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Diet and Herb Tips for Spring Health

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No matter where you live '" snowy Michigan or sunny Florida '" Spring is upon us. In nature, this energy is represented by sap rising and buds bursting. Likewise, these same energies stir within as we feel drawn outdoors and into more activities. While it is nearly time to enjoy warmer weather, it is also one of the two most susceptible times of the year to catch colds and flu. 

Although your internal body heat is rising toward the surface (like the trees' sap), the air is still cool and it's important to remain warmly dressed outdoors. The shining sun and hint of warmth encourage us to shed heavy clothes and act like it's summer. Yet, this is exactly how those spring colds and flu begin. This is also the windy season and exposed necks invite pathogens to invade the body. Foil that flu bug by wearing a scarf outdoors and keep those layers on.  

Likewise, refrain from eating cold foods and drinks (iced drinks and foods, juices, raw foods, salads, soymilk) until summer arrives. Continue eating cooked foods and protein until your body adjusts to fluctuating temperature changes. Add in a large variety of cooked vegetables, dark leafy greens, some whole grains and cooked fruit and you will stay well through this vulnerable time. 

Read on for more of my favorite spring health tips!

Dandelions

To enhance your health, add dandelion to your diet to cleanse the liver. Dandelion greens, roasted dandelion 'coffee' and dandelion in grain drinks are all ways to imbibe this herb.

In Europe, dandelion root is roasted and combined with chicory root to brew dandelion "coffee." This full-bodied drink does exactly the opposite of coffee: it clears heat toxins and congestion from the Liver rather than puts it in. Further, while coffee (and caffeine in general) robs the Kidney's trust fund of inherited energy, dandelion helps them in their proper function of filtering fluids. 

Keep those dandelion "weeds!" Clean your physical house by turning your dandelion weeds into a nutritious cooked salad. These slightly bitter greens are high in iron, potassium and Vitamin A. Add a touch of lemon juice and flax oil for a dish potent in vitamins and minerals.

Bitters

Bitter tasting herbs can make a drink to stimulate bile production, aiding appetite, digestion and elimination. Europeans regularly sip a small glass of bitters before meals. Combine 1/4 ounce each powdered roots of dandelionburdockgentiansarsaparillayellow dock and fennel seeds, and 1/8 ounce dried citrus peel and licorice with 1 quart rice wine, vodka or good quality red wine. (Add 1/8 tsp. each of nettle and seaweed and you have a hefty mineral tonic as well!) Soak for two weeks, shaking the mixture daily. Strain, then take 1 tsp. before meals. 

Roses

Make fresh rose petals into a tea and drink 3 cups a day to treat PMS, depression and menstrual irregularities. Alternatively, chop rose petals finely, mix with honey and eat freely as is, or as a tasty spread on bread or crackers. Rose petals are calming, regulate Liver energy and harmonize the Blood. 

Spring Cold and Flu Tea

This powerful antiviral tea mimics an effective Chinese remedy that quickly clears colds and flu: Combine 1/2 ounce each dandelion root, forsythia fruit and isatis leaf in 1 quart water and simmer covered 20 minutes. Add 1/2 ounce honeysuckle flowers and simmer another 10 minutes. Strain and drink 1 cup every 2-3 hours until symptoms are gone. 

Spring Allergies

Spring winds often begin the allergy season. Those who sneeze frequently and have allergies often benefit by taking milk thistle. This herb clears the Liver, which in turn calms sneezing. Take 2-4 capsules, or 1 tsp. powdered seed with water, 3 times a day.  

Liver Cleanse

Cleansing the Liver in spring is an excellent way to remove stored toxins and winter's accumulated fat. Blend and drink a mixture of 8 ounces water, 8 ounces apple juice, 1-4 cloves garlic and 1-4 tblsp. olive oil each morning on an empty stomach for four days in a row. Follow with a cup tea decoction of 1/4 ounce fennel seeds and 1/4 ounce dandelion root. If appropriate for your body, also fast on warm apple juice and green vegetable juice, and take 1-2 '00' capsules cayenne powder 1-3 times daily. 

Spring Kicharee

Kicharee, a traditional dish of India, is called the 'food of the gods' and by legend is said to cure all illnesses if eaten exclusively for 10 days. Balanced in cooling and warming energies, it is highly assimilable. Kicharee is a great food to fast on for three to 10 days in the spring as it detoxifies the Liver and Blood and neutralizes acids without causing nutritional deficiencies. Turmeric decongests and cools the Liver and purifies Blood, cumin warms and stimulates digestion, coriander aids digestion, mung beans detoxify and cleanse Blood and ghee stimulates digestion.

While the traditional recipe just uses rice, mung beans, ghee and the spices, here several vegetables are added: burdock to cleanse the Liver and Blood, carrots to support digestion and fluid metabolism, shiitake mushrooms to strengthen Blood and immunity and support Liver function and kelp and dark leafy greens to detoxify the Liver and provide important minerals. For those with weakness, low energy, poor appetite or lowered immunity, use chicken stock. 

  • 3 cups water or chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup rice
  • 1/2 cup mung beans
  • 1 small strip kelp, washed
  • 1/3 tsp. turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp. coriander powder
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds or powder
  • 2 Tblsp. ghee (clarified butter) or sesame oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 burdock root, scrubbed and thinly sliced
  • 1 carrot, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup chopped dark leafy greens (dale, collards, dandelion, mustard)
  • Seasonings: salt, lemon juice 

Cook rice, beans and kelp in water or stock for 45 minutes. Brown spices in oil. Stir fry onion, mushrooms, burdock and carrot in spiced oil. Boil greens in an inch of water for five minutes and strain. Combine all ingredients together. More water or stock may be added to make soupier, if wanted. Add any desired seasonings. 

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