coming Sunday. My bicycle will be happy, and my children likely will too, when they to romp at the park or in the woods a little while longer. In fact, when my dear little sweeties are sleeping soundly in the wee hours of the morning, while I’m scrabbling bleary-eyed towards the espresso machine, I’ll probably be happy too. At least for a few moments.

And that leaves us to discussing an herb that may help us make the transition into spring a little earlier a little easier.


Latin Name Urtica dioica
Other Names Stinging nettle
Part Used Leaf, rhizome
Herb Forms Tincture, capsule, bulk herb.
Affects Blood, Digestive system, Urinary system
Cautions The fresh leaves can cause skin rash.

Nettles are known to be rich in chlorophyll and minerals and are used for anemia and weak blood. Nettles have been shown to have antiallergenic properties and may be useful for hay fever. The cool tea is taken for urinary problems, such as cystitis and gravel. Nettles increase the excretion of uric acid and are used internally or externally for arthritis and rheumatism. Nettles are slightly diuretic, cleansing, and hemostatic. The rhizomes are often recommended by herbalists in Europe to alleviate inflammation and swelling of the prostate gland and are blended with saw palmetto berries. The nettle greens are among the most nutritious foods known, containing a large portion of vitamins, minerals, chlorophyll, and a complete protein. The powdered or fresh greens can be used as a tea or food to help build the blood in cases of blood deficiency with fatigue, or as a preventative. Nettles are considered very useful during pregnancy, and can safely be used during the entire 9 months. After steaming, the stinging properties are completely destroyed.

Nettles has a taste of SALTY, BITTER and a temperature of COOL.

Nettles are often one of the first spring greens, arriving along the moist banks of annual and perennial streams, and near springs, seeps, and marshes. As such, many herbalists have considered Nettles to be useful for cleansing the blood of stagnation that may have accumulated during the dark days of winter, and from a diet heavy in starches and proteins. Nettles are also useful for the hayfever, which in our neck of the woods, arrived in early spring. Nettles are more tasty than Spinach, in my opinion, and are used by many cultures as a steamed green, which is made more delicious with some fresh garlic, toasted sesame oil, a little rice vinegar, and tamari.

Nettles are more notoriously known for their stinging and blistering properties, which if you’ve ever found yourself enmeshed in a patch of nettles in the middle of the night while hiking back from a hot spring, you’ll know what I’m referring to! However, even the stinging properties of nettles are revered by the Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest, who, prior to launching on all-night whale hunts, would lash their bodies all over with fresh nettles, to help them stay alert and awake during the hunt.

No comments: