We could not be more excited that Spring has finally arrived in Colorado and we are actively celebrating Beltane today in honor of the flowers that are blooming everywhere! So much new life has emerged these past few weeks. However, with the hustle and bustle of our modern lives, sometimes the transition into Spring can feel overwhelming, and many of us simply do not make the time to really tune into what is shifting in our bodies as well.
Just as the new life is awakening from within and underground, so is our personal energy and expression. We naturally feel the draw to emerge from our Winter hibernation and cozy home caves into the world outdoors. With this emergence, there is a necessary shedding of layers and stagnant energy that we have built up during the Winter months. This kind of “Spring Cleaning” should happen on more levels than just your home space! Our inner bodies, both energetically and physically, call for cleansing and tonifying with the transition into Spring.
So what exactly do cleansing and tonifying mean and how do we get started? Although the word cleanse has become quite the super-trend lately (there appears to be a “cleanse” for everything nowadays!), at its origin to cleanse means "to make thoroughly clean", though not in the sterile sense. To tonify is to increase available energy in the body, helping the body systems run more efficiently and with increased resilience. From a biodynamic perspective, we see the land where we cultivate as a whole living organism, an extension of our own bodies. We look to the first herbs that pop up in spring for help in preparing our bodies for the season to come. We believe that Nature intends for us to harvest these plants first to cleanse and tonify for the transition into Spring.
Here are 3 of our favorite Spring Tonic Herbs and how we incorporate them this time of year:
Dandelion root, leaf, & flower: This common “weed” is one of the first signs of Spring everyone recognizes and can be found growing all over in Colorado. The entire Dandelion plant is a potent detoxifier of the land and our bodies, as well as an important nutrient accumulator. We often encourage people to rethink tossing them out when weeding their gardens or lawn, as Dandelion flowers are also one of the first and most important spring blossoms for pollinators, such as honey bees. On our farm and in our gardens, we let them do their thing, and cherish being able to utilize this Spring medicine in a variety of ways!
We love harvesting some of the fresh leaves and tossing them in a green smoothie, or sau·téing them lightly with other veggies. We also use the dried root in our Garden Goddess & Allergy-Ease teas. Not only does Dandelion root assist in cleansing the liver and overall GI, it also helps detoxify the skin!
Another favorite use of this plant is to make a potent Dandelion flower infused vinegar. Simply harvest some clean dry blossoms, let them infuse for two weeks in organic raw apple cider vinegar, strain, and enjoy! Enjoy sips on it’s own with a bit of raw honey, or adding it to salad dressings. This is a delicious way to add potent vitamins and minerals to your meals, remedy spring allergies, aid digestion, and flush toxins from the body.
Rest & Digest Tea
Nettle leaf: Stinging Nettles are one of our favorite Spring Tonic herbs for relieving allergies, boosting the immune system, and supporting a healthy inflammatory response. This is a highly nutritive herb, making it another great add-in for your green smoothie or juice. Consider mixing fresh nettles into your pesto for a delicious and nutritious boost! The dried leaf is a key component in our Allergy-ease tea formula which we sip on daily this time of year.
Freshly harvested Stinging Nettles
You can also infuse Nettles leaf into vinegar (either added with Dandelion, as described above, or on it’s own) for additional nutritive and detoxifying power. Nettle infused apple cider vinegar also makes a terrific hair rinse, helping to soothe the scalp and promote shiny healthy locks!
Kate recently finished a spring cleanse earlier this month. Here’s what she had to say about it:
Kate Miller, Herbalist & Plant Witch for Dynamic Roots
I cleanse in the spring for many reasons. To kickstart sluggish winter digestion, help quit a bad habit (or create a more beneficial one), give my body some structured self-care, or just simply to echo the natural processes and re-emergence of life after the long, cold winter. A cleanse done with the intention to change your body in an extreme way (“Lose your belly fat! Get perfect skin! Get rid of cellulite!”) will often result in failure...I speak from personal experience of cleansing for more than a decade and only recently do I feel I’m even doing it right! Embarking on a healthy cleanse, and a healthy lifestyle in general, is best done with the overall sentiment of meeting yourself where you’re at now, accepting yourself on your own personal journey. This is especially important if, like myself, you're dealing with existing health issues and/or chronic illness. For anyone, I believe that the true gift you get is the feeling of satisfaction & harmony from treating your body well, showing it how grateful you are for its vitality and resilience! The practice of self-gratitude & acceptance is something we can incorporate into our lives everyday, but embarking on a gentle spring cleanse is a useful way to jumpstart the habit, building it into your life one day at a time.
This past April, I participated in the Holistic Homestead’s Annual Spring Cleanse. The Holistic Homestead is a wonderful non-profit organization focused on community health through holistic practices and outreach, based in Rollinsville, Colorado (in the mountains above Boulder). My friend Arwen, founder of the HH, has a ton of information and advice about cleansing, and she honors that everyone holds different needs (physical, emotional, spiritual), and simply provides this online event to help encourage participants to create the best cleanse for their personal needs. Though I have cleansed many times, it was really nice to know I wasn’t on my own, and be able to share in some of the daily rituals that Arwen offers via email to cleanse participants.
My greatest need (and thus, challenge) was to quit caffeine and sugar. Along with removing these bad habits, I needed some help rebooting some of my good habits, such as: adopting a healthy tech-free bedtime routine, a personal yoga/meditation practice, and creating space throughout my day for healthy meal rituals. I often have the tendency to work right on through my lunch and dinner time, so stopping and adopting a real break for meals was crucial, even more so throughout the cleanse when my blood sugar & digestion began adjusting to new habits.
My cleanse lasted about 10 days, with seven under Arwen’s guidance and support, and I could easily go right back to the structure I created for myself, and it would not feel extreme at all.
About a week before the cleanse, I began decreasing my caffeine, animal protein, dairy, and sugar intake, and increasing my fresh veggie, fruit, fiber, and water intake. I also increased the amount of herbal teas & infusions I was drinking, especially utilizing our Allergy Ease & Nourishing Teas (coming soon to our online store) during the day, and our Rest & Digest Tea in the evening.
Here’s a quick review of how most of my days went on the cleanse, and as I am lucky enough to work from home often this time of year, I was able to stick to this regimen throughout. In the middle of the cleanse I ate lighter, with the option of fasting and consuming only broths or light soups, and fresh vegetable juices for an entire day before winding down the cleanse. Fasting in this way is more workable that a longer juice fast, but always consult your healthcare practitioner (and your own intuition) to know if fasting is really right for you.
- Rise with the Sun, usually between 6-6:30 am: Light stretching/yoga/pranayama, and short meditation
- Sipping Allergy Ease or Nourishing Tea throughout my morning practice
- Dry brushing & a short hot shower. Post shower it’s always nice to do some self-massage on the lower back, neck, and shoulders with some muscle soothing botanical oils such as our Sore Muscle/Trauma Oil or our Deep Heat Muscle Balm. Start the day pain free!
- Breakfast: Oatmeal with organic spices, fruit, nuts, and homemade nut milk (usually hemp/almond)
- Work/office work: medicine making, emails, conference calls, etc. Keep drinking those herbal infusions!
- Lunch: Large salad or veggie stir-fry with side of fermented vegetables, and raw sprouted mung beans and lentils, and a Dandelion flower vinaigrette. Or a smoothie with tons of greens, fresh/frozen fruit, Goat’s Milk Kefir/yogurt, plus some bee pollen for an extra nutritional boost.
- A little more work before going outside...
- Nature Walk: getting outside was crucial during my cleanse. The movement helped dispel any detox symptoms such as headaches, gas, or emotional irritability.
- Dinner: My favorite was baked Salmon or Char, with sauteed spring vegetables: asparagus, baby bok choy, spring garlic, organic mushrooms.
- Post-dinner herbal beverage: Usually Rest & Digest Tea, or fresh ginger root tea.
- Bedtime ritual: Light Stretching, a hot bath, a good book, and soon after.... Bedtime by 9:30/10pm.
Post cleanse I felt clearer, with a complete reawakening of my inherent vital energy. Since fasting, I have maintained a caffeine-free life, and still do my best to stay away from sugar as much as possible. This model was easy enough that I could jump back in at almost any time, incorporating more herbs from the current season into the protocol. I’m especially loving the idea of a midsummer cleanse, with the use of more herbal medicines in teas and various recipes, and fresh greens & other veggies from the garden and farmer’s market.
Happy Cleansing & Happy May!