Coming out of winter months and transitioning into spring is always a special time of year as everything starts to buzz with life and oscillate between bright, fresh, intense sun, extreme wind and rain. All elements playing their role in generating new bright green growth, vibrant flowers and energy in everything and everyone! Energy for “Spring Cleaning!”.
There are several thoughts about where the term “Spring Cleaning” came from. It appears to date back many centuries and could have been influenced by several traditions. The Jewish tradition during Passover (March and April) requires the removal of all leavened products from the house including utensils used for making these products. In doing so it is thought that this time coincided with a thorough clean of the house.
The Iranians took part in Khaneh Tabani, which translates as “Shaking of the House”, in preparation for New Year during the spring Equinox on the 21st March. This term “Shaking of the House” is rather visual and for me has a strong association with getting ready for what is coming in spring and summer. The Chinese also “shake the house” in preparation for their New Year in January or February depending on how the Chinese calendar falls.
In Western countries before the advent of the wonderful vacuum cleaner, spring was the time to remove soot from the house that was a result of coal furnaces and fires. Springtime was considered warm enough to open the doors and windows to air the house out, letting the wind blow all the soot and dust away.
Whatever the history to spring cleaning it is a time of renewal, of letting go of what is not needed. It has both psychological and physical effects on the mind, body and spirit. The physical effects are found in deeper cleaning of dirt and dust that has accumulated over the winter months in areas that are not so visible due to lack of sun and day light.
Psychologically the winter is a gloomy time, especially in Northern countries when daylight hours are much less, the sun is low in the sky, everything appears to be sleeping and consequently energy stagnates, things get left undone, projects unfinished and progress naturally slowed. Spring is the time when we feel energized and ready to complete all the unfinished projects, make those decisions that we have been putting off, and generally get on with things with renewed and almost excited vigour.
What about extending the spring cleaning tradition to yourself to lift mood, energise and clear out stagnation from the body?
March-April is the time to do that detox you have been promising yourself for months. During the spring it is easier to eat fresh foods, salads and vegetables as flavours are more intense and colours vibrant. Drinking herbal teas “feels” the right thing to do to help remove unwanted clogging in the intestines and bowel, refreshing and energizing the system, as well as increasing and improving blood circulation, supporting your main body organs by assisting
them in breaking down accumulated toxins and eliminating them more effectively through the body’s elimination channels – the skin, liver, kidneys, lungs and bowel. Spring-cleaning the body, removes accumulated “dust”, helping our systems function more effectively while also decreasing the potential for spring allergies, such as hay fever. Herbs that help with detoxifying and removing the sluggishness of winter are abundant in our hedgerows from early spring onwards. These include:
Cleavers or Goose grass (Galium aparine) is a straggling plant that sticks to everything. When looking at the plant’s physiognomy, it looks like the body’s lymphatic system of small channels connecting lymph nodes all over to encourage clearance of toxins and effective lymph drainage. The name refers to its ability to cling/cleave to clothing or animals that brush past it. Growing frantically in the spring, it is full of polyphenolic acids, flavonoids and tannins. These constituents make a wonderful diuretic for general detoxification of the liver and whole body and to decrease swollen lymph glands. Pick the plant’s creeping stems, simmer in water for 5 minutes and then steep for 8-10 minutes before drinking. Drink 2-3 cups daily as a tea. (Avoid if pregnant)
Culpeper, an English botanist, herbalist, physician and astrologer (1616-1664) in his Materica Medica described Cleavers as “A good remedy in the spring, eaten (being first chopped small and boiled well in water gruel, to cleanse the blood and strengthen the liver, thereby to keep the body in health and fitting it for that change of season that is coming.”
As second herb found in abundance as this time is Nettle (Urtica doica) – The Romans used Urtica as a method of beating the body to bring blood to the surface in order to keep warm. Known as “urtification”. Nettle leaves are rich in flavonoids, amines, including histamine, acetylcholine and serotonin as well as minerals. Nettle is also a cleansing and detoxifying herb with diuretic action, aiding the elimination of waste from the body. It is an antiallergenic and can be used for treating hay fever, a condition often associated with spring. Pick nettle tops and prepare in the same way as cleavers tea. Can be drunk either hot or cold. It is a wonderful diuretic, high in potassium, helping effectively release excessive water and edema without depleting the body’s potassium levels. The high mineral content supports energy as well as healthy functioning of the kidneys. Nettle soup eaten daily is a very tasty, highly nutritious soup. (Avoid if pregnant)
Culpeper wrote about the nettle; “Nettle tops eaten in the spring consume the phlegmatic superfluities in the body of man that the coldness of winter hath left behind.”
A very useful technique, not only in spring, but all year round is dry skin brushing. Dry skin brushing on a daily basis stimulates lymph to aid with removal of toxins through the skin, the largest organ in the body. Using a natural bristle body brush for this purpose, before showering brush firmly, moving upwards all over your body always in the direction of your heart. Avoid any areas of open, irritated skin, or eczema. Shower immediately afterwards to remove any loosened dead skin. If you are feeling really motivated end with a
burst of cold water to further invigorate and stimulate movement of lymphatic fluid and the removal of toxins. Over time you will enjoy the benefits of effective removal of toxins resulting in a stronger immune system, increased energy and overall improved wellbeing.
Note: If pregnant use herbs with caution
Culpepper’s Complete Herbal, Nicholas Culpeper. (Kissinger Legacy Reprints)
Dispensing with Tradition, Anne McIntyre, Michelle Boudin
Healing with the Herbs of Life, Lesley Tierra, L.Ac., Herbalist, A.H.G