Herbs to support your spring cleanse
What is detoxing or cleansing and should it be done in the spring? Thanks, Jen, Lewes, DE
“Detoxing” seems all the rage and quite avant garde--yet, the truth is, the concept has been around for millennia. In ancient times, when people ate “with the seasons”, by winter’s end, those who were lucky, were eating only cured meats and possibly fermented drinks such as beer or hard cider. Clearly there were no “spring greens” in the winter so people felt sluggish and looked forward to eating from the earth again.
The good news is that there is no need to spend a lot of money on fancy detox programs, just start by eating greens fresh from the earth: dandelion leaves and roots, burdock roots, and nettles (leaf and roots) are just a handful of plants that come to mind. And, although not spring vegetables, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and kale, and fibrous vegetables like jicama and sunchokes are excellent for helping to clear the liver and large intestines.
Another important part of any cleanse or detox is to make sure you perspire in order to release toxins from the skin: saunas and workouts are great for this. Of course, a natural and easy addition to any detox or cleanse is the use of herbal teas.
Making herbal teas from dried herbs is a great way to help your body release toxins and give it support. Here are some more great herbs to consider if you want to make your own herbal tea. Unless noted, it’s best to gently boil the root teas for about 15-20 minutes (covered).
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 (1). Native Americans also used the root as an aid for heartburn and as a liver tonic; and Michael Tierra, a prominent herbalist, says that dandelion root is one of the best herbs for hepatitis and breast cancer (1,3).
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 (2,3). This is because of its cleansing properties. It’s a pleasant tasting herb and 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 seed is considered protective to the liver and in fact, it has shown to accelerate the regeneration of liver cells after liver damage (4). It is also has anti-inflammatory properties. Many cultures grind up the seeds and add them to their daily meal much like we add salt and pepper.
In addition to the above herbs, which support the liver, kidney-supporting herbs are also important. Why not consider these herbs in your cleansing program?
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). (1) It was also used for chronic skin disease, dropsy and even uterine obstruction. (2)
Horsetail -aerial parts (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. (2) 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 but it can be steeped as well.
Goldenrod-aerial parts (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, helping to cleanse the kidneys and bladder. (2) 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 liver cleanse tea*
Using 3 cups of water add:
1 teaspoon of dandelion root
1 teaspoon of sarsaparilla root
Gently boil the above herbs for 15 minutes (keeping the lid on), then, in a tea pot, pour this hot tea over the following herbs, cover and let sit for 10 minutes.
1 teaspoon of dandelion leaf
1 teaspoon of goldenrod
1 teaspoon horsetail
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!
Jayne Tamburello, is founder of Invibe Herbal. "Take the Invibe Herbal test and see what herbs might be right for you at Invibe Herbal."
*all these herbs can be found in dried form at Mountain Rose Herbs.
Essential Book of Herbal Medicine (Mills)
A Clinical Guide to Blending Liquid Herbs (Bone)
Planetary Herbology (Tierra)
Herbs and Natural Supplements: An Evidenced Based Guide (Braun, Cohen)