When Spring Cleaning your home, it’s best to go back to basics: vinegar and baking soda will remove most grime effectively, without polluting your environment with unnecessary chemicals. The same is true for Spring Cleaning your body, (although we wouldn’t advocate baking soda here) there is essential wisdom in going back to basics and using the purest and simplest methods available.
Historically, Spring Cleanses were done with herbal tonics. These were seen as a chance to support the cleansing and detoxifying organs of the body, improve the elimination of wastes and enhance vitality. The detoxification organs of the body are the liver, kidneys, digestive system, lungs and skin. Increasingly the focus of modern detoxification support has been the liver, and with good reason: improving the function of the liver supports the rest of the body as well.
Our hard-working livers filter all of the blood in our bodies, removing bacteria, immune complexes, and toxins from both inside the body and out. When the liver is working smoothly and efficiently, 99% of unwanted materials are removed from the blood before it is directed back into the rest of the body. The liver also makes bile, a substance which helps with removal of these unwanted materials. Bile is secreted into the digestive system and removed from the body via the bowel. The liver also un-packages toxins and chemicals and re-packages them for excretion. All of these functions can become compromised by an environment and diet full of extra synthetic chemicals, low fibre diets, too much alcohol, heavy metals, nutrient deficiencies, and more. When the liver gets sluggish, all manner of ill-health can develop.
Herbal medicine excels at enhancing detoxification and supporting the liver to not only do its job well but to regenerate while its doing so. The shining stars of the herbal dispensary when it comes to liver support are:
Milk Thistle, also known as St Mary’s Thistle, is perhaps the most well-researched herb for improving liver function. The seed contains a group of compounds known as silymarin, which prevent damage to the liver while also improving its capacity to perform it detoxification role. Silymarin acts as an antioxidant in the liver and also stops the depletion of one of the main detoxification compounds, glutathione.
Globe Artichoke leaves are prized for their ability to protect the liver, restore and regenerate liver cells, improve bile flow and reduce cholesterol. This magnificent herb also helps to reduce nausea and improve kidney function. Traditionally, it was even used internally as a deodorant!
Dandelion Root. Ah the humble, tenacious dandelion. Have you ever tried to dig up a dandelion from your garden? Even a novice gardener will know that dandelion roots are among the deepest and strongest you’ll find in any plant. Dandelion may be a common weed, but it is strong! Strong and powerful, and an excellent tonic for the liver. While the leaves have more of an affinity with the kidneys, the root supports liver function while also gently enhancing bowel clearance.
Licorice is not simply a delicious sweet, but a herb with many applications in the body, including the ability to reduce inflammation and protect and support the liver. Licorice is antioxidant, protects tissues and also supports the lungs, stomach and adrenal glands. Is there anything it doesn’t do? It even tastes divine, which is handy because usually liver herbs are incredibly bitter!
Other tips for improving detoxification:
- Increase your water consumption; aim for 2L daily to support the kidneys.
- Avoid stimulants, refined sugars and flours, trans-fats, artificial preservatives and additives.
- Avoid processed and cured meats.
- Reduce alcohol consumption.
- Avoid cigarette smoking.
- Increase your vegetable intake, aim for a good 6 cups a day.
- Epsom salt baths can help with supporting the cleansing capacity of the skin.
- Dry skin brushing or skipping or rebounding can help with lymphatic detoxification.
- If you have a sluggish bowel, consume extra fibre (eg. psyllium, chia, ground linseeds, slippery elm) to keep things regular and help remove from the body what the liver is getting rid of in the bile.
- Swap caffeinated drinks for herbal teas such as rosemary, dandelion, or nettle.
Now, back to what we said earlier about avoiding unwanted chemicals when you’re Spring Cleaning, whether its your home or your body. It is important to choose certified organic herbs to support your detox, otherwise you are simply adding a burden (of pesticides, herbicides etc) to the very organ you are trying to support! The same is true of using supplements that have tabletting agents, fillers, flowing agents, or artificial preservatives. High quality organic herbal tonics are the simplest and purest way to get targeted liver support.
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Where herbs do you find best for your spring detox?