Spring Cleanse – Why cleanse with the Seasons? Part 2

So now that we know cleansing and purification has been around since ancient time and still very much applies to our current human condition, lets have a look at some of the philosophies behind a Springtime Cleanse.

If you have missed Part 1 of this blog you can check it our here – http://herbsandhealing.ie/spring-cleanse-cleanse-seasons-part-1/

I am a great believer that when we understand not just what we are doing but why we are doing it, we have a much greater chance of persisting and reaping the benefits.

Within the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) philosophy, it is understood that human beings are a microcosm of the natural universe. As the natural world is governed by cycles so too are the people governed by the same cycles. Spring is seen as a time for rebirth, growth and rapid expansion. The vital energy of nature comes to the surface, breaks through bringing new growth, transformation and regeneration after the stagnancy and conservation of the cold winter months. The innate energy of spring in the environment, the energy rising is also reflected internally and the body is ripe to release and expel toxic burden stored over winter. This also provides an opportunity for emotions and deeper issues stored from the past to be released. In reality when physical cleanse is taking place this corresponding release occurs with more ease.

So from this perspective, Spring is a time to harness this rising energy in nature to throw off the old and embrace and grow the new. Renew, re-vitalize and ultimately rebirth who you are, how you are and where you choose to be going forward. So with the right intention and action at this time of year we benefit from the transformative energy of spring for overall increased health, happiness and wellbeing.

The organs associated with Springtime are the liver and the gallbladder. The liver is the primary detoxification organ of the body. When the liver becomes sluggish the blood becomes laden with toxins and the overall functioning of the body is affected. Liver cleansing in spring is recommended to prepare the system for the coming seasons after the cold winter. A spring cleanse using herbs and diet has been associated with reduced seasonal allergy symptoms.

In the TCM philosophy, the liver stores the blood and governs the smooth flow of emotions with a focal point on anger/passion, while the gall bladder stores the bile and governs one’s ability to make decisions and indecisiveness. As the cold weather recedes and the energy rises our bodies begin to shed fat stores and with that toxins enter the blood stream increasing the pressure on the liver and gallbladder. Therefore its important to support the other organs of elimination at this time to assist in the process of cleansing.

Alongside the practical cleansing of the liver, it’s also a good time to detoxify the mind and body’s toxic residue from emotional anger or indecisiveness. What do you want to let go and what do you want to grow this coming year?

The European tradition of western herbalism has a complementary philosophy around Spring Cleanse. What was known as the depurative cure was a staple for many in spring time. This involved the taking of herbal bitters to support the liver and cleanse the blood after the winter season of heavier foods, less fresh produce and less movement. It was understood that good health and energy for the coming seasons could not be built on a a foundation of toxins built up in the blood. Stimulation of the liver to support the expelling of these toxins was the tried and trusted method to cleanse the system.

So to summarise, Spring is the season of the earth waking up and rebirthing and we humans have an instinctive desire to do the same. Its a time to choose what we want to let go and what we want to grow. The liver and gall-bladder are the focal point of cleansing, however the other organs of elimination need to be supported too. And our mind and emotions are ready for the same attention. This is the time to clear the ground and plant seeds for what we want to grow this coming year physically, mentally, emotionally and environmentally. How exciting!!!

Spring Cleanse – Why cleanse with the Seasons? Part 1

Traditionally, cultures in every corner of the planet have their chosen ways to cleanse and renew. Detoxing with plants that support cleansing and purification, alongside natural healing protocols using water, steam, smoke and fasting have stood the test of time for thousands of years. And people not only focused on cleansing the body, but also the mind to regain a sense of perspective and direction in life. There was an understanding of the cyclical nature of the seasons and the corresponding cycle of the people.

Traditionally in the Native American tradition, a women menstrual cycle was seen as her time of purification, cleansing and when she was most connected with the universal energies. The men, needing their own purification ceremonies sat together in Inipi lodges (Sweatlodges) where they sweated their prayers, as a way of cleansing and purifying. In the Catholic tradition, we have the Lenten period. The stretch of 40 days and 40 nights, representing Jesus time in the desert where he went to fast, cleanse and purify. And the examples can go on and on. Traditionally much of the cleansing and purification had spiritual drives which may seem obsolete in our current society unless your spiritually driven. However, from the perspective of being human and living in a natural world, the role of periodic cleansing  to support our health and vitality is as relevant as ever.

From a natural healing perspective, the three traditions I like to draw from are the Traditional Chinese Medicine system, the Ayurvedic System and our own Traditional Western Herbalism. All three systems, though differing in styles share the understanding of the fundamental need to cleanse and purify periodically. They also share an understanding of the need for this to be on a physical, mental & emotional level, body-mind. So this is a combined tradition of many thousands of years of knowledge and the truth is that although technology and society has evolved over these thousands of years, humans are pretty much the same. In fact our need for periodic cleansing, rejuvenation and refocusing are greater than with the environmental challenges, societal demands and general madness of living the life in this society and world we have created. Ancient wisdom for modern times!!!

But how do we do it without having to go into the desert for 40 days and 40 nights? Maybe you don’t fancy heading for the nearest Inipi (Sweatlodge) Ceremony. And I know, I know ….. life is busy, soooo busy. Well the good news is, it doesn’t have to be that hard! You don’t have to take time off work, remove yourself from humanity, run naked through the forest or starve, purge or flagellate yourself ( Although the first 3 of these options are highly recommended optional extras!)

The idea of cleansing, detoxing, purging has such negative connotations. The feelings of lack, deprivation, punishment and penance can accompany it. Often the well marketed, detoxes and cleanses focus on weight loss and body image. They play on the desire to be lean, clean, beautiful and green!! They leverage the human drive to expel toxins for survival, but manipulate this a little sometimes by pushing the idea that our natural, human, metabolic waste is unclean, “bad” and innately we are bad and dirty and need to be cleaned. YUCK!!!! All the old religious undertones that so many who have jumped onto this path are rejecting present in yet another form! Guilt, shame, rejection of natural processes. Isn’t it Ironic.

Thats not to say that more intense physical cleanses don’t have their place. I’ve done water fasts, juice fasts many different dietary protocols over the years. Some have been beneficial some have been crazy making! My experience has been that as a one-dimension approach any stand alone diet is limited in its effects. Because human beings are multi-dimensional. My experience is that any cleanse or detox routine undertaken with a rigid mindset and harshness are counterproductive and can compound and reenforce underlying states of guilt, shame and worthlessness. And no matter how many affirmations or law of attraction quotes you read in a day, if your energy and approach is re-inforcing these underlying beliefs, your not going to make any real, lasting or sustainable change in yourself, your health or your life.

So whats my approach then???



And try have a bit of a laugh along the way. Its not that serious!

Positive Mental Health – A Natural Healing Approach

Having worked therapeutically with people for many years, I have become all too familiar with the “revolving door” syndrome that can occur with people who struggle with mental health issues, particularly when prescription medication becomes the only solution on offer. People tend to go up and down and in and out of that door until it gets to a point where the door is closed, locked and barricaded resulting in a life sentence of pills and more importantly a sense of disempowerment where people become victims of a choice less situation.

Did you know that its estimated that 1 in 5 Irish people are on anti-depressant medication? That is 20% of the population and does no include sleeping medications and anti-anxiety medication such as Xanax & Valium. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an advocate of extremism in any form be it natural or pharmaceutical and there is most certainly a valid place for prescription medication. However, these statistics don’t reflect the number of people with severe, incurable mental health problems who have exhausted all avenues. I believe that a large number of these people have no awareness that there are other avenues to explore, either instead of medication or in conjunction with it.

Well the good new is –


There are however a few basic rules that must be understood –

Rule No. 1 – There is no magic bullet! Herbal medicine does not work this way and it is a dangerous message to send to people that if they take such and such an herb or supplement that they will be “cured”.

Rule No. 2   – If you want to take a natural approach to healing you need to be willing to put in the work on all levels and be prepared to make changes in your life.

Rule No.3 – The mind and body cannot be separated and people need a treatment approach that caters for both. Diet, exercise, herbal medicines, counseling, meditation & stress management practices all contribute to a holistic approach that works.

Herbal medicine is such a rich resource that is untapped when it comes to mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety. There are a number of key classifications of herbs that when combined correctly for the individual and accompanied by the aspects outlined above have shown great merit.

3 main classifications are as follows –

Nutritive Herbs: This classification are tonic herbs that can be taken safely over long periods of time to nourish and strengthen the entire system. These herbs form the foundation of any treatment concerning mental health.

Nervine Herbs: This classification directly addresses the nervous system. There are differing aspects of these herbs that need to be matched to the individual and are invaluable in addressing symptoms such as low mood, anxiety and panic attacks and insomnia.

Adaptogenic Herbs: These herbs are once again tonic in nature and support the adrenal glands and therefore the entire endocrine system, balancing hormones increasing resilience to stress and generally strengthening the whole system.

This is a very brief synopsis of some aspects of an herbal approach to mental health difficulties. Natural healing treats the person not the illness so lets remember that every individual is different and unique and this must always be considered. One size does not fit all, but the thing to remember is there are always options!