The Healing Garden: Spring Herbal Detox and Weight Loss
~ Lorraine Hughes, RH (AHG) ~
The very same energy that enables the tender sprout to burst forth from the earth also manifests within all beings…. human and animal. This is the time of rebirth and new life, new opportunities for growth and creativity. We must clean out our internal closets in order to make room for our bodies to be lighter and less burdened by the excesses we enveloped ourselves in the Winter.
Spring is nature’s way of preparing our body for the heat of summer. We need to gently take the layers off….as we transition during this season we must be mindful not to over indulge in heavier foods and to use the plants and herbs that are presently growing due to the Yang energy of Spring…that which rises and expands.
Our climate is our guide as to eating cooked or raw foods, with also taking into consideration the strength of our digestion and current state of health. If it is still cold out eat cooked greens and vegetables and keep some of the heavier meats in the diet. When the weather starts to warm up (and you do not need a sweater) then the raw leafy green salad along with chicken or fish with properly prepared brown rice is an appropriate meal.
The early spring plants are a hardy and vivacious lot! They offer us an abundance of foods loaded with antioxidants and minerals. Nettles, chickweed, dandelion greens, fiddleheads and violet leaves are seen growing wild in the garden.
Your local farm or grocery will feature fresh asparagus, arugula, baby beets and beet greens, fresh chives, broccoli rabe, escarole, chicory and cress. Their appearance is timely as in Traditional Chinese Medicine this is the Wood Element, the season of the Liver and Gallbladder. As most of us are aware the Liver plays a vital role in detoxification of the body with the removal of wastes, toxins and chemicals in addition to filtering the blood. The Liver works extremely hard, it is the General of the Blood.
Everything we eat, drink, breathe and feel is processed by this overtaxed organ. This includes our environment, our food sources, medications, emotional stress and recreational habits.
When the Liver is overwhelmed, the smooth flow of energy throughout the body is impeded and stagnation results with various symptoms of eye inflammation, hypertension, neck and shoulder pain, headaches, migraines, emotional repression or depression or loud expression, breast tenderness, PMS pain and irritability and so on.
Please be aware of the environmental toxic load we are carrying in our bodies, these chemicals are not benign…..babies are being born with having several hundred chemicals in their bodies. These toxins are coming from our foods, our water, our air,
household cleaners, cosmetics, plastic containers, building materials and from many other sources.
The more fat we store in our bodies the more chemicals are also stored. These chemicals can cause people to become overweight by disrupting the endocrine system …. an incredibly vicious cycle to say the least.
So… that being said, here are 5 tips to jump start your Spring Cleaning:
- Breathe deep and expansive. When you breathe in expand your belly, diaphragm, ribs and lungs and give your liver a detoxifying massage by infusing air and space in this normally tightly packed area, sighing on the exhale is also appreciated J
- First thing in the morning – every morning before eating or drinking anything else, squeeze ½ of a fresh organic lemon juice into a 10 ounce glass of room temperature or warmer water and drink. The Liver takes in sour, this also helps to reduce fat.
- Get to sleep before 11pm the latest. The optimal biorhythm time for the Liver and Gallbladder is from 11pm to 3am, this is when the detoxification process is at its best. If you are awake at this time, or wake up during this time; the energy of Liver / Gallbladder is compromised.
- Lighten up your food choices…stay away from the heavy sauces, stews and gravies and move towards properly prepared rice and legumes, steamed vegetables and lighter proteins such as chicken and fish. Reduce the frequency of eating beef and lamb.
- Partake wholeheartedly in the bitter green abundance!
– Steamed or cooked young nettle leaves with slices of raw garlic and a drizzle of olive oil is an amazing boost for your body’s detoxification process, so many minerals!
– Dandelion, mustard, kale and collard greens! Oh My! Pair these greens with a protein and complex carbohydrate for an extremely well balanced and nutritive meal……….
- Avoid….greasy, fried foods, fatty and oily foods, turkey and lamb, most dairy as in processed cheese and milk, nuts and nut butters, avocados, chips of all kinds, refined sugars, coffee, black teas, cocoa, colas, chocolate, recreational drugs and stimulants and alcohol.
It must be mentioned at this point in time that the source and quality standards set herein for animal proteins assume that:
- We are using Grass Fed Beef – ONLY
- Certified Organic, Free Range, Hormone & Antibiotic Free – Hens & Eggs
- If you eat pork or ham – this must be nitrate and nitrite free – eat LOCAL
- If you are eating dairy – it must be Certified Organic, Hormone & Antibiotic Free, Goat yogurt and cheeses are preferable (not to be combined with a sugar product – fresh fruit or processed)
The following applies to grains and legumes: whole foods only – unprocessed.
These are to be soaked for at least 10-12 hours in pure water, and for those who want more trace minerals ….. place a small piece of kelp (kombu) in the soaking water.
Please check the labels, make certain that your grains are certified organic and not GMO (genetically modified organisms)
Fruits – wait until the Summer or late Spring at best…..eat in moderation, eat what is in season. The exception are lemons.
Beets, especially black beets are high in assimilable iron, this food helps with anemia, constipation, heart health, liver toxicity as well as anxiety and restlessness. Roasted & sliced, or in a soup or taken with carrot juice.
Carrots – as a cooked vegetable. As a juice it is very detoxifying to the liver and blood, strengthens the eyes, lubricates the intestines, clears the skin and aids digestion. Fresh carrot juice is healing to the liver due to its high concentration of beta carotene and Vitamin A.
Celery Root – low glycemic substitute for potatoes
Celery Juice – cooling and deyoxifying, with being a mild diuretic that may help in reducing blood pressure and arthritic problems, can be combined with carrot juice.
Note: Juicing should never replace the consumption of the actual whole food, I have noted the 3 items above as they are not as dampening (Yin) to the body as would be fruits or juiced leafy greens. Drinking an 8-10 ounce glass a day of beet/carrot/celery juice is great way to gently detox your body in conjunction with consuming healthy whole food.
As you continue on this whole food and spring plant protocol you should:
- Lose weight naturally.
- In the beginning your energy may dip, this is natural as your body is experiencing “die off” of toxins, yeasts, fungi , etc. – using cayenne may be used to help overcome “low states” associated with detoxification. Cayenne is a natural stimulant…it is a great herb / spice to break up congestion. Use it as a spice with your food. Did you know that cayenne powder can be used externally to stop bleeding?
- Use Olive Oil as it aids with secretion of bile by contracting the gall bladder, it helps to soften and expel gallstones and is slightly laxative.
- Use Triphala, this Ayurvedic compound of three berries will encourage the internal cleansing and detoxification of the intestines.
- Drink plenty of fresh, pure water, at least 8-10 glasses a day (8 oz each)
- MOVE! At least 30 minutes a day walking, biking, qi gong, tai chi, yoga. Walking in nature is most preferred as GREEN is the color of the Wood Element.
- Meditate – be present in a quiet place, follow your breath and smile J
Here is an example of a Liver Flush Cleanse:
Mix a combination of 2 ounces each of the following:
Olive oil, lemon juice, water and garlic: blend together into one 8 ounce glass and drink every morning for 4 days a week to a week each time. Take a break in between.
This can also be accompanied with a coffee enema (use an organic brand or Folgers) taken every morning & evening with fluid retained for at least 20 minutes. – REGARDING THE ENEMAS: PLEASE CHECK WITH YOUR HEALTH PRACTITIONER OR DOCTOR TO SEE IF THIS IS OK FOR YOU TO DO BASED ON YOUR HEALTH STATUS.
Another good morning liver cleanse…. Is a fresh squeezed lemon in water with 1 or 2 teaspoons of olive oil and a couple of “00” sized capsules of cayenne pepper. This is followed with fennel seed tea.
The gift of herbal detoxification, the earth is our healer!
It is my firm contention and belief that one must eat an energetic diet in order to optimize the full energetics of herbal medicine. The herbs always enter into the
bio-pathways to enable the human body to heal to its greatest potential.
However, if we constantly bombard and overwhelm and do not attempt to provide ourselves with nutrient rich and wholesome nourishment, rest, fun, sleep and good relations…. It is an uphill job for our herbal allies.
Our herbal allies are ready for the task! Are You?
“I like to start my transition from winter to spring with drinking herbal tea infusions on a daily basis, with consuming 2-3 cups a day, along with making the dietary changes mentioned above. The first tea that I start with is Nettle Leaf & Red Clover Blossoms. A few weeks later…2-3 weeks , I drink decoctions made up of various roots throughout the day. During this time I may use tableted herbal formulas and triphala”
The herbs and plants that remove excess have cool, bitter or sour tastes and are classified as being detoxifying, antibiotic, alterative (blood purifying), purgative and diuretic.
Herbal Infusion Directions: Use 1-3 tablespoons of dried herbs to one cup of boiled water. OR use 4-8 tablespoons of dried herbs to one quart of boiled water. Place the dried herbs in a quart glass mason jar or into a coffee/French press, then pour a quart of just boiled water over the dried herbs. Stir gently, then let steep for a minimum of 20-30 minutes. I allow infusions to steep overnight…in the morning I press the plunger down on the coffee press, or squeeze the fluid through a cotton cloth or muslin. Store your infusion in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, reheat on the stove top and NEVER in the microwave!
Infusion recipes: Quart Yield
Nettle Leaf & Red Clover Blossoms:
Place 4 tablespoon of dried Nettle leaf along with 2 tablespoons of Red Clover Blossoms into an empty glass quart jar or coffee press.
Pour 1 quart of just boiled water over the dried herbs let steep minimum of 30 minutes or preferably overnight.
Press the plunger down (if using a coffee press) or sieve the fluid from the herbs using a clean thin cotton cloth or muslin. To warm up slowly heat on stove top. To store place infusion into the refrigerator. This will keep in the fridge up to 2 days maximum.
Gentle Detox Tea Blend – this is more of a decoction rather than an infusion due to the use of roots in this formulation.
This blend is comprised of using 1 part as 1 ounce as follows:
Using 2 parts EACH of Dandelion Root , Burdock Root, Oregon Grape Root & Blessed Thistle
Using 1.5 parts of Nettle Leaf
Using 1 part EACH of ; Yellow Dock Root, Red Clover Blossoms, Red Clover Leaf
Using ½ part of Licorice Root
Follow the directions for decoctions noted below.
Drink 3 cups daily for 3-6 weeks at a time.
Herbal Decoction Directions: Decoction is the method of choice when using roots, stem, and barks. Place herbs in a small sauce pan (glass or stainless steel). Cover with cold water, heat slowly, simmer covered for 20-45 minutes. The longer you simmer the stronger the decoction.
The most widely used herb in Western herbalism that assists the Liver is Dandelion Root – Taraxacum officinale……for some this may be the only herb they may ever need or use. It can be taken as a standard decoction, 10-30 drops of tincture, or the encapsulated standardized extract (please take as dosed on the bottle or as recommended to by a health practitioner).
Other western herbs that help clear heat in the body – or purify the blood are:
Red Clover Blossom & Leaf –Trifolium Pratense – Isoflavones, flavonoids, minerals.
Burdock Root – Arctium Lappa – skin diseases, blood purifier & tonic.
Yellow Dock Root – Rumex crispus – cholagogue, alterative, liver congestion (skin)
Sarsaparilla – Smilax medica – alterative, anti-inflammatory, diaphoretic & tonic
Sassafras – Sassafras albidum – alterative, good for arthritis, skin eruptions
Oregon Grape Root – Berberis aquifolium – aids also in blood sugar metabolism
Goldenseal Root – Hydrastis Canadensis – used for acute, hot infections (this is an endangered herb)
Echinacea Angustifolia – best herb for both blood and lymph purification
Pau d’arco – Tabebuia heptaphylla (inner bark of tree) – great digestive cleanser
Artichoke Leaf – Cynara scolymius cholagogue – cholesterol
Milk Thistle – Silybum marinum – best for clearing enviornmental toxin exposure – chronic liver cirrohsis
Diuretic herbs, (Control of Fluid Balance),
Astringent diuretics are useful for losing weight: uva ursi & cleavers.
Diuretic herbs: prince’s pine, buchu leaves, horsetail, cleavers, corn silk, uva ursi leaves and juniper berries
Sweating: Elder flowers
Purgatives: also known as laxatives – cascara sagrada, rhubarb root, used with bulk laxatives such as chia seed, flax seed, psyllium seed, along with soothing herbs such as licorice and slippery elm. Aloe vera is used for more advanced illnesses combined with poor elimination. Caution should be taken as laxatives should not be used on deficient individuals as they will deplete the persons energy too quickly – again consult a health practitioner when using laxatives. I prefer to use Triphala as it is harmonious to all 3 doshas (all constitutional body types).
You may take most of the herbs mentioned above as a simple.
However, personally and professionally I feel that taking them in a formulation that is geared to the individual is most beneficial. If you are new to using herbs, it is recommended that you seek the advice of a trained herbalist as dosing is very critical to therapeutic efficacy and the integrity of each individual’s life force.
Lymphatic Tea – Spring Tonic:
(using dried herbs with one part = 1 ounce by weight)
Red Root – ½ part
Red Clover Blossoms – 1 part
Echinacea Root – ½ part
Lemon Peel – 1 part
Ginger Root – ¼ part
Combine the above herbs. Use ½ cup of the above mixture to one quart water.
Place herbs in one quart glass mason jar of French/coffee press. Pour boiled water
over the herbs…… let steep overnight.
In the morning, stop the steeping process by pushing down the plunger (French press),
or sieve the fluid from the spent herbs through cotton or cheesecloth (mason jar).
Drink 3 cups of this tea a day for a 6 week period, you can take breaks by drinking the tea 5 days on, then 2 days off.
In TCM, or Traditional Chinese Medicine – Bupleurum or Chai Hu is the liver herb of choice and is usually used with several herbs in a formula called “Free & Easy Wanderer, also known as Rambling Powder” called Xiao Yao Wan. When there is increased blood stagnation (which presents more frequently with women) the formula
is called “Jia Wei Xiao Yao San” or Modified Free & Easy Wanderer.
I have found using the above formula in my practice sold by Planetary Herbals – Bupleurum Liver Cleanse excellent for releasing the stagnation in the Liver, thereby promoting detoxification with the client feeling more at ease.
Another wonderful herbal cleanser is Red Clover Cleanser by Planetary Herbals,
the herbs in this formula are: Honeysuckle flower, Echinacea purpurea and palida root extract, Yellow Dock Root, Siler Root, Coptis Rhizome, Sarsaparilla Root Extract, Red Clover Tops extract, Chinese Skullcap Root, American Ginseng Root,
Ginger & Licorice Root extract.
In closing… herbal medicine supports the body through a transitory period as in the topic of this workshop: when a person is looking to lose weight by cleansing their body. However, the use of herbal medicine should also be implemented as being preventative, in order for each individual to attain and preserve a vital life force.
This will allow us stability in order to keep calm through the stormy experience of life.
Herbs and all plant life are meant to be a part of our daily lives, incorporate them!
All suggestions regarding diet, nutritional supplementation and herb/compounds or preparations, remedies, flower essences purchased here or elsewhere are based upon the observations of Western (Herbal), Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine and are not intended to replace standard medical treatment or advice from licensed health care professionals.
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