Spring Cleaning for Your Body

Spring is that time of year when most of us feel the need to throw open the windows, beat the rugs, roll up our sleeves and start scrubbing our living space. Out with the stale old stuff, in with the fresh new things, bringing with it the promise of new beginnings and fresh starts in life.

It should also be the time you think about cleaning up the inside of you, too. We've sat sedentary through the winter, enjoying perhaps a bit too much of those holiday nummies, gaining a bit of weight we didn't want and packing the garbage into our bodies that might have been eliminated by normal activity. But we prefer to be warm and dry in the winter, so we tend to lower our exercise levels and as a result our metabolisms lower and our toxins build.

Think back to when you were a child, in the spring, did your grandmother or great-grandmother pass out a tablespoon of castor oil or some exotic concoction she whipped up and kept in a glass bottle in the pantry? Did she feed you a salad of fresh or cooked greens from things she gathered in the woods and the fields? If so, she was doing what used to come quite naturally to humans — spring cleaning. We somehow got away from that as our society became faster paced, more focused on work and squeezing more out of our days than paying attention to our health. We started moving towards those miracle drugs and those junk foods and forgot those simple things in life that could improve our health and our energy levels.

So this article is about spring tonics — a cleansing for the body, soul, and mind. What better way to start off the season of gardening, lawn work, outdoor games, beach trips, and all those barbeques?

There are various things used to cleanse the body. Most often the liver is the target of a cleansing herbal regimen, since the liver is one of the most important organs in the body. It processes our hormones, contributes to good digestion, cleanses the body of toxins, and many other important duties. A good cleansing regimen, however, will also cleanse and support other vital organs, such as heart, kidneys, blood, and digestive system. And it will do wonderful things for your spirit!

You can start with a simple fast. Even if you don't take any herbs, or utilize any special foods, a fast can give the body a needed rest from the rigors of digestion, clear out toxins, and rebalance the systems. If you've never fasted before, don't try to do a marathon with it. Start off with fasting one day a week. No solid foods, plenty of fresh water, and if you can't get past the hungries, keep food intake to very easily digested items, such as broth or light vegetable soup. Many people choose a juice fast, ingesting only fruit and vegetable juices for several days instead of solid foods. Fasting works best if you can avoid food for one whole day, though. After that, you can try working your way up to two days of fasting. If you are a diabetic, a heart patient, or have special medical concerns, you'll want to speak to your health care professional before attempting to fast, to avoid creating problems with your medications.

Many people fast for a day, then utilize fresh wild greens from various medicinal herbs to cleanse the body. Popular greens include dandelion, chickweed, sorrel, and nettle. If you gather these yourself, please be sure that you gather them from an area that is free of chemical sprays, and away from highway and factory pollution. Some people also include with those greens some roots of popular medicinal herbs, such as dandelion root, burdock root, and sassafras root. Many of these roots are used as vegetables around the world, so enjoy them as you would any other root vegetable.

Herbal tonics are a popular way to cleanse. Often used along with a fast, there are as many herbal tonic recipes as there are people who make them up. It's often a matter of taste and a matter of what is available in your local area. Most commonly used herbs for spring tonics include the above mentioned items, as well as yellow dock, sarsaparilla, licorice root, chicory root, ginger root, and others depending on where you live and what your specific body may need.

One of the best ways to enjoy a spring tonic is to brew a simple tea, combining some of your favorites from the above. Combine equal parts of the dried herb, and store in a dark glass container away from heat and light. Use two teaspoons per cup of tea, pour very hot water over, allow to steep 15 to 20 minutes, strain, and drink. You can add honey to taste if you would like, just steer clear of using white sugar to sweeten your herbal beverages. Refined sugar is just empty calories, is really not needed by our bodies, and can alter the activities of some of the healing herbs. The idea here is to clean and support the body, not add back in things that we really don't need. Drink one to three cups of the tea you choose per day, usually for one full week, two if you have had a recent illness.

For those busy people on the go, you can always combine the tinctures of several of the cleansing herbs, and then take a couple of dropperfuls two to three times per day. You can also combine the dried powdered herbs into capsules and take those. However, the tea and tincture forms often work best for cleansing, or in tandem with powdered herbs. If you want to do a thorough job, you can combine the teas and capsules. If you are unsure of what will do the best job for your specific body, contact a qualified naturopathic doctor or master herbalist for what matches up with you best.

This is also a good time to think about cleaning the outside of you very well. A good loofah sponge and a good long soak in a hot herbal bath will help the skin release the toxins that are being stirred around by the cleansing actions of the herbs. Our skin is our largest organ, and needs to be treated with care as well. Try a soak with lavender oil, eucalyptus oil, and/or peppermint oil to get your energy levels up and your skin cleansed. Give yourself a healthy soak every day through your cleanse. This would also be a good time to visit a masseuse (or enlist the aid of your spouse or partner) for a good massage to help move things around and stimulate your blood flow.

Here is one of my favorite all-around cleansing tonic teas:

  • ½ cup dried Alfalfa leaf
  • ¼ cup dried Red Clover blossoms
  • ¼ cup dried Peppermint leaves
  • ¼ cup dried Sage leaf
  • ¼ cup dried Cleavers
  • ¼ cup dried Nettle leaf
  • ¼ cup dried crushed Rose hips

A capsule regimen that I like for cleansing:

  • 2 capsules of Milk Thistle
  • 2 capsules of Dandelion Root
  • 2 capsules of Turmeric
  • 2 capsules of Yellow Dock
  • 2 capsules of Burdock
  • 2 capsules of Nettle
  • 1 capsule of Kelp

These are taken twice per day for one full week.

Bear in mind that the above is a general suggestion only, for maximum effectiveness you should have a regimen that is matched to your specific individual body and its needs. Seek the guidance of a trained certified professional if you do not have the training yourself to do this.

A favorite wild greens recipe:
Stir Fried Greens and Roots
Wash and chop fresh young dandelion roots, dandelion leaves, sheep sorrel leaves, and/or burdock root; together these should be about one pound. Sauté one cup of sliced red onion and one cup of fresh sliced mushrooms (portabellas and shiitakes are nice!) in three to four tablespoons of olive oil just until soft. Add five cloves of fresh minced garlic and the roots. Cover and cook five to ten minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the greens and cook an additional five minutes. Remove from heat, add one tablespoon dark sesame oil and three tablespoons tamari or a teriyaki sauce. Stir and serve, preferably on a bed of fresh brown rice.

This would also be a very good time to review your typical daily diet. If you've fallen too far into the fast food/junk food trap, now would be the time to reverse that trend. It's easier to make changes when you're cleaning, so make a list of what you would like to change, and implement those changes.

So, while you are cleaning the house and doing those ritual spiritual cleansings, or working on those fertility spells, don't forget the most important aspect — you and your body. Bring the whole family into the cleansing, so that all will benefit. Spring tonics are good for the soul!

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