Even though the spring equinox is weeks away, I can feel the energy rising up in my body—and I can see it in my children even more. Ah spring. Our bodies are so ready to end the eating of heavy foods, and begin the journey to eating those foods above ground (and some root veggies, too!). Spring is a perfect time to be thinking about a cleansing program using food and herbs as your allies in health.
Detoxifying our bodies is extremely important and it should be done regularly. According to the Environmental Working Group, the average person has about 200 toxic chemicals in them! And if you live in a polluted area like I do, you may have even more. Tip: to know the toxic load in your area, go to www.scorecard.org and type in your zip code. Prepared to be alarmed!
But before embarking on a more serious detoxification program, first get your body ready by eating food fresh from the earth: dandelion and burdock roots, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and kale, and of course, lots of soluble and insoluble fibrous vegetables like jicama and sunchokes. As the greens pop up, they are cleansing to the body so eating as much of them as possible is incredibly beneficial.
Herbal Teas. Of course, making herbal tea from dried (or fresh) herbs is another great way to help your body release toxins and give it support. Here are just a handful of great herbs to consider if you want to make your own herbal tea. Try not to add honey or a sweetener to your herbs because your digestive system needs to experience the bitter flavor of the herbs in order to be most effective. Also, liver herbs are considered “cold” to the body; so if you run ‘cold’, warm them up with ginger root or cinnamon. Also, unless otherwise noted, it’s best to simmer root teas for about 15-20 minutes (covered).
Liver clearing and support herbs:
Dandelion root (Taraxacum officinale). Used in both western and eastern herbalism, this bitter root helps to stimulate the release of bile and is said to help cleanse and repair the liver. There is one study that says it is helpful in breast cancer as well.
Sarsaparilla root (smilax regelii, ornate, officinalis). Once used to make root beer, sarsaparilla was used medicinally for all sorts of ailments including chronic skin conditions, urinary tract infections, rheumatoid arthritis, dropsy, and virility. I love the smell of it, and it can be combined with many other root herbs in a decoction (which is to gently boil then simmer the herbs for 15 minutes covered).
Milk thistle seeds (Silybum marianum). This is an herb that is considered protective to the liver or “hepatoprotective” as the physiomedicalists and eclectics would say. In fact, it has shown to accelerate the regeneration of liver cells after liver damage and has anti-inflammatory properties. Many cultures grind up the seeds and add them to their daily meal much like we add salt and pepper.
Kidney clearing and support herbs:
Dandelion leaf (Taraxacum officinale). Known as a gentle diuretic, this potassium-containing herb has been used for centuries to cleanse the kidneys and to help children beset with bedwetting (enuresis). It was also used for chronic skin disease, dropsy and even uterine obstruction.
Horsetail (Equisetum arvense). Once used to scour dishes, this herb is known for its qualities of helping with many urinary tract and kidney issues including: cystitis, urethritis, enuresis, prostatitis and edema. It is best made as a cold decoction meaning that it should be put in water (covered) over night and then gently reheated the next day. It can, however, be steeped if being used in a tea blend.
Goldenrod (Soladago (spp)). Often used in upper respiratory tract and urinary tract infections, this gentle herb is considered to be an anti-inflammatory as well as a diuretic. I like adding it to my formulas to help support the kidney during a cleanse or detox. It grows wild in abundance, is easy to spot, but is contraindicated in those with an allergy to golden rod.
Here is a sample of a “cleanse” tea
Using 3 cups of water add:
- 1 teaspoon of dandelion root
- 1 teaspoon of sarsaparilla root
Gently boil for 15 minutes then pour over
- 1 teaspoon of dandelion leaf
- 1 teaspoon of goldenrod
- 1 teaspoon horsetail
Cover and let steep for another 10-15 minutes. (Note: The quick way would be to pour boiling water over all the herbs and let steep for 15 minutes.)
Cleansing teas are not meant to be taken long term, so it’s best to limit them to 3 weeks and then take a break. Happy cleansing, happy spring!