Cleansing and detoxification are primary focuses of Ayurveda. Much of the practice of routine (dinacharya) individually tailored to each dosha, is rooted in principals that prevent the accumulation of toxins. But, no matter how clean a life we live we are inevitably exposed to toxins from the food we eat, the air we breath, some (although hopefully not all) of the conversations we have… you get the idea. Even normal, healthy cellular metabolism produces waste byproducts that the body has to eliminate. Our liver, kidneys, bowel, lungs and skin are our primary eliminatory organs. Caring for these organs offers the body support in its everyday task of processing and eliminating all types of toxins.
Spring is a natural time to detox. It is warmer and we start moving around more, spending more time outside, doing more projects and perhaps even being more social. This gets us out and about and moving, and as we move out of winter’s more sedentary habits, we stir up toxins. So in spring, gentle herbal remedies to support the organs of elimination are a must, they literally set the stage for an entire year of good health to come. Luckily, nature provides us with all the tools we need to practice healthy spring cleansing according to the wise teachings of Ayurveda. Let’s look at a few early spring herbs from the western materia medica that can offer excellent support to our eliminatory organs during the spring transition.
Everyday Spring Cleansing Herbs
1. Nettle leaf, Urtica dioica
Nettle, commonly called stinging nettle, is a powerfully nourishing, mineral rich tonic and a regenerative tonic for the kidneys and adrenals. Nettle increases ojas (the nectar of life!) and is an excellent choice for those who are run down for any number of reasons including work, stress, illness or poor nutrition. A mild diuretic, nettle improves kidney function and helps the kidneys remove ama (toxins) from the body via the kidneys and bowels. Nettle is a particularly good spring detox choice for those who suffer from seasonal allergies or have menstrual difficulties, but it can benefit anyone. To support spring cleansing, drink 2 – 3 cups of tea a day for 1 – 3 months, longer if you love it!
Do not take nettle if you take prescription diuretics, blood pressure medications or anticoagulants. Use caution with hypoglycaemic medications.
2. Cleavers, Galium aparine
Cleavers is often one of the first plants to pop up after a long winter or after spring rains. It loves cool, moist environments and should be harvested in early spring when it is most potent and when our bodies most need it. Cleavers is an excellent spring cleansing plant for the lymphatic system, helping to clear ama from the blood, lymph and tissues. Cleavers offers great benefit to the skin, clearing up skin issues such as acne, boils, eczema, psoriasis and rosacea. Because of its support to the lymphatic system, cleavers also supports the specific immune response and can be useful in preventing and treating common ailments, including colds, flu, fever and glandular congestion. Cleavers supports digestion and can help reduce systemic inflammation. Cleavers is also very rich in vitamins and minerals, rejuvenating to the body after a long winter eating what has been stored.
Cleavers is best for detoxification when used fresh. Make fresh plant juice or make fresh plant cleavers tincture or purchase fresh plant cleavers tincture. Take 30 – 45 drops of tincture, 2 – 3 x/day for 1 – 3 months as a spring cleansing practice.
3. Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale
Dandelion is an excellent tonic for the liver, helping to promote liver function and detoxification. It is excellent for the digestive system, particularly for acid reflux, indigestion and difficulty digesting fats. Dandelion helps relieve the body of heat, such as inflammation, caused by the accumulation of ama. It is also good for skin issues and can be supportive in loosing weight, regulating metabolism and balancing blood sugar levels.
Both the leaf and root are used for medicine. The leaf is bitter, cleansing, mineral rich and a mild diuretic. It is particularly good for blood cleansing and for digestion. The root is excellent for the liver; helping to improve function, balance the metabolism and blood sugar. As a spring tonic, 1 cup of dandelion leaf or root tea (or both mixed together!), 2 – 3 x/day for 1 – 3 months. Or, if you do not like the bitter taste of dandelion in tea, you can take the tincture, 30 – 45 drops in a sip of water, 2 – 3 x/day for 1 – 3 months.
Avoid using dandelion leaf with diuretics or other medications for high blood pressure.
4. Violet leaf and flower, Viola odorata
Yes, this is that sweet little heart shaped leaf with the beautiful little purple and white flower that you find in your yard! Like dandelion, cleavers and nettle, this plant is a weed – another one of Mother Nature’s powerful gifts – here for us in the spring, right when we need it! Violet leaf and flower are cooling, soothing and anti-inflammatory. Excellent for lymphatic congestion, swollen glands and constipation, violet helps relieve ama from the fluids of the body. It is excellent for the respiratory system and is good for spring coughs and colds, or for people who have asthma or other chronic lung related issues.
I like to pick violet leaves and flowers fresh from the yard and make a tea. Drying the leaves first or buying them dried already, will make a more mineral rich, equally as detoxifying drink. Drink 2 – 3 cups of tea a day for 1 – 3 months as a spring tonic. You can also take the tincture, 30 – 45 drops, 2 – 3 x/day for 1 – 3 months.
Featured Photo: Jason Long, Unsplash.com