Monday, April 29, 2013

Spring into Spiritual Growth

The Focus here at the Verbal Herbal is typically on physical and mental health and rarely addresses the importance of spiritual health. However, in order to live a truly healthy life, one must be balanced in all 5 areas of health: physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual. Spring is a wonderful time to take inventory of your spiritual stance and progress. In spring, as the world continues to grow and blossom around us, it is important to make sure the seeds within have been planted and continue to grow as well. 

In the book “The Circle of Life: The Hearts Journey Through the Seasons” the authors, Joyce Rupp and Macrina Wiederkehr, list “Questions for individual reflection” for the springtime. I recommend taking the time to contemplate your answers to the questions below. If you find you do not like your answers, Spring is a wonderful time for growth and change in all aspect of one’s life.  
  1. What is the condition of your spiritual flower bulb? 
  2. Who or What has planted you in the rich soil of growth? 
  3. What helps you to wait with hope when growth is gestating in you? 
  4. What is now blooming in your life? 
  5. Can you sense anything that continues to be in the darkness, still awaiting birth? What might this be?  


Rupp, J., & Wiederkehr, M. (2005). The circle of life: the heart's journey through the seasons. Notre Dame, Ind.: Sorin Books.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

5 Herbs for Spring

As I described in my previous blog, Spring Cleaning for your Body, the lack of movement in the winter and slowed metabolism decrease the body's ability to rid itself of toxins, and make spring a great time to do some internal cleansing. Herbs can be extremely helpful with detoxification, and, at the same time, nourishing for the body with essential vitamins and minerals needed for health and growth. The great thing about the herbs listed below is that they all naturally become available in the spring time - a perfect example of the  connection between the earth and the body. 

Burdock (Arctium lappa) 
Burdock root purifies the blood by helping the body to rid itself of metabolic waste via many elimination pathways. It was used heavily during the industrial revolution to help the body deal with the intense pollution of the time. It is considered a vegetable in Japan and if it collected in early spring it can be added to soups and stir fries.  

Stinging Nettle (Urtica Dioica) 
May of you may know nettles from the awful sting they provide if you happen to stumble in to a patch of them, but any herbalist will tell you that this plant in no nuisance. David Hoffmann, a well known herbalist, once said "when in doubt, use nettles" and it really is helpful for just about everything. It helps to clear toxins, energize the body and build blood, and it is so high in vitamins and mineral that it is more nutritious than spinach. It also helps to improve the body's resistance to pollution and allergies and can tone blood vessels, skin, muscles and tissues. It is a diuretic and helps to remove acid metabolites from the body via the kidneys. The leaf can be cooked (which deactivates the sting) or the fresh leaf can be juiced. 

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinal) 
Dandelion is one of the most amazing plants around. I find it humorous that so many suburban dads fight so hard to rid their lawns of dandelions (this was my dad growing up), when in fact it is a valuable food and medicine. Dandelions are one of the 5 most nutritious veggies on the planet, and the whole plant can be used. The leaf is a diuretic and a wonderful remedy for the kidneys and bladder. Many pharmaceutical diuretics deplete potassium but dandelions have a built in buffer because they are very high in potassium. Pick the leaves before the plant flowers and you can add them directly to your salad. Once they flower, the leaves become extremely bitter (great medicine but not great food). The root stimulates the liver and gall bladder helping to cleanse the hepatic system and can be made into a tea or tincture. The flowers are delicate and tasty. I like to batter and fry them for a delicious treat.  

Alfalfa (Medicago sativm) 
Alfalfa is very nutritious. High in vitamins, minerals and chlorophyll, when fed to cows they produce more milk and when fed to chickens, they produce more eggs. The leaves and flowers can be added to salads and the sprouts (which are super easy and cheep to produce yourself with a sprouting jar) are very tasty! 

Red Clover (Trifolium pratense) 
Red clover is the final herb we will discuss today. It can help purify the blood by clearing toxins, stimulating lymphatic drainage and providing nourishment 

I feel that the best way to take advantage of these 5 herbs is to make a tea. Because many of these herbs are diuretics, releasing toxins through the process of urination, it is important to make sure you flushing your system with proper water intake. Making a tea allows for extra fluid intake and is also an excellent vehicle for the vitamins and minerals that these herbs provide. This is the recipe that I follow: 
  • 2 Parts Nettle Leaf 
  • 2 Parts Red Clover 
  • 2 Parts Alfalfa 
  • 1 Part Dandelion root or leaf 
  • 1 part Burdock root 
Mix all the ingredients in a glass jar. For every 1 cup of boiling water steep 1 tbs of herb mixture for at least 10 minutes. Enjoy 1 to 3 cups a day.  

Before closing, I would like to speak to the side of caution. Extreme toxicity can build in body tissues and cells If you do not practice regular cleansing measures. These herbs, especially dandelion root and burdock root, help to dislodge toxins from the tissues so that they may be eliminated from the body. This process can produce a worsening of toxic symptoms. When I was taking an herb class, one women did a liver flush and became violently sick for several days. This happened because the toxins stored in her body were being uprooted from their hiding places in the body and released into her blood stream where they could be excreted from the body. Although taking these herbs in tea form and at this quantity should not result in such extreme effects, it is possible and if it should happen consult your local herbalist or health care professional. 

I hope you can take full advantage of the spring foliage while assisting your body with some internal spring cleaning! 


Hoffmann, D. (2003). Medical herbalism: the science and practice of herbal medicine. Rochester, Vt.: Healing Arts Press.  

Mars, B. (2007). The desktop guide to herbal medicine. Laguna Beach, CA: Basic Health Publications.  

Mills, S. (1993). The essential book of herbal medicine. London: Arkana. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Spring Cleaning for Your Body

Spring is a time for transition from a sedentary winter to a busy summer. In winter, our metabolism slows - a survival mechanism - allowing us to pack on extra fat and conserve energy for the harsh, and sometimes unreliable, winter months. This survival tool also causes us to crave fattier foods to stock up our caloric reserve. When spring arrives, the renewed light kicks the body’s metabolism into gear and encourages us to cleans our insides and shed winter weight. At the core of this internal spring cleaning is the liver and there is plenty we can do to assist the cleansing process.
A Little about the Liver
The liver has a central role in the detoxification process. It first helps to break down waste products, hormones, toxins and chemicals, and then helps the body to excrete those waste products. In the winter, our toxic load can build because of inactivity and subdued metabolism. So as spring arrives, it is important to make sure we are supporting our livers
Diet Changes
Diet changes are at the core of our spring cleaning. Historically, a winter diet consisted of many root veggies, dried and cured meats, and dried fruit. There was a complete lack of fresh vegetables. While this is not the case with today’s abundance of supermarkets; our bodies still reflect this evolution in the foods we crave during winter: fatty, greasy and high calorie indulgence. Our bodies have also evolved to crave foods in the spring time that are naturally abundant during the spring months and can assist the detoxification process. Below are some suggestions for a spring diet:
  • The world is green and so is your plate: Dark green leafy veggies are abundant this time of year. Drop the heavy meals and opt for a radiant salad packed with kale, chard, spinach, dandelion greens and other greens accompanied with a wide range of colorful veggies.
  • Cruciferous Veggies: These vegetables, including cabbage, Brussels sprouts and broccoli, contain glucosinolates, a sulfur containing compound that protects the liver from damage and assists in the elimination of toxins.
  • Drop the Crap: Stop eating crappy processed and refined foods, refined sugars, caffeine and alcohol. They all can clog your liver. The world around us is blooming in the spring so make sure your plate reflects that.
  • Avoid the grease but keep the fat: Be sure to avoid heavy, greasy foods but make sure you are still getting your essential fatty acids required for healthy cell membranes and optimal liver functioning. Good sources include seafood, avocados, and raw nuts and seeds.
  • Eat Raw: In the winter baking and frying food helps to warm the body on a deeper level. In the spring it’s better to eat more raw food, or you can lightly steam or stir-fry your food.
  • Pass on Dairy and Avoid Cold Beverages: Spring is characterized by cold and damp weather patterns. The chill of spring can also be seen internally with the common occurrence of spring colds. Dairy and cold drinks increase mucus congestion, thus increasing your chances of getting a spring cold. Avoiding cold drinks and dairy products all together is the best approach, but if you must have ice in your water or cheese on your salad, eat them during the day and not at night.
Make Sure you’re getting enough…
  • Zinc: Zinc is needed by the liver enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase to break down alcohol. If you are a drinker, zinc is a must have.
  • Fiber: If you follow the above suggestions you should be getting enough fiber. But if you’re still feeling backed up, an extra apple a day can help.
  • Vitamin K: The liver requires adequate vitamin K to produce proper blood clotting proteins. Vitamin K can be found in green leafy veggies.
  • Arginine: this helps to detox ammonia, a toxic waste product of protein breakdown. This can be found in legumes (beans, peas and lentils) and walnuts.
  • Methionine: is an essential component in the detox process and is found in legumes, fish, garlic, onions and seeds.
Added Extras
  • Drink Plenty of Water: Water is essential in the detoxification process. It allows the body to adequately flush its system of toxins via urination and bowel movements.
  • Lemon Water: Squeezing a lemon wedge in a warm glass of water first thing in the morning helps to stimulate the liver and aid in the detoxification process.
  • Make sure you’re not constipated: Stool contains toxins and hormones that need to be excreted from the body. When you are constipated, the waste products can be reabsorbed into the blood stream, increasing your toxic load and causing the liver to have to process them all over again.
  • Eating organic: Eating organic fruits and vegetables can help limit your exposure to xenoestrogens and decrease your toxic load.
  • Stay Stress Free: Stress can end up wrecking havoc on your entire system making it difficult for your body to function, let alone transition from winter to spring.
  • Exercise: It is important to get your body moving after a long winter of inactivity. Early morning walks can be helpful and yoga poses such as Fish, Boat, Bow, Locust, Lion and head stands are recommended.
  • Skip the Nap: Naps during the day increase stagnation in the body and are not advised during the spring months.
  • Herbs: There are plenty of herbs that are amazing at helping the body detox during the springtime. This topic will be explored in depth in my next post. So stay tuned!
There are so many thing you can do to prepare your body for the spring months. Don’t let your body stay stuck in the hibernation of winter. Rejoice that spring has arrived and help your body do some spring cleaning of its own. 
Hoffmann, D. (2003). Medical herbalism: the science and practice of herbal medicine. Rochester, Vt.: Healing Arts Press. 
Lad, V. (1999). The complete book of Ayurvedic home remedies. New York, N.Y.: Three Rivers Press.