Yes! The blossoms are abundantly flourishing, the wind is blowing, the trees are getting new green leaves-- it is Spring! At least, on the Chinese calendar (equinox will be the midpoint), and it does seem appropriate for our climate as well. We've passed a cross-quarters point, halfway between winter solstice and spring equinox, and it’s a powerful time for beginnings, a quickening that heralds movement, vision beginning to manifest.
Spring is the season relating to the Liver, the Wood element. The wind blowing through the trees, the new plants growing, the trees replenishing their leaves. To review more about the Liver and Spring, I really encourage you to read the other blogs about the Liver and Wood element, easily found in the blog archives toward the bottom, if you haven’t read them.
Great, I’m glad you reviewed, because those blogs are still so essential for understanding Liver and Spring, and this blog is actually going to focus on cleansing. Not surprisingly, given that it’s the season of the Liver, people often begin to think about doing some kind of a cleanse in the Spring, like spring cleaning for our bodies, and many people ask me what I think about this, so here it is.... I think cleansing is a wonderful idea, but-- unfortunately some of the ways people “cleanse” actually greatly disrupt the balance in the body, and can be depleting rather than strengthening.
If doing a cleanse sounds inviting, I strongly recommend a cleanse that actually nourishes, harmonizes, and balances your body. This means eating food, but not all food, and complementing the food with cleansing, nourishing, balancing herbs.
Here are my general recommendations for a healthy spring cleanse:
Eliminate all wheat and gluten, dairy, sugar, alcohol, and coffee, as well as anything artificial or refined (this actually includes agave, unfortunately).
Also eliminate common allergens such as nightshades (tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, peppers), citrus, nuts, corn, soy, shellfish, spicy foods.
Grains should probably be eliminated or limited to brown rice, quinoa, millet, buckwheat, amaranth. All of these should be soaked and cooked for long periods of time if possible (see the Weston Price website for more info on how to do this, or Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig.) Another option is to take a break from all grains for the time being-- some people experience subtle disharmonies from any grains.
Focus on cooked dark greens, small amounts of pastured meat (slow-cooked such as stewed or braised is easiest to absorb), pastured eggs, wild small fish, unrefined coconut oil (very nutritive and rebalancing, antimicrobial, boosts immunity, benefits metabolism), root vegetables except potatoes. If eating legumes, nuts, or grains, they should be soaked/cooked for long times or sprouted/fermented before cooking, so as to be more easily digested. Incorporate probiotic foods such as raw cultured sauerkraut and miso soup, twice a day or more, to repopulate the gut with friendly bacteria (and/or take a probiotic supplement such as Biokult). Bone broths and vegetable broths are also incredibly nourishing and provide precious minerals; during a cleanse it is a good idea to drink a few cups of bone broth daily, to help heal the digestive system.
Vegetables can be eaten liberally, but should be cooked, even if lightly steamed or thrown into broth at the last moment. The exception is fermented vegetables, and also some body types may be fine with some raw vegetables or juiced vegetables-- feel free to ask me if you are not sure. All foods and drink should be warm or at room temperature whenever possible.
Also include, in tea or food: nettles, alfalfa, dandelion, red clover-- these are cleansing as well as nourishing for the Liver and the blood, and also help balance the digestive system. Also helping on the cleansing end are parsley, cilantro, and celery. Milk thistle can be taken in a tincture to nourish and cleanse the Liver. Other herbs to incorporate could include chickweed, yellow dock, burdock, rose, and jasmine. When the weather is cold, or if you tend to run cold, make sure to include fresh ginger frequently, and other warming digestive spices like cumin, turmeric, oregano, etc.
This is the perfect time to include apple cider vinegar, which also helps soothe the Liver, transform dampness and congestion in the body, alkanalize the whole body, and improve digestion. Take 1 Tablespoon unpasteurized apple cider vinegar in hot (but not boiling-- comfortable to the touch) water, with 1 tsp to 1 Tbs raw honey (also helps repopulate the gut and can improve immunity), one to two times daily.
As you know (from reading the other Liver blogs), the Liver is responsible for smooth flow of qi in the entire body. It relates to the eyes, to vision, to our direction, and is the element of wood. Like a tree, it needs both nourishment and release to thrive. While cleansing, this is a great time to reevaluate and revision our general approach to eating and to our bodies. What do we eat that truly nourishes and benefits? How do we want to be nurturing ourselves, growing, and thriving? How do we cleanse our bodies and minds? Do we have space in our lives for meditation, qi gong, nature, baths, other nourishing and cleansing rituals?
Sending you blessings for a time of clean space and visioning, however cleansing plays out in your life (whether this way or not)... and wild abundant soul blossoming this Spring.