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HERBS FOR SPRING RENEWAL: PART I


WHY A SPRING CLEANSE & DETOXIFICATION?


As the flowers awake after the cold days of winter, we feel a nudge to embrace new growth and shed our winter coats. Spring is the natural time to cleanse, detox, and refresh after a long winter season of extra hours inside, less movement, and heavier foods. Winter’s quiet hibernation time is a reflection of the cycle of the seasons and has many benefits of its own. However, as winter draws to a close, we may feel sluggish, stagnant, and congested.

Spring awakens the longing for new beginnings, refreshment, and the feeling of lightness and energy embodied in the budding flowers and blossoming trees. Natural cleansing and detoxification do not need to involve harsh protocols. It embraces lifestyle practices and herbal allies that will support the body’s natural detoxification organs and processes as it wakes up after a season of quiet. Nurturing and supporting these channels of cleansing and detoxification encourages the removal of toxins and waste products, which may help cleanse and re-energize the body, boosting overall wellbeing.


THE LIVER: THE BODY’S PRIMARY DETOXIFICATION PATHWAY:

The liver is constantly filtering toxins and metabolic wastes out of the blood before it enters the rest of the body. Bitter herbs support the liver’s natural detoxification function, encouraging the organ to clean blood more efficiently and excrete more bile for digestion.

Blood cleansing herbs such as burdock work to keep detox channels open and moving. Turmeric, milk thistle, ginger, Schisandra, and artichoke leaf aid in liver protection and regeneration. Yellow Dock stimulates the large intestines. Dandelion and Calendula gently stimulate the liver and gallbladder, encouraging removal of waste from the body and excretion of bile when needed for digestion.



HERBAL SUPPORT FOR THE LIVER: ALTERATIVE HERBS:

Alterative herbs are often referred to as blood purifiers. These herbs tend to have nutritional properties, support detoxification processes, and work to tonify and restore tissues throughout the body. Alterative herbs gradually restore the proper function of the body and increase health and vitality. Alterative herbs include alfalfa leaf, burdock root, dandelion leaf and root, nettle leaf, and yellow dock root.



Alfalfa Leaf (Medicago sativa): contains a wide variety of minerals including iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, sulfur, chlorine, sodium, potassium, and silicon. It is also a good source of vitamin E, vitamin C, and vitamin K, which is necessary for blood clotting, and contains essential amino acids that are not made by the body but must be obtained from food sources. Alfalfa contains the highest chlorophyll content of any plant and is highly nutritious. Alfalfa is exceptional at cleansing the blood, alleviating allergies, promoting healthy blood clotting, supporting healthy digestion, easing morning sickness, supporting the pituitary gland, and relieving arthritis symptoms.



Burdock (Arctium lappa): contains a prebiotic called inulin, a fiber which nourishes the gut microbiome and may improve digestion. The mildly bitter nature of burdock helps stimulate digestive secretions and may aid in appetite improvement and nutrient assimilation. As a gentle alterative, burdock is tonifying to the body as a whole. It is often used for detoxification support, as it encourages lymph flow and the removal of waste from the body. Burdock is especially useful for dry conditions where body tissues are in need of cleansing, moistening, and nourishment. It helps detoxify and normalize metabolic function and may calm external skin issues such as eczema, dandruff, and psoriasis.

Burdock is often included in tea blends and tinctures intended for liver and digestive support, but all parts may be consumed as a food. It can be added to salads, smoothies, sautéed as a vegetable, roasted and added to soups, stews, and stir-fries, and the seeds may also be eaten.



Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale): nutritious and flavorful, the liver cleansing constituents of this alterative herb are especially useful in the spring after the long winter months. Dandelion contains inulin, potassium, calcium, sodium, phosphorus, iron, and vitamins A and C. The root is used for liver and digestive support, while the leaves have a diuretic action and are frequently indicated for the kidneys. The bitter taste of dandelion leaves makes them useful as an herbal bitter to stimulate digestive secretions and promote healthy digestion. This includes bile production, increased saliva, and gastric secretions, which all work together to aid the body in breaking down and assimilating nutrients. It has an affinity for the liver, stimulates the gallbladder, and is helpful for soothing inflammation and congestion of both organs. Fresh or dried flowers, leaves, and roots may be infused or decocted. Leaves and roots are often used in tea blends. All parts of the plant can also be tinctured or added to salads, stir-fries, and soups.



Nettle Leaf (Urtica dioica): is packed full of vitamins and minerals. It is an excellent source of vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B5, C, D, E, K, calcium, chromium, cobalt, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, and selenium. It also contains an abundance of chlorophyll, which is responsible for much of its color and high mineral content. The high iron content of nettle makes it useful in building the blood. It also helps maintain balanced blood sugar levels, aids the body in nutrient and protein assimilation, neutralizes acid, and aids in waste elimination. An infusion of nettle leaves is used to support the body in cases of hay fever and allergies due to the herb’s anti-inflammatory action, which may be attributed to its histamine content. The leaves are also tonifying and strengthening to the kidneys and supports overall vitality. Nettle leaves may be used as a tea, tincture, or capsule. Used topically in salves and creams, studies show that nettle may be useful for easing joint pain.



Red Clover Flower (Trifolium pratense): is highly nutritive and rich in vitamins and minerals, including vitamins B and C, calcium, chromium, magnesium, thiamine, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, and iron. As an alterative, red clover helps the body assimilate nutrients, remove metabolic waste, and ease skin conditions, chronic inflammatory conditions, and degenerative diseases. As a lymphatic and diuretic, red clover keeps fluids moving through the lymphatic system and eliminates waste via the urinary system. It also stimulates and nourishes the liver to keep the blood well-filtered. Red clover can be used as an infusion, tincture, and it can be consumed as food in salads, soups, and stews, vinegar infusions and herbal honeys. It is also excellent as a topical preparation such as a balm, salve, or massage oil.



Violet Flower & Leaf (Viola odorata): are an excellent addition to nutrient-rich teas for daily drinking. The mucilage content of the leaves makes them useful for thickening soups. Violet leaves and flowers are also added to salads and make a lovely decoration or garnish for a variety of culinary delights. Violet Flower & Leaf are alterative and lymphatic, which makes them useful for chronic infections, detoxification, hives, eczema, and cradle cap. It is a welcome addition to facial steams and washes. Violet is perfect for spring months when the body is out of balance. Its cooling and moistening properties make this flower useful when inflammation is present in the urinary tract, gastrointestinal tract, or respiratory system. Violets can be prepared fresh as a tincture, used topically as a poultice, brewed as an infusion or syrup, or dried or wilted and infused into an oil.



Spring Tonic Tea Recipe: Drink this highly nutritious tea daily or as desired for digestive, liver, and allergy support. All of the included herbs are helpful in gently stimulating the cleansing actions of the body, while the nettle is especially well-loved for its antiallergenic and antihistamine properties.


Ingredients: 1 tablespoon burdock root, 1 tablespoon dandelion root, 1 tablespoon dandelion leaf, 1 tablespoon nettle leaf, 1 tablespoon red clover flowers, and 1-quart water.


Directions: Place nettle, dandelion leaf, and red clover in a heat-safe container and set aside. In a covered saucepan, bring the water, burdock, and dandelion root to a boil, then immediately lower the heat, and simmer for 20 minutes. Pour the hot root decoction over the nettle, dandelion leaf, and red clover. Steep for at least 20 minutes and up to 4 hours before straining. Drink throughout the day and store any remaining tonic in the fridge for up to 24 hours.



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