Get a little help from herbs
Spring is a natural time to detox, with cleansing herbal teas, infusions, decoctions, and tinctures.
Spring, a time of renewal, is a natural time to do herbal detoxification. Though the body naturally detoxifies itself, with a few herbal allies and subtle diet changes, we can help aid the process. Herbs, water, exercise, and a clean diet can support the body, giving it energy to spring into a new season.
Burdock (Arctium lappa)
Antioxidant-rich burdock root is a prized blood cleanser when prepared as a decoction or taken as a tincture. Because of this and its antibacterial properties it has been used traditionally to treat skin ailments including eczema, psoriasis, and acne.
How to take it: Burdock root can be wild harvested or bought at health food stores or in the grocery store produce section under its Japanese name, gobo, and can be added to soup to create a unique cleansing meal.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
Herbalists have used dandelion as medicine since time immemorial. The bitter flavonoid compounds in dandelion roots and leaves give the plant its diuretic properties, which in turn are thought to help purify the blood and liver, relieve muscle spasms, and reduce inflammation.
Dandelion root’s digestive and bitter properties are thought to be helpful in detoxifying the liver; treating digestive disorders such as indigestion, heartburn, and constipation; and helping to stimulate the appetite.
How to take it: Dandelion root can be taken as a decoction or tincture. Very young spring dandelion roots can be eaten as a nutritious vegetable. Like other root vegetables, dandelion roots can be boiled, baked, or diced up and added to soups.
Dandelion leaves are high in the electrolytes sodium and potassium, thus they may help support the kidneys as a natural diuretic to help increase urine output, allowing the body to reduce water retention in cases of edema.
How to take it: Dandelion leaf is a nutritious green, high in calcium and vitamins C and E. It can be eaten fresh in salads or steamed and added to stir-fries and soups, and can also be used fresh or dried as a tea.
Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica)
Nettle leaf tea has been used traditionally as a blood purifier, to help the efficiency of the kidneys and liver, and as a mild laxative and diuretic. It is a great remedy to use in the spring, as it has antihistamine properties to relieve symptoms of allergies such as sneezing and itchy, watery eyes and to clear up excessive mucus caused by allergy-induced lung irritations. Eczema sufferers may also benefit from including nettle in their herbal repertoire.
Nettle has also been used to help relieve arthritis inflammation, gout, and kidney irritations, and it can be made into nourishing syrup or a tea infusion for anemia, as it is high in iron.
How to take it: Nettle roots can be taken as an infusion or tincture, while the tasty, nutritious leaves add a boost of vitamins, minerals, and protein to any meal.
Nettle juice can be made by adding fresh young leaves to a blender and covering with water, straining, and taking the juice in tablespoon portions: add 2 Tbsp (30 mL) juice to 1 cup (250 mL) water, drinking up to 3 cups (750 mL) of the diluted juice a day.
Peppermint (Mentha piperita)
A peppermint infusion can make a good morning brew as it is said to stimulate and help clear a tired mind as well as excess morning mucus. As an analgesic, it has been used to help deflect an oncoming headache and as a digestive to help alleviate nausea, both possible symptoms of the detoxification process.
Considered a herb with bitter qualities, peppermint is also thought to act as a blood cleanser and as a diaphoretic that helps eliminate toxins by promoting perspiration.
How to take it: Aromatic peppermint leaf tea is full of naturally occurring vitamins and minerals, including calcium and magnesium. Drinking peppermint tea is thought to aid the digestion system and ease indigestion, gas, heartburn, and ulcers.
Milk thistle (Silybum marianum)
Antioxidant-rich milk thistle seeds are a well-known liver detoxifier in natural health circles. Clinical research trials have been examining its worth in helping the liver heal from such diseases as hepatitis and cirrhosis caused by overconsumption of alcohol.
How to take it: Milk thistle is mainly taken therapeutically as a tincture since the active ingredient, silymarin, does not dissolve easily in water.
Psyllium husk (Plantago ovata)
Psyllium is a soluble dietary fibre that acts as a mild laxative for constipation, but can also help bulk up stool in the case of diarrhea. When water is added to psyllium husk powder, it creates a gelatin-like consistency that helps move waste from the colon.
Using psyllium regularly can help lower cholesterol, help irritable bowel syndrome and hemorrhoids, and regulate blood sugar levels.
How to take it: Take psyllium in the morning or before bed. Add 1 tsp (5 mL) powder to 1 cup (250 mL) warm water, mix well, and drink immediately, as it will thicken up quickly. It is very important when using psyllium to drink plenty of water.
Words of caution
Do not embark on a herbal detox if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Consult your health care practitioner if you have any concerns before beginning a herbal detoxification.
If detoxification is done quickly or too deeply, it can cause some very uncomfortable symptoms such as mood swings, lethargy, fatigue, skin eruptions, diarrhea, gas, bloating, and headaches. If this happens, cut back on the herbs, drink more water, and remember to rest and go at your own pace. a
Foods to include—and avoid—during a detox
|Foods to include||Foods to avoid|
|raw, steamed, or juiced greens and vegetables||dairy products and eggs|
|fruit (except oranges and other acidic fruits)||acidic fruits such as oranges|
|gluten-free grains—brown rice, quinoa, millet, or buckwheat||grains with gluten, bread|
|plant proteins—hempseeds, split peas, and lentils||red meats, processed and canned meats|
|animal proteins—fresh fish, organic chicken, turkey, or lamb||sweeteners and candy|
|raw nuts and seeds—walnuts, soaked almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, cashews, and baby pecans||condiments and commercial sauces|
|herbs and spices to enhance flavour and nutritional content of your food||alcohol, caffeine, and soft drinks|
|rice, almond, or coconut milks|
Preparing your own remedies
Teas: light infusions made with fresh or dried flowers, leaves, seeds, fruits, or shredded roots of a plant
Infusions: longer steeping time than teas makes infusions generally darker in colour and fuller in taste, and allows more of the plant’s water-soluble constituents such as minerals, vitamins, and various other medicinal properties to be released
Decoctions: made from the tougher parts of the plant, such as the roots and bark, by simmering in a saucepan for up to 20 minutes
Tinctures: very concentrated, have a long shelf life, and made with alcohol or vegetable glycerin to extract the medicinal properties of the plant; can be added to juice, water, tea, or smoothies
Rule of thumb
To make a tea, infusion, or decoction follow these guidelines: