by Gillian Nye

(as published in The Lighthouse Peddler, March 2010)

Once again Spring is here, blessing us coastal dwellers and visitors with the opportunity to give thanks and honor the abundance of the season!

As we creep out of hibernation and stretch into Spring, it's a wonderful time to take a little bit better care of our bodies, to thank them for getting us this far and encourage them to keep being so strong and healthy.

Winter has been our time to slow down, go inward and rest, on both an emotional and physical level. As with much of nature, our systems tend to slow down a bit in response to change in temperature and the cozying up by the fire mentality. An effective way to jump start our vitality is through the beautiful, green foods and herbs of the season.

Fresh bitter greens are up, ready to stimulate the healthy secretions of the stomach, pancreas, and liver. Baby arugula, mizuna, dandelion greens, radicchio, mustards, and radishes are in their true glory and ready to be added to salads for that invigorating kick! Bitters help us to improve the absorption of our healthy foods through stronger digestive power. Try eating a few leaves of arugula while cooking dinner ; bitters tell the body it's time to think about producing saliva, getting ready to digest, beginning the flow of incorporating foods into our body. Bitters are also effective in retrospect, they can be helpful with stomach pains, bloating and gas, especially carminative herbs, like Chamomile, Fennel, or Peppermint.

Enjoying artichokes is a pleasure for most, and a wonderful liver tonic. Artichokes are technically a bitter, although we often soften that flavor with lots of butter for dipping. Adding some lemon to the mix can bring up the healthy aspect again, and drinking the water from the cooking process is an immediately effective liver toner and stimulant. Save the artichoke water in the fridge, and have a few sips while you're cooking, as suggested earlier with the bitter greens. Incorporating avocados and asparagus is also important, as they contain glutathione, one of the major anti-oxidants that our body is actually able to produce but is enhanced by foods containing it. Milk Thistle herb is helpful here as well , usually used in tincture form; it is a favored liver support and protector, known to be effective in cases of toxic liver damage, and improves the quality and utilization of glutathione!

Spring is often a time when folks consider a cleanse of some sort, which can be as simple as really paying attention to what you eat for a week or so ~ it doesn't have to mean fasting, or eating all raw foods, or drinking undrinkable potions! This year, consider a food based cleanse with all of the above mentioned foods. You can include “clean” proteins (especially in the morning),the members of the Brassicaceae family (broccoli, kale, collards, etc.), beets, and lots of fresh greens! A clean protein is as simple and unprocessed as possible ~ raw milk, fresh local meat or eggs cooked simply, soaked nuts or beans, and quinoa are some examples.

One of the most effective ways to cleanse the liver, and the entire digestive system, is to be eliminating often. This gets any stored toxins passing through us, rather than being re-absorbed by the liver. In this light, drink lots of water and tonic teas (Nettle, Burdock, Dandelion, and Oatstraw are some options), and eat clean, pure, fresh foods as much as possible. To offset sluggishness, excite the digestive system and the liver with turmeric, curry, ginger, and other invigorating, warming foods. Soothing herbs to support this process are Marshmallow root , Chamomile and Schizandra, among many!

The more efficient our digestion, the better we are able to work, exercise, think, communicate, sleep and feel joy!

The goal I have in mind with these thoughts is to be in line with nature, to be enjoying Spring with a fresh, green perspective and strengthening our cores and roots for Summer. May we all walk in balance!