he poplar trees are blooming, the first trees in spring in Vermont to begin to leaf out. In more milder climates the magnolias are blooming and the cherry trees are strutting their stuff. Here in Vermont we are bringing up the rear for the arrival of spring, but there are sure members of the plant family that have gotten their jump start on the others.
The precocious coltsfoot flowers are blooming on the roadsides and other gravelly places. They look like miniature dandelions, except that the flowers bloom before the leaves and the stems are segmented. The leaves come later with a scalloped edge that resembles a horses hoof - thus the name. This herb is great for lung congestion and colds, many of which appear with the fluctuation in the weather in springtime.
Dandelions, not to be outdone, are putting forth their scissor edged leaves; and now is the best time to begin to pick the smaller leaves to throw into salads and steam for greens for a mild bitter addition. The bitter substances are great to support the liver and digestive system after a long winter of heavier, heat producing foods and help clear the liver, gallbladder and bowels of internal food "debris". In herbalism we have a saying, "liver loves bitter". The bitter sensory nerves on the tongue send a message directly to the liver to prepare digestive enzymes for breaking down food as it travels through the digestive tract. So you see, every flavor type, sweet, salty, bitter, sour has a purpose.
Interesting that the foods we need this time of the year, can be found growing close by if not in your own backyard. Perhaps our Creator has a plan.
At the same time, spring is a good time to not only sweep away winter cobwebs; but is THE perfect time to physically cleanse the body and jump start good support for the immune system as you switch from winter foods to summer foods. Some folks make this habit a regular practice in spring and in fall, especially in changing seasons like ours. It helps keep digestive 'debris' at a minimum, improves immunity & energy, creates new cell production, and is an internal 'cleansing' process
There a numerous herbs, supplements and foods that help.
The simplest cleanse is a liver cleanse with olive oil & lemon juice. Cleansing the liver works on a number of bodily functions because the liver is the filter for blood as well as the producer and distributer of a number of important substances that all need to be in balance to keep the body working efficiently. It's extremely important to support this organ for good immune function. The liver balances blood sugar, removes toxins from the blood, creates good and bad cholesterol, helps balance reproductive hormones, breaks down and stores fat, triggers the gallbladder to produce bile for digestion, and works with the kidneys to balance blood pressure just to name a few.
An olive oil/lemon juice fast is often combined with a 3-Day fast to 'scrub' the inside layer of the large bowel of all food debris, clear liver ducts of similar waste and give the digestive track a rest from the daily work of transporting, breaking down and absorbing food. It also creates an alkaline environment in your digestive track so that your gut flora can rejuvenate too. To do this fast drink 8 oz of good water when you wake up; then take half an organic lemon and 2 Tbsp of olive oil in a glass, whip them with a wisk and then drink. (the lemon cuts the olive oil and vice versa. If the sour is too much, you can always dilute with a little water.) Wait an hour and drink a liver cleanse tea (Yogi brand makes a good one but there are others) These teas will contain the bitter herbs like dandelion, yellow dock, and burdock which stimulate the liver, combined with cinnamon and other spices that soften the flavor. Enjoy a water or liquid diet fast for the rest of the day and repeat for the next day. On day 3, do the same in the morning and eat a small meal of steamed, organic vegetables at dinner time. On day 4 you may return to your regular eating habits but eat really good food, easily digestable and not too heavy. During the fasting time, you may see changes in your stools, as debris is eliminated. This is perfectly normal. You should also notice some return of energy.
A bowel cleanse is another type of similar cleanse to eliminate debris from the bowels. The bowels are the source of the Vitamin Bs that your body will make. These vitamins are the immune boosting and metabolic vitamins that are exchanged as the liver removes waste and takes in Vitamin Bs from the large bowel. If the walls of the bowel are 'caked' with debris over time, those vitamins cannot be made OR they cannot be absorbed. When this happens the body begins to show signs of sickness associated with lack of Vitamin B and a supplement of B vitamins may be necessary. There are a number of bowel or colon cleanses on the market as well as other natural foods like apple cider vinegar and honey, saline salt flush (find at draxe.com), as well as a smoothie drink (find at liveenergized.com). There are also herbal capsules and formulas but do your research and avoid extremely irritating ingredients like senna and psylium. Some of these ingredients can be found in over the counter commercial bowel control products which in the long term are not good for you. If you need to use one daily, you should get to the bottom of the problem. Some better brands of herbal supplements would be draxe.com, Garden of Life, Dr. Schultz, Nature Wise and Christopher's.
Fasting and bowel cleansing are the most common seasonal fasts, but depending on your own personal health and what your goals are, there are others. You can target any part of your body if you know the right nutritional protocol to use; but before you detox any other part of the body, make sure the bowels are functioning well first, so that eliminating the toxins goes out smoothly. If not the toxins can reabsorb and be distributed back into your body. Draxe.com has a good overview of the kinds of fasts like, kidney, parasites, lungs, brain, etc. that you can do. Though you may not use their products or protocol, it is a good place to start gaining information.
Last but not least, I wanted to mention Intermittent Fasting. This is more a type of eating habit than a fast depending on how you incorporate it into your lifestyle. Some folks do make this a part of their lifestyle and eat this way daily. Others use this as a seasonal or periodic habit; again, to clean and rejuvenate.
As the word intermittent infers, this is not a total elimination fast. It is more an elimination of time, creating a smaller window each day for eating. Normal window of eating can go anywhere from 7 am to 7 pm - 12 hours. The intermittent fasting window narrows that down to 6 to 8 hours per day with a 16 hour extended fast between dinner the night before and breakfast the next day. That amount of fasting time will cause your body to go into "autophagy", which is the process of your body 'looking' for food and using up the defective protein molecules and stored fat for fuel. In so doing it uses what is available from defective cells and eliminates the rest in the waste stream. This triggers the body to create new cells to replace them - autophagy. This takes care of the threat from defective cells to produce tumors, sickness and other immune issues; and is a natural process of any type of fasting, like 3 or more days of continual fasting. This type of 'cleanout' creates energy, while physically strengthening the immune system at the cellular level. Over an extended period of time, it can also help you lose weight in a slower, more healthy way. For the best understanding of intermittent fasting and how to go about it, see Naomi Whitel's book Glow 15.
It's springtime, season change. While we're cleaning out our flower beds of weeds and enjoying the warmer weather, make sure to leave time to do our body clean out. Whether you use herbals, food, fasting or a combination; taking time for stewarding our bodies, will give us energy and health to steward those things that are important to us and our families.
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Over 40 years of Herbal and nutritional experience.