By Ellen J. Kamhi, Ph. D. with Dorie Greenblatt
The first signs of Spring mark a new beginning, a time of new vitality. After a long, dark cold winter, Spring is a time to open our doors and windows, let the fresh air through, and clear out some of Winter's accumulations. This time of transition provides an excellent opportunity to cleanse the body as well. Naturopathic physicians and other naturally oriented health care professionals suggest the use of a gradual step-by-step cleansing program, beginning with the colon, then focusing on the liver and kidneys and finally finishing with the blood and lymph.
An appropriate diet is the first step in any cleansing program. Fresh fruits and vegetables, raw, steamed and juiced, provide an excellent foundation. They are nourishing and easy to digest, with plenty of naturally occurring fiber. Skin brushing, jumping on a mini-trampoline and using a sauna are all part of the detoxification program. Taking some time to connect with the spiritual/emotional aspects of life are also important.
When cleansing the body, it is best to start with the colon. A high fiber diet, plenty of clean filtered water and Acidophilus (a colon-friendly bacteria) make for a healthy foundation in maintaining colon health. Herbs can be useful also. The aged bark of Cascara Sagrada is a mild laxative and bitter, which can help to remove accumulated debris from the colon. Cascara Sagrada meant "sacred herb" to the indigenous people who used it as a medicine in ancient times. When choosing Cascara, use a product that has been properly prepared to avoid possible irritating actions associated with laxatives.
Liver and Kidneys
In order for the body to properly detoxify, it is necessary to clean out the natural "filters" which accumulate toxins and become less effective. The liver and kidneys are the main fltering organs in the body. Dandelion, a common weed, is used both as a food and medicine everywhere in the world where it grows. It is a potassium sparing diuretic, which works to cleanse and support both the liver and kidneys. Two herbal combination supplements that are specifically formulated to support the liver are Nature’s Answer’s Liver Support and Liver Tone. These herbal extracts contain other herbs such as the berberine rich Oregon Graperoot and Goldenseal, Milk Thistle (scientifically proven to be liver protective) and Turmeric, all of which enhance liver function. Celery Seed, Couchgrass, Parsley, Uva ursi, Juniper and Cranberry also aid the kidneys. Many of these herbs are brought together in the combination formula Bladdex™.
Blood and Lymph
Cleansing of the blood was considered so important to medical herbalists of old that they developed a special term to refer to herbs used for that purpose: "Alteratives". Herbs used historically as Alteratives included Sarsaparilla and Yellow Dock. Today you can find these same nutrients blended with other herbs such as Oregon Graperoot and Echinacea in Nature's Answer's Blood Support formula. Another special combination, Alteratonic™, is a premier blend of alterative herbs in capsule form. Other blood and lymph cleansers such as Red Clover and Burdock Root are offered by Nature's Answer®. Finally, no spring cleaning article would be complete without Nettles. Used throughout Europe and naturalized in America, Nettles are rich in iron and minerals. They aid in spring cleansing and also offset spring seasonal allergies.