Maria Cook LAc, EAMP
Springtime is an important time for Liver health, as the liver is associated with Wood, the element of springtime, and the fresh bitter herbs so prevalent around this time are excellent for detoxifying the liver. Our body is designed to run on pure, unpolluted, unprocessed ingredients and so today, with all of the toxins that we are exposed to in our food and air, we need to pay special attention to cleansing. Illness can result from excess toxins- unusable materials on a physical, mental, and emotional level. The body has to work to eliminate residue from foods that are processed and low in nutritional value. Strong emotions that are not dealt with leave a toxic residue. Stress and a lack of balance and attention to our own needs, the result of our fast paced modern life, can result in a toxic load as well. Healing comes from cleaning out these toxins and then maintaining a balance of intake and output.
The key to optimum health is a diet of whole foods with lots of fruits and vegetables, chlorophyll, exercise, regular elimination, good rest, and the cultivation of a positive attitude.
In the spring, especially it is important to reduce excess, and to take in a fair amount of sour foods as well as plenty of green vegetables. Sour is purifying, bitter and pungent foods also. Avoid salty, heavy, sweet, and fatty foods. Fats, sugars, alcohol, coffee, chemicals, and dairy products exacerbate wood imbalances, giving temporary comfort at the expense of long term health.
Spring cleaning is iconic. And now we know that it is not just our house that needs attention, but our liver and body as well. The body needs to get rid of excess waste and disease, and the spring is a perfect time for a fast or cleanse. Take a rest from food and drink juices of fruits and vegetables and/or water for a few days, and you will love the results. With any fast, make sure to get informed guidance.
Some great resources include: Elson Haas, Staying Healthy with the Seasons; Kathy Abascal, The Abascal Way to Quiet Inflammation; Bernard Jensen has also written extensively on the subject; Dr Oz: http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/48-hour-weekend-cleanse
One proven program is called: Stanley Burrough's Master Cleanser:
2 T fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice
1-2 T 100% maple syrup
1/10 t cayenne pepper
8 OZ spring water
Drink liberally- 8-12 glasses throughout the day. (Keep in a glass container and rinse your mouth to clear the lemon and maple syrup)
Herbal bitters- Bitter medicines are beloved by herbalists. The bitter taste stimulates digestive processes, including the liver's production of bile. Bile, part digestive juice, part waste product, is made by the liver and excreted via the bowel. Herbal bitters are also known as Swedish Bitters.
Lemon juice- The juice of half a lemon in hot water, first thing in the morning is a time-honoured way to start the day, and is an excellent wake up call for the liver. The sourness of lemons triggers nerve and hormone activation to the liver and digestive system. Very helpful for those who suffer from sluggish bowels.
Chlorophyll, found in many greens is strong, true healing agent. It’s molecular form resembles hematin, which, when combined with proteins, forms hemoglobin, the carrier molecule for oxygen in the blood, which purifies, detoxifies, and rejuvenates. Chlorophyll works in plants to absorb energy from the sun, and water from the earth to make sugar, starch, and protein.
Locally grown and wildcrafted greens, full of chlorophyll, can assist in detoxification and health maintenance. Nettles are a wonderful plant and have amazing health benefits, with a long history of use as a medicine, as a food source and as a source of fiber.
Urtica dioica, often called common nettle or stinging nettle is the best-known member of the nettle genus Urtica Several subspecies have stinging hairs, which inject histamine and other chemicals, producing a stinging sensation on contact. They are easy to harvest, however, with gloves and scissors, just nipping off the top leaves before the plant flowers. Soaking stinging nettles in water or cooking them will remove the stinging chemicals from the plant, which allows them to be handled and eaten without concern. Just bring your bag full of goodness home from the forest and dump it in a sink full of water. Then use tongs to move it into a pan of boiling water to cook for 5 minutes. When cooked, Urtica dioica has a flavor that is somewhat nutty and rich, similar to spinach, and is packed with chlorophyll, vitamins and minerals.
Nettle has been used for centuries to treat allergy symptoms, particularly hayfever which is the most common allergy problem. It contains biologically active compounds that reduce inflammation. Dr. Andrew Wiel M.D. author of Natural Health/ Natural Medicine says he knows of nothing more effective than nettle for allergy relief. And his statement is backed up by studies at the National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland, Oregon.
Here is a recipe from Molly Watson, where nettles are made into an easy, super-nutritious, and delicious spring soup. http://localfoods.about.com/od/spring/r/NettleSoup.htm
Stinging Nettles Soup By Molly Watson
Like all soups, this one tastes best when made with homemade stock (but works just fine with store-bought broth or even plain old-fashioned water).
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
- 2 Tbsp. butter, divided
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 tsp. salt, plus more to taste
- 1/2 lb. stinging nettles
- 1 lb. potatoes, chopped
- 6 cups chicken or vegetable broth, or water
- 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/2 cup heavy cream (optional)
- Sour cream, yogurt, or Horseradish Cream (optional)
- In a large pot, melt 1 Tbsp. butter over medium-high heat. Add onion and 1 tsp. salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft, about 3 minutes.
- Add potatoes and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to maintain a steady simmer and cook 15 minutes.
- Add nettles and cook until very tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in remaining 1 Tbsp. butter, pepper, and nutmeg.
- Puree soup with an immersion blender or in a blender or food processer in batches. For a silken, less fibrous texture, run mixture through a food mill or sieve.
- Stir in cream, if using. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper, if you like.
- Serve hot, garnished with sour cream, yogurt, or Horseradish Cream, if you like.
Makes 4 to 6 servings
Wheatgrass juice is tonic and healing agent and is frequently used in cleansing programs. Rich in chlorophyll, vitamins and minerals, an ounce or two really potent drink. Grow the seeds of hard red wheat on flats indoors over good seeding or potting soil, spread one layer of wheat, soak with water and cover with a dark cloth or plastic. Leave for 2-3 days. When the roots reach into soil and the wheat begins to sprout, uncover the flat and keep it moist in a sunny window. Within in a few days, you’ll have a 3-6 inch rich green wheat grass, which you can use. You need a special grinder to extract the juice.
Dandelion is another wonderful spring healer. The greens are very nourishing and are high in Vitamin A. The root is great for kidney, liver and blood as a tonic and cleanser.
Peppermint is good to drink as tea during cleanses as it is a stimulant and freshens breath and body odor.