Prepare your body for the warm months ahead and attain better health with the help of this season’s best fruits, vegetables, and herbs.
After a dreary winter, spring has finally arrived! Nature is waking up and coming to life. The birds are singing, the flowers are blooming and the sun is shining warmer with each day. Traditionally, the spring is a time to clear clutter from our homes, scrub the house from top to bottom and open up the windows for some fresh air. As we clean our homes in the spring, so should we clean our bodies. Throughout history, humans have naturally moved away from the heavier winter diet of starch and preserved meat and shifted toward detoxifying foods in the spring to prepare their bodies for the active summer season.
According to Chinese culture, humans are microcosms of the environment, and are equally affected by the change in season. The cyclical character of energy flow creates a predominance of energy in each body system during a particular season. According to Chinese medical theory, the liver and gallbladder systems are partners, and their energy is most active in the spring. Other holistic practitioners also recognize this time of year as pertinent to liver health. Nutritionists typically target spring as ideal for a liver flush, or liver cleanse. Eating vegetables that grow in the spring are recommended by dieticians to aid in moving winter’s sludge out of the liver. No matter what angle taken, the liver is most accessible for transformation during this season. What better a time than now to detoxify?
Carolyn Kelly eats kichari soup alone or with other foods for a simple cleanse. This dish can be refrigerated for a few days or kept in the freezer.
2 cups of mung beans, soaked overnight, drained, and rinsed well.
2 tsps coriander
1 Tbsp each of cumin, turmeric, ginger, fennel and fenugreek
2 Tbsp of olive oil
1/4 cup of chopped kelp and/or dulce
1 cup of cooked white or brown riceIn a large pot over medium heat, sauté the spices with oil for approximately 3 min. to release their flavor. Add mung beans, cover with water, and let simmer over low heat for about 30 min. more (or until soft).
Removed from heat and add rice, if desired.
It is logical then, that for individuals living with liver disease, Chinese medical practitioners put extra emphasis on initiating change after the vernal equinox.
As it turns out, it may be more important to encourage detoxification now than in the past, say experts like C. Hobbs herbalist and author ofNatural Therapy for Your Liver. Now we are exposed to a heavier load of toxins from the environment, as well as from poor food choices. These toxins bog down our liver and other eliminatory organs, and as a result, some get stored in our fat cells rather than released. Signs of a sluggish liver can include headaches, chronic pain, foggy brain, skin problems, digestive upset, and irritability. Many people feel clear-headed and “lighter” once they are cleansed.
Whether our forefathers and mothers knew it, traditional spring foods stimulate the major eliminatory organs. Bitter greens and roots coax the liver to produce more bile, improve fat digestion, and remove toxins more efficiently. Greens also act as a diuretic to help flush the kidneys. While our increased activity level in spring naturally helps improve lymph circulation and expel toxins, a simple diet allows the body to devote less energy toward digestion and more toward detoxification. So turn to seasonal herbs and food for a gentle cleanse.
In this newsletter you will find cleansing kits and complicated detox diets that claim to offer the same benefits for the body.
Detoxification programs come in many shapes, sizes, and strenghts. The diet modification and seasonal eating described here provide a gentle cleanse that is appropriate for most people. If you are underweight, sick, on medication, or have diabetes, heart disease, kidney or liver disease work with a qualified practitioner who can tailor a cleanse to your needs. Cleansing is not recommended forpregnant and nursing women.
To start, put aside three to five days this spring to honor your bode and the season. You will need to avoid the Big Five— sugar, alcohol, caffeine, wheat, and dairy—suggests E.Haas, M.D., author of Staying Healthy with the Seasons. These foods are more apt to produce metabolic toxins. Instead, focus on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fermented foods, and healthy fats form salmon and olive and flax oils.
You can further benefit your body by embracing longer or more regular detoxification diets. Consider one day of cleansing foods, raw produce, or liquids per week or month; devote several consecutive weekends to a simpler diet and lifestyle; or eat a modified diet with cleansing foods for two to four weeks. Listen to your body to determine what is best for you.
This recipe is nice in the morning or at lunch. It has less sodium than most forms of miso and is slightly sweet.
1 cup near-boiling water
1 Tbsp white or yellow miso paste
1/2″ fresh ginger root, finely grated
2 thin lemon slices
Blend miso paste with hot water until it has mostly dissolved. Add grated ginger and lemon slices.
So here are some simple things we can do to cleanse our bodies for the spring:
- Every morning before breakfast, drink the juice of 1/2 lemon squeezed into 8 oz. of warm water.
- End each hot shower with 30 seconds of cold.
- Drink at least 1 L of distilled or spring water daily. Herbal non-caffeinated tea counts.
- Eat your veggies! Especially beets, broccoli, spinach, dandelion greens, romaine lettuce, broccoli, cabbage…
- Eat organic.
- Reduce animal products (meat, dairy, eggs.)
- Ensure regular bowel movements (at least one daily) to remove toxins.
- Get outside and move! At least 20 minutes of exercise to increase heart rate 3 times weekly. Walking at a brisk pace is a simple activity
Try to integrate the following herbs, greens, and foods as part of your cleansing regimen.
Dandelion Leaf and Root.
Diuretic and rich in minerals, including potassium, the slightly bitter greens can be eaten raw in salads, lightly steamed, or made into a tea or broth. “It is very classic in the spring to just eat dandelions—both the greens and the roots—and with good reason. The leaves are wonderful for the kidneys. Dandelion root in tea, tincture, or capsule form helps the liver to stimulate bile, the liver’s waste product, and has slight laxative and sodium–leaching diuretic effects”, explains herbalist Carolyn Kelly.
The weedy burdock root is a frequent companion to dandelion. Burdock root is earthy and slightly sweet, which complements dandelion’s bitter flavor. The two herbs have similar medicinal properties, and herbaists often blend both in teas and tinctures for a dual liver action. They use burdock to improve limph circulation and act as a blood cleanser, as well.
Garlic and onions (Allium spp).
Few human ailments do not respond to the help of a daily dose of anAllium. Garlic is the most researched. It appears to protect against the oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol, improve HDL (good) cholesterol, improve peripheral circulation, and assist in fibrin breakdown. It also acts as an antimicrobal, and antiviral, and antifungal, and may inhibit tumor formation and protect several organs from damage by toxins.
Cooked Alliums provide some protection, but raw is better. Eat garlic, onion, and their reatives (leeks, shallots, scallions, chives, ramps, and wild garlic) in abundance. Let chopped garlic sit for 15 minutes before eating to allow its medicinal sulfur compounds to activate.
These leafy herbs and vegetables are a rich source of chlorophyll, minerals, vitamins, plant antioxidants, and fiber. They also have slight diuretic effect, which gives your kidneys a boost. Bitter and springly flavored greens like dandelion, escarole, endive, young chicory leaves, and mustard greens may also increase digestive enzyme and bile production. Look for these as well as beet greens, kale, collards,
Swiss chard, baby spinach, and variety of lettuce. Snip in culinary herbs like parsley, cilantro, oregano, chives, thyme, sage, anise hyssop, and mint for extra flavor and antioxidants. Eat them in fresh salads or lightly steam them and serve with vinegar or lemon juice.
Miso and Fermented Foods.
Broth and soup made from miso, a fermented paste of soybeans, grains, and salt, is a staple of Asian and macrobiotic diets. As part of a cleanse, miso provides a warm, easy, sustaining source of protein, beneficial bacteria, minerals, some B vitamins, and electrolytes. Studies sugget that regular miso consumption cuts breast cancer risk and protects the body from radiation damage. Fermentation was originally used to store fresh ingredients, but studies show it may actually improve the bioavailability of nutrients in these types of food.
Lemon Liver Flush.
Both C. Kelly and C. Hobbs recommended drinking lemon liver flush first thing in the morning during cleanse. Afterwards, wait about an hour and then follow with a cup or two of polari tea (below). You can make a few days’ worth and keep it in the fridge. It will become gelatinous, but just add some hot water to liquify it before drinking.
1 lemon, rind and seeds removed
2 Tbls olive oil
1-2 cloves of garlic
1 ounce grapefruit juice (optional)
1/2″ chunk of fresh gingerBlend all of the ingredients in a food processor and enjoy this refreshing beverage.
Uncooked and unpasteurized fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchee, and other fermented vegetables like ginger, carrots, beets, and daikon contain beneficial bacteria, which improve intestinal flora. Having healthy and balanced intestinal flora aids digestion, helps with both diarrhea and constipation, and makes body less hospitable to troublesome bacteria and yeast. Use caution with foods you may be sensitive to. The fermented versions of soy, grains, and gluten (miso), kefir, and yogurt (dairy) are often better tolerated, but you may still have a reaction.
Raw produce trumps cooked when it comes to cleansing, say Hobbs. That is because heat destroys the enzymes in fresh friuts and vegetables that encourage the body’s detoxification process. Those new to cleansing may want to start by eating only raw fruits and vegetables, along with liver-boosting tea and water, for one day a month for several months. For a deeper cleanse, Hobbs recommends one day of raw foods, then one day of
fruit and vegetable juices, followed by another day of raw foods. Drink ample tea and water during cleanse to ensure you remain properly hydrated. According to Chinese medicine, raw foods and juices are cooling in nature. Reserve this type of detoxification for warm weather.
In addition to viewing humans as a mirror of nature, Chinese medical theory emphasizes the interplay of physical, emotional and spiritual aspects governed by each body system. Encompassing much more than the western medical model’s understanding of organ structure and function, each body system also governs emotion, cognition and spirit.
This pleasant tea combines several liver-boosting roots. Refrigerate the tea for up to three days and reheat as needed.
2 Tbsp dried burdock root
1 Tbsp dried dandelion root
1 Tbsp dried chicory root
1 Tbsp dried sassafras root (optional)
1 Tbsp fresh, grated ginger root
3 cups of waterIn a small saucepan, gently simmer all roots in the water for 15 to 20 min. Strain and serve. (You can also coarsely grind the dried roots in a coffee grinder, add the ginger, and brew in a coffee maker).
The cognitive responsibility of the liver is planning and the gallbladder oversees decision-making. When the energy in these two organ systems mounts, as it naturally does each spring, there can be two possible outcomes:
- The desired outcome is an active outpouring of creativity, productivity and release of negative patterns.
- The undesired outcome is energetic stagnation, or resistance to allowing this energy to flow.
Restricted liver energy manifests as anger, frustration, depression and irritability. Liver disease occurs or worsens when this restriction is not expressed or freed. When energy remains stuck, it coagulates, which hampers optimal body functioning. In nature, this is just like a heavy storm’s debris clogging a creek’s thoroughfare, preventing water flow downstream of the obstruction. If the obstruction is not cleared, more debris will accumulate, further preventing the creek’s inclination to flow. The inability to express spring’s active energy can lead to all sorts of illnesses including migraines, cystic breasts, digestive problems and even a progression of liver disease.
Because the energy in the liver and gallbladder systems increase in the spring, people often experience an increase in stress, anger and anxiety during this season. When an outlet for this energy is found, these emotions can be transformed into creativity, opportunity and change. Springtime is ideal to convert these difficult emotions through focusing on their movement and release. Nature provides us with this perfect time of year to spring clean our emotional accumulation. Feeling these intense emotions is the healthy first step, and indicates readiness, or near-readiness for the second spring cleaning step: release.
Emotional release can be achieved in many different ways, and each person needs to find the method that works best for them. Some methods that may be useful include:
- Engaging in physical activity
- Receiving bodywork
- Verbalizing emotions to a friend or professional
- Journaling or writing about one’s feelings
- Crying and/or laughing
- Meditation and/or visualization
- Using creativity as an emotional outlet
Christopher Hobbs recommends this tea as a follow up to the lemon liver flush. You can also drink it throughout your cleanse. It can be refrigerated for 2 to 3 days.
1Tbsp whole flax seeds
1 Tbsp burdock root
1 tsp fenugreek
1 tsp licorice
1 Tbsp peppermint
1 quart of waterGently simmer all of the herbs, except peppermint, for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add peppermint, and let steep for 15 minutes. Strain and serve.
Regardless of the method used, finding the path to emotional release keeps the body, mind and spirit healthy. The natural instinct to spring clean our homes and environment answers our yearning to clear away the cobwebs (stagnation) left over from winter. When spring cleaning is applied to emotional health, our ability to plan and make decisions blossoms and we experience renewed optimism, creativity, hope and transformation.
From the Chinese perspective, the free flow of liver and gallbladder energy is the number one disease preventative, and the best way to guarantee health and happiness. Take advantage of spring’s manifestation in your body, and for liver’s sake, decide to do some emotional spring cleaning.