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.
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 sugar, wheat and gluten, dairy, alcohol, and coffee, as well as anything artificial or refined (this actually includes agave, unfortunately).
You may also eliminate common allergens such as nightshades (tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, peppers), citrus, nuts, corn, soy, shellfish, spicy foods.
You may want to eliminate grains, or limit to brown or wild rice, and perhaps millet and psuedograins such as quinoa, 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.
Bone broths and vegetable broths are 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. See Sally Fallon's book Nourishing Broth for all kinds of information about the amazing qualities of bone broths! Three Stone Hearth also organizes broth cleanses from time to time, using bone broths, vegetable broths, and herbal broths (for example with turmeric).
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- as long as not sensitive to coconut), 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, PrescriptAssist, etc).
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, 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 (the taste associated with the Liver is sour), transform dampness and congestion in the body, and can be helpful with digestion, immunity, hormonal balance, headaches, aches and pains, etc! 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 with beneficial bacteria and can improve immunity), one to two times daily. Lemon can also be helpful.
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.