Theme: Spring Cleansing & Self Care –
Last week we heard from local Naturopath Kristy Plunkett about the importance of regularly – if not, constantly – prioritising lifestyle actions which support the body’s detoxification processes.
This week we’re building on that idea by exploring the concept of spring greens as a seasonal cleansing strategy.
I’ve always been an avid ‘cleanser’ and particularly love the yearly tradition of spring cleansing, which focuses on restoring vitality and coaxing our bodies back into balance after Winter.
I’m not a huge fan of regimented, harsh detoxes, however if you have your heart set on trying something a bit more radical, this is the only time of year I’d recommend it – our bodies are ready and equipped to cope with a bit of a reset.
When it comes to ‘detoxing’ we’re spoilt for choice with protocols to choose from – and, in the online world, there seems to be a widespread mentality of ‘no pain no gain’, with some pretty extreme options on offer.
Even though the initial results might be well-received, (who’s going to complain about clearer skin and swift weight loss?), the more radical approaches can be harsh on the body, ultimately leading to depletion.
Quite counterproductive, in the scheme of things … we don’t need to undertake drastic measures to purge our systems.
In fact, it can be extremely simple, gentle and delicious!
A Spring Tonic
Spring cleansing has traditionally centred around the consumption of wild herbs that emerge early during the season.
These plants, known as ‘Spring tonics’ help to support and nurture our detoxification pathways, helping us to feel restored and renewed, without the deprivation that comes with strict protocols.
It’s hard not to marvel at the way nature provides so much of what we need, exactly when we need it – vitamin C-rich citrus fruits on tap in the middle of flu-season; stinging nettles growing conveniently near dock leaf, a miracle salve for stings; and wild cleansing herbs that pop up precisely when we’re craving a clean sweep.
Each spring, an abundance of incredibly detoxifying and mineral-rich greens flourish all around us, vibrant with life force energy.
They can help to support the liver and kidneys in flushing waste from the body and simply incorporating them into meals is often all we need for a rejuvenated sense of health.
The good news is that quite a few of these Spring tonics can be found growing nearby.
Which herbs are best?
Now firstly let me say that herbs, whilst generally considered safe, are also an extremely sophisticated medicine.
Unlike drugs, which generally have a single mode of action, herbs have many constituents that act more like an orchestra – numerous modes of action, that take many years to learn and understand.
Herbalism is a beautifully subtle yet powerful modality and to get the full benefits and avoid any complications or interactions, I strongly encourage seeing someone trained in this area – either a Naturopath or Herbalist.
That said, there are a few herbs that are generally considered safe for healthy adults and are readily available to us at this time of year.
A refreshing and delicious wild spring green, nettle is considered the mother of all spring tonics.
It is one of the most nutrient dense plants known and the most concentrated edible source of both chlorophyll and iron.
It’s also an exceptionally great source of calcium, magnesium, silica and potassium.
Nettle is one of the most cleansing and blood building herbs known, with a long list of benefits, especially for skin, hair, nails and joints thanks to its rich mineral content.
Harvest them with a pair of scissors and tongs or use rubber gloves if you’re feeling cautious.
It’s best to take only the young tips as they’re the least fibrous and most flavourful.
Alternatively, you can purchase freshly picked nettles from local girls, ‘Nurtured Earth’.
It goes without saying that nettles come with their own rather obvious impediment, however the sting can be overcome by cooking, blending or dehydrating.
Although dandelion is often disregarded as a pesky weed, both the root and greens are packed with therapeutic benefits and have a long history of use in traditional medicine as a digestive aid and liver tonic among other things.
The yellow flower petals can also be consumed.
Beware, dandelion greens have a fairly bitter flavour, which is less pronounced in young leaves and even more so when they’re cooked.
Both the leaves and flowers of the common blue violet are edible and medicinal, with the flavour reminiscent of baby spinach and watercress.
The leaves contain soluble fibre, which is supportive of gut health and are also high in vitamin C and rutin – a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.
When it comes to eating violet, both the leaves and flowers are edible, but the roots are not, so remove them prior to cooking.
Ideas for how to include them
It’s a common misconception that greens should be eaten raw for maximum benefit.
Whilst it’s true that greens in their raw state are a rich source of vitamin C and enzymes, cooked greens have significantly higher antioxidant levels.
For best results, I always suggest a combination of both raw and cooked.
The leaves of all three aforementioned herbs can be prepared and cooked in much the same way.
Another option is to simply harvest the leaves or flower petals, give them a rinse and steep for at least 15 minutes in boiling water and strain.
I like to leave them in the water overnight, straining the next day to enjoy as a nourishing cold tonic.
Or, for the more adventurous, you can try my green smoothie recipe – 1 banana, 1 lebanese cucumber, a spoonful of coconut cream or yoghurt, half an avocado, half a lime or lemon, a tiny pinch of salt, ice and a handful of greens.
And finally, you can also try a pesto (best to do 50/50 with basil) – saute the greens with garlic and add them to soups in place of any other leafy green … or simply chop them into your salads.