Now is the Perfect Time for a Cleanse
As we enter into spring with life exploding onto the scene, we naturally gravitate toward lighter fare and more physical activity after the heavier food and sluggishness of winter. We also may be considering a spring detox. In Traditional Chinese Medicine springtime is the season of the liver, which is a major detoxification organ along with the kidneys and intestines.
The liver is one of your hardest working organs and should be the focus of any detoxification effort. Impaired function of this important organ is becoming increasingly common due to environmental toxins, obesity, diets high in processed foods and saturated fats, viral infections, and autoimmune diseases. Symptoms that the liver isn’t functioning properly include: bloating and gas, constipation, moodiness, chronic fatigue, bruising easily, high blood pressure, the inability to lose weight and more.
Our kidneys and gut are under duress as well in this modern age. This is why it is crucial to make conscious food and lifestyle choices that support these organs as much as possible. Here are some of my favorite practices and herbal recommendations to do just that.
The Best Methods for Supporting Detoxification
Lemon water. Drinking a full 16-ounce glass of purified water with the juice of half a lemon first thing in the morning helps to cleanse the liver, hydrate your system, and flush away toxins that have accumulated from the previous day. Make sure to drink enough water throughout the day as well to support detoxification.
Get quality sleep. One of the most important factors for successful detoxification is getting enough deep sleep. It is during this time that the body focuses on removing dangerous toxins and toxic byproducts that have accumulated in the system — including those of the brain called beta-amyloid, which has been shown to increase your risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
If you find yourself struggling with poor sleep, have a look at my potent Sleep Blend Tincture formulation in the apothecary.
Eat potassium-rich foods. Focus on foods like tomatoes, sweet potatoes, spinach, bananas, and blackstrap molasses to help cleanse your liver. Dandelion is also a good source of potassium — more on this below. When you eat a diet with enough potassium, it also assists with balancing sodium levels so that you are not retaining excess water, thereby helping to successfully flush out toxins.
Limit intake of sugar and processed foods. Linked closely with many chronic diseases such as obesity, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, consuming high amounts of sugar and processed foods puts excessive strain on the liver and kidneys — your two most important detoxification organs. Instead, opt for a whole-food, high-fiber diet with plenty of organic fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Berries and leafy greens are especially helpful for detoxification.
Love your gut. The health of the gut is crucial for detoxification. The cells in the gut have a system in place for detoxifying and excreting toxins that protects your body from chemicals, heavy metals, and other harmful substances. When the gut is compromised, which often manifests as a leaky gut, these toxins can be reabsorbed into the system instead of excreted. To learn more about why the health of the gut is so important, see my post: “Why Healing a Leaky Gut Should be a Top Priority for Health; Plus: 6 Herbs for Leaky Gut”.
My Top Wild Food and Herbal Recommendations
A nutritional powerhouse, young dandelion leaves can be cooked or eaten raw. The roots can also be cooked and eaten or dried and roasted as a coffee substitute. The leaves and roots can be brewed as a bitter tea as well. For detoxification, dandelion cleanses the liver, gallbladder, and kidneys. It is a potent diuretic and blood purifier. Dandelion helps to replace potassium and other minerals when water and salts are flushed from the system. Rich in inulin, dandelion supports healthy gut flora as well. I like to do a 2-week liver cleanse with a combination of dandelion root and milk thistle seed tincture blend several times a year.
An excellent herb for detoxifying and supporting the liver, milk thistle helps to clear environmental toxins, chemotherapy, poisons, and drugs from the body. If you struggle with cirrhosis, fatty liver syndrome, jaundice, or hepatitis, milk thistle dramatically improves liver regeneration.
Milk Thistle Extract: Take 3/4 cup milk thistle seeds, 1 cup vodka or other alcohol, 80 proof or higher. Grind, crush or blend 3⁄4 cups of milk thistle seeds. Place the crushed seeds into a sterile pint-sized (500ml) jar with a tight-fitting lid. Pour 1 cup of vodka over the seed, more if needed to cover the seeds. Stir well to mix the ingredients. Cap the jar tightly and place it in a cool, dark place for 6 to 8 weeks, shaking the jar daily. Add more alcohol, if needed, to keep the seeds covered with liquid. Strain the mixture and reserve the liquid. Discard the seed. Store your extract tightly covered in a cool, dark place.
Due to its internal cleansing action, chickweed is a powerful herbal remedy for detoxification and purifying the blood. It also draws poisons out of the body in the case of tetanus or blood poisoning.
Chickweed Decoction: Use fresh chickweed whenever possible to make this herbal decoction. You need 1 cup freshly picked chickweed leaves and 1 pint (500 ml) of water. Bring the water to a boil and add the chickweed leaves. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the leaves for 15 minutes. Cool the decoction. The internal dose is 1 to 2 ounces (30 to 60ml).
Also known as red sorrel, narrow-leaved dock, spinach dock, sour weed, and field sorrel, this common backyard weed is an outstanding herb for detoxification. It exerts a strong diuretic and laxative effect. Freshly juiced sheep sorrel leaves are the most potent, although you can also use it as a tea or in powder form. It can be cooked like spinach or tossed into a salad as well.
A potent liver and gallbladder detoxifier, calendula is helpful for clearing up chronic skin problems like eczema and acne — especially when an internal calendula extract is used.
Calendula Extract: Take 1-pint (500ml) loosely packed calendula flowers and 1-pint (500ml) 80 proof vodka or other drinking alcohol of 80 proof or higher. Place the flowers in a pint (500ml) jar with a tight fitting lid. Fill the jar with alcohol so that the flowers are completely covered. Allow the extract to steep in a cool, dark place for 4 to 6 weeks. Shake daily. Strain out the flowers and store the extract tightly covered in a cool, dark place. Use within 3 years.
Helping to detoxify the entire body by cleansing the blood and lymph, cat’s claw is an exceptional herbal remedy for removing toxins, drugs, heavy metals, and chemicals. It also enhances the function of the kidneys, spleen, pancreas, and digestive system.
Dandelion. While generally considered safe, some people may be allergic to it. Do not take dandelion if you are allergic to plants from the same family, or similar plants such as ragweed, chrysanthemum, marigold, yarrow, or daisy. Do not take dandelion if you are pregnant and consult your doctor if nursing.Consult your doctor before taking if you are taking prescription medicines. Some people have reported dermatitis as a result of touching the plant or using the sap. Do not use dandelion if you are allergic.
Milk Thistle. Pregnant women should not use milk thistle. Women with estrogen-related conditions such as endometriosis, fibroids, and cancers of the ovaries, breast, or uterus should not use milk thistle. Do not use milk thistle if you are allergic to the Asteraceae/Compositae plant family.
Chickweed. Some people are allergic to chickweed. The herb is considered safe, but should not be used by nursing women or pregnant women without the approval from a healthcare professional.
Sheep Sorrel. Because of its high oxalate content, people with kidney stones, arthritis, or hyperacidity should not use sheep sorrel.
Calendula. Some people are allergic to calendula. Do not use it if you are allergic to marigold, ragweed, daisies, chrysanthemums, chamomile, echinacea and other plants in the Aster/Daisy family. If you are not sure, start with a small test patch on the skin and increase use gradually if you have no reactions. Do not use calendula internally if you are pregnant or breast-feeding, since safety is unknown. Do not take calendula internally if you are taking prescription medications without the advice of your doctor.
Cat’s Claw. Do not take cat’s claw if you are pregnant, nursing, or trying to get pregnant. Do not take it if you have an autoimmune disorder as it may cause a flare-up. Consult your health professional if you are taking blood thinners or any other prescription drugs as it interacts with some of them. Side effects can include nausea, diarrhea, and dizziness.