Intelligent Spring Cleaning to Heal the Five Major Organs of the Body
By Tom Wolfe
Basically from my 30 years of herbalism I have found that there are six stages to the cleansing process. Each of these stages takes one week to perform and spring is the perfect time according to Ayurveda to do “spring cleaning”. As it happens, by so-called coincidence (a/k/a Godincidence), these six weeks needed for a spring cleanse are exactly the same amount of time (Forty Days and Forty Nights) as the seasonal restraint of Lent in the Christian calendar.
The six stages follow and for each week I will give you a unique strategy, specific primary goal and a specific secondary goal:
1) Prepare the body for cleansing with a light diet of greens and simple proteins.
2) Clean the intestinal tract for a week combined with using aperient (gentle laxatives) and astringent herbs along with green herbs and vegetables. This is the first main organ the stomach, receptive organ of earth.
3) Clean the blood during the second week with Alteratives/Blood Purifiers while continuing to keep the intestines and respiratory system free of stress. This purifies what is called in Ayurveda Rasa Dhatu or element of cleansing water
4) Clean the Liver while continuing the alteratives, aperients (gentle laxatives) and astringents, and greens. The Liver is the active organ of the wood element.
5) Transform whatever specific main organ is in need while continuing the liver cleansing, alterative/blood cleansers, intestinal cleansing, and greens. This transformative use of herbs is fiery involving the heart as the main active organ pumping the blood.
6) Rebuild the tissues and structure of the body with very nutrient-dense, most easily digested foods and gentle supplements. At this point we will have completed our Forty Day and Forty Night Cleanse and may resume our regular dietary habits. Here we rebuild the earth element and come full circle.
In three decades of my own purification and observing other’s attempts at physical purification, I have found the biggest error that people make (including myself) is to go too fast and, similar to binge diets, swing from one extreme to the other in what I would call “binge cleansing”. So, I am writing this article to give folks a version of the 4000 years of Yoga Wisdom as to how to gently allow the Infinite Intelligence that lives within us to cleanse and renew in a realistic and practical way that increases vitality. We are most blessed in this moment in history as we are able to combine the ancient wisdom of the East with an incredibly diverse and sophisticated choice in herbal products made possible by Western technology and can now take advantage of the best of both East and West. I am confident as an herbalist that if you follow these instructions and work with the Infinite Intelligence you too can find your balance and increase your energy level gently and consistently without a sense of being on a roller coaster.
As many of you know I have been devoted to an Indian Master named Meher Baba for thirty-four years; and Meher Baba teaches that the first goal in spiritual evolution is to become energy. In Ayurveda energy, or Prana, is held to exist in five distinct forms. In the Spring-time the energy most available is Udhana, the upward-moving energy, which, coming out of the stillness of Winter (Samana), prepares us for the activity and excitement of the Summer months (Vyana). Not only will this approach keep you off the roller coaster, it will also allow you to keep your strength, vitality, and flow moving upward while deeply freeing congestion and blockages for greater energy in the spring.
In Week One our strategy will be to prepare our bodies by lightening the diet and using a minimal quantity of herbs with the goal of mentally preparing ourselves and informing the body that we are about to begin a more intensive transformative process which may have moments of discomfort. A secondary goal is to carry a sense of reserve energy into the cleansing process so that we feel confident that we can undergo the cleansing without depression or excessive fatigue.
Our strategy is based on greens, greens, and more greens combined with a simple and easily digested source of protein. My favorite greens include: spinach, kale, beet greens, carrot greens, fresh parsley, fresh cilantro, chard, and dandelion greens. Also, if fresh greens are not realistic, or if you wish to add to your daily dose of fresh greens, green preparations may be used in tablet or powder form. Another herb that is always a great addition to a cleansing regimen is Nettles. We love Nettles and grow copious amounts of it in our own organic herb garden in the backyard of Smile. We also make Nettles available in tea
, and capsule forms. Gaia Herb’s Nettle Extract Capsules
is a particularly nutrient dense form of this beloved plant in easy to use capsule form. Oregon's Wild Harvest
is another especially potent option in capsules.
As you remember, our strategy also includes simple and easy to digest proteins. My favorite is almonds, which can be enjoyed raw, cooked along with your greens, or in almond butter. After almonds, my favorite proteins include paneer (a simple Indian cheese similar in consistency to tofu), cottage cheese, and tofu.
In the second week our strategy is to begin the cleansing of the intestinal tract with aperients (gentle laxatives) and herbal astringents. Our primary goal in Week Two is to remove buildup and toxins from the entire intestinal tract; a secondary goal is to tone the stomach, the small intestine, and the large intestine through the use of herbs with an astringent action. Each of these weeks builds on the weeks before, so we will continue our light spring diet of greens and/or green supplements with light proteins. The easiest way to gently and thoroughly cleanse the intestinal tract is to use Triphala
, a combination of three fruits (Tri=3 and Phala =fruits). You will probably find as most do that Triphala is easy on the system. I would dose it at two tablets with 6 ounces of water right before bed. This one combination is the favorite of many many herbalists because it is so gentle yet deep in action. Triphala is primarily aperient (gently laxative) and astringent which gives it a toning effect as well to the big three of digestion...the stomach, the small intestine, and the large intestine. I would dose Triphala
(which comes from Planetary Formulas in one gram tablets) at one to one and one half grams per 50 pounds of body weight (Up to 10 daily) for at least a week before concentrating on the third week when we will begin blood purification.
Our strategy in the third week for the cleansing of the blood includes using the category of herbs known as “alteratives” along with an extraordinary herb, Nettles
: Urtica dioca, which is both cleansing and specific to seasonal allergies. Our primary goal is to alter the bloodstream to be free of toxins (hence “alteratives”), and our secondary goal is to increase the digestive fire (Agni). I remember when, in the late 1970’s, we as herbalists decided not to call this group of herbs “blood purifiers” when talking with physicians. It just didn’t work within the physicians’ paradigm to have medicines called “blood purifiers” so, since that time we have called this category of herbs “alteratives” instead. There are thirty to fifty choices (alteratives) here and I put together a blend named Tommy’s Blood Purifier
fifteen years ago which continues to be one of the favorites of the Smile folks, both staff and customers. The ingredients are Burdock, Sarsaparilla, Yellow Dock, Cinnamon, and Red Root. One teaspoon to a cup simmered for an hour makes a tasty tea that does the job. Three to five cups daily is the place to start here with Alterative teas of which Tommy's blood Purifier is only one of many. To meet our secondary goal of increasing agni our herbal allies are: ginger, trikatu (three spices), and cayenne in small doses. I particularly recommend New Chapter’s GingerForce
capsules and Planetary Formulas Trikatu tablets, now called Three Spices Sinus Complex
In Week Four our strategy for the liver-which stores the results of our digestion both righteous and angry-is to use bitters and amphoeterics (herbs specific to one organ). Our primary goal here is to relax and honor the liver, which bears the brunt of everything we ate over the holidays, everything that we have left unsaid or said in an unskilled manner, and the ingestion of our increasingly polluted environment. Our secondary goal is a digestive system free of sluggishness. If digestive sluggishness occurs at this point, we will need to return to the earlier stage of digestive cleansing with aperients (gentle laxatives) and astringents. Dandelion
, and Milk Thistle
are some my favorite herbs here and you will need to find the right level of dosing for your system. One great combination product is Bitters Compound
from Herbalist and Alchemist, which is easy to use since it is already in tincture form. Gaia Herbs Sweetish Bitters
is another excellent choice in tincture form. Two milliliters twice daily is about the right place to start and again you will need to find your ideal dosing. These herbs are of course also available as tea, which is to my mind a higher form of herbalism but involves much more of a commitment to preparing herbs every day.
In the Fifth Week, or for “as long as it takes”, our strategy is to tailor this herbal cleansing program to our own unique needs. For example, if you are prone to seasonal allergies, this will be the time to concentrate on reducing mucus in the respiratory system and/or cleansing the lymphatic system. The primary goal of the fifth week of cleansing is to heal one or more of the remaining three active organ systems. The five active organ systems in Ayurveda are: the kidneys, the liver, the heart, the spleen/blood, and the lungs. As we have already addressed the liver and the spleen/blood, you can choose from the remaining three according to your needs. My favorite herbs for the lungs are Elecampane, Bayberry, and Yarrow. My favorite herbs for the kidneys are Marshmallow, Uva Ursi, and Cornsilk. And my favorite herbs for the heart are Hawthorne, Nettles, and Cayenne. For more information on how to best utilize this week for your own needs, please come and visit one of our knowledgeable herbalists for assistance. To cleanse for "As long as it takes" will vary from organ system to organ system, and each system is different. For example cleansing the respiratory system of phlegm would be different than cleansing the liver of congestion to reduce cholesterol. Our secondary goal is to develop an ongoing daily regimen to identify and heal our weaknesses as we return to our regular daily diet and habits.
Our final and Sixth Week to finish out our Forty Days and Forty Nights of cleansing is based on a strategy of rebuilding tissue and strength with nutrient dense preparations and easily digestible foods. Our primary goal, having finished our five weeks of thorough cleansing, is to feel deeply and confidently that we have sufficient energy to meet our obligations. Our secondary goal is to experience a continual sense of reserve (Samana), so that we never completely drain the battery. There are a variety of ways to feed the body well; one is to continue enjoying the fresh greens and simple proteins with which we began this process. There is an Ayurvedic formula as well, known as Chyavanprash, which is an ancient recipe specifically for building up the body and clarifying the mind and heart. This formula is available in a paste, which can be eaten by the spoonful or mixed with warm water to make a nourishing tea.
If you are interested in learning more about the system of Ayurveda, there is a wonderful introduction in The Yoga of Herbs by David Frawley and Dr. Vasant Lad. In addition to the fifty page introduction to the concepts and methods of Ayurveda, this inexpensive book provides an extremely useful materia medica (a list of specific herbs and their uses) for both Eastern and Western herbs.
In the herbal cleansing time we call herban renewal...your herbalist, Tom