Springtime rings true when the weather warms, the plants spring back to life with lush green vitality and the animal friends emerge from their warm nests and dens.
Flash back to the beginnings of agrarian society's around 3300 BCE. Human kind began to settle into familiar land, which brought cultivation and animal husbandry. This lifestyle lent itself to a growing season, dormant times and "eating seasonally". When the dormant season, winter time, would come, the people would sustain on whatever they preserved, dried and stored during fertile times. Imagine dried and cured meats, preserved roots and dried herbs. This way of eating, paired with a more sedentary physical regimen, and an overall energetic cold period, resulted in some understandable stagnation! So of course, when Spring returned, the sight of bright greens was joyously celebrated.
Our beloved Spring greens are divinely intelligent, and let me tell you why. They are classified as "alteratives" in the herbal world. An "alterative" is an action indicating that it moves stagnation and supports our body's natural detoxification processes. These plants tend to support detoxification by 1) nourishing and gently stimulating the organs responsible for natural detoxification-- liver, kidneys, skin and bowels. Think about how bitters stimulate liver secretions, diuretics stimulate the kidneys, etc. 2) moving the lymphatic fluids, thus promoting the cleansing of the extra cellular fluid, the 60% of our vessel that is water! For reference, the extra cellular fluid (ECF) is the life water that feeds and cleans up after all of our cells, pretty important for overall vitality, right?
For the sake of nourishing the life force within us, and being so careful not to harm or deplete it, the golden rule for cleansing is "nourish before purging". In this modern life we are living, so many of us are actually deficient. Protein deficient, vitamin/mineral deficient, sleep deficient and over-worked. The long-standing human who lived as a hunter-gatherer, was eating wild foods growing in pristine soil and an abundance of vital, grazing animals. Now, our soils are void of trace elements and simply contain synthetic N-P-K, which makes our fruits and vegetables look the way they're supposed to, yet do not have nearly as much substance as they once had. Even compared to pre-agricultural revolution times versus the early 2000's, our food has become so much less nutrient-dense. A beautiful and thorough resource I recommend for more information on nutrition and the history of humankind with food, is this scientifically supported work written by medical herbalist and clinical nutritionist, Paul Bergner.
With all of that being said, it is all too often that symptoms we experience that seem to be from toxin build-up, are truly deficiency in disguise. If you are called to do a detox of any kind, I encourage you to first look at your nutrition intake and work on that before taking things away. More fruits and vegetables? More free-range, local protein sources? More good fats and maybe some nutritive herbal teas! A lovely "vitalist" way to detox and reset your system is to do a mono-meal fast. For example, make a large pot of vegetable soup with bone broth and eat only that for 2-3 days. This will achieve the reset you are wanting for you gut and will simultaneously increase energy by fueling you at each meal with easily digestible nutrient rich food!
Eating seasonally is a beautiful practice and indeed such a great way to promote health and wellness. I encourage you to take a Spring herb walk with your local herbalist and get comfortable identifying the luscious, edible alterative spring greens! These are best eaten like foods. Add some wild greens to your plate each day, juice them, or try this fun and easy, nutrient packed Spring Greens Oxymel! (Recipe Below). Alterative herbs and alterative spring greens include but are not limited to: Red Clover, Stinging Nettle, Burdock root, Dandelion root and leaf, Cleavers, violet leaf and flower, Miner's Lettuce and more! If you want to take it a step further and have, in fact nourished yourself thoroughly, consult an herbalist and get guidance on a course of alterative teas. These are best taken in 1-4 herb formulas, rotating 1 or 2 of the herbs out for new ones every 1-2 weeks. This should be done in a "course", no more than a 6 weeks. Alterative herbs are humorally cold and dry. On average, most people have a cold and dry constitution. If this is you, be sure to balance your alterative formulas with warm, moist herbs. Also be mindful to adjust your formulas or discontinue if you start feeling overly dry or cold.
Spring Greens Oxymel Recipe
Gather wild edible greens from a space that you know has not been sprayed or treated with chemicals. Add them to a clean and sterilized quart mason jar so that the jar is just filled. Cover your greens with apple cider vinegar, place a piece of parchment paper over the top and screw the lid onto your jar. The parchment paper ensure the acidity of the vinegar will not leach or corrode the metal on the jar lid. Create a label that lists the greens you used and the date. Let your jar sit for 2-4 weeks, then strain the plant matter out of your vinegar using a fine strainer or cheese cloth. Do not squeeze the plant material as you want to avoid getting excess water into your vinegar. Add honey to taste and use this wonderful mineral-packed vinegar on salads, on stir-fries, to marinate meats or to take by the spoonful as a daily supplementation to your nutrition. It should keep for a year until the next season of greens come up, but of course if there are any signs of mold or growth, throw it out!