Consider a time before every home had a refrigerator. Green vegetables were as scarce in January as a robin’s song. Salted meat was chewed on through short days and long nights. By February, the root veggies in the cellar were limp and spongy. Pickled eggs and fish were a treat.
With geese flocking overhead and March’s first warm, sunny days, thoughts of fresh greens sprouting from the ground chased winter’s hunger from minds and tummies.
Imagine nibbling the first green fiddlehead spirals and tender shoots of nettle and bitter dandelion leaves. Their green “spring-ness” awakening the mind and body from the monotonous white landscape of winter.
The burst of minerals in the mouth, fresh from the moist earth and filled with the promise of warmth, sunlight and summer was the traditional spring cleanse. Traditional herbalist teach that the spring cleanse unburdens the body of the “phlegm” humour, a cold wet substance that accumulates in the body with lack of activity and poor quality food. The spring cleanse was a time of elimination and renewal.
Cree elders advise: “Look to the trees to know what to do.”
Compare the spring cleanse to the tree’s activity during April. The tree’s roots thaw as the sun warms the soil. The sugars and minerals stored in the roots deep under the earth soften; sap is formed and begins to flow up the tree’s trunk to the highest branch. The sap delivers minerals from the soil to nourish new green growth. Early green plants are steamed, steeped and juiced in the spring to nourish and awaken the body and mind.
Today, most think of the spring cleanse as a time to eliminate toxins or for weight loss. It is forgotten that the spring cleanse is about renewal.
This is erroneous and dangerous in today’s toxic landscape.
Let’s explore what this word “toxin” means. Toxins are produced when the body creates energy.
These are called metabolic toxins, which the body eliminates through the lungs, kidney, bowel and skin.
Today, many people think of toxins as something the body does not make. Toxins are thought of as chemical poisons that enter the body from environment. Heavy metals or estrogens seeping into food from plastic containers are two such toxins.
Many people also commonly talk about toxic relationships, toxic emotions, toxic beliefs, toxic jobs, toxic homes and toxic bosses. Some people even speak of toxic politicians.
In this complex environment of such a wide range of toxins, the spring cleanse has taken on a whole new meaning. But just as in days before refrigerators, I believe the truth continues to hold: it is more important to strengthen the body and mind with nutritive cleansing plants than purging the bowels with laxatives while pushing metabolic and environment toxins from the tissues with fasting. Cleanses that do not take into account the overall health in a person body, mind and life, can cause more harm than good.
I like to think of a cleanse as a new beginning. A spring cleanse is about learning a new way of being, planting seeds for renewal.
Every beginning is defined with intention. Intentions are seeds and the seeds planted in the spring determine the harvest in the fall.
To begin a cleanse, start by considering these questions: Why do I want to do this cleanse? What is its purpose?
Actions (such as what is eaten) are rooted in thoughts. Thoughts are rooted in emotions. Emotions are driven by intentions, both conscious and unconscious. It is important that cleansing is not based on fearful or hateful intentions towards the body or environment. Cleansing needs to be founded on the desire to live a fuller life. Remember, cleansing is not just about releasing toxins; it’s about replacing them with nutrients.
The word ‘nutrient’ is being used broadly here to include everything that nourishes your body, spirit and mind. During a cleanse, it is as important to keep focused on what nourishes as it is letting go of toxins.
Once the intention for the cleanse is clearly state from a place of love, one can begin the cleanse.
Stay tuned for the next column where some of the nourishing, regenerating plants of springs will be explored!
Herbs for Life is written by Abrah Arneson, a local clinical herbalist. It is intended for information purposes only. Readers with a specific medical problem should consult a doctor. For more information, visit www.abraherbalist.ca. Arneson can be reached www.abraherbs.com.