Spring Cleaning - For Your Liver!

Plant Ally: Taraxacum officinale - common dandelion

It’s been a long, cold winter here in our little pocket of the pacific northwest. As we transition into longer and warmer days it’s important to maintain our self care rituals so that we can keep that upward trajectory and stay in sync with the natural rhythms of the earth.

If you’re like me, you may have noticed that you’ve accumulated a few too many things over the holidays. Be it material items, patterns of thought, or environmental toxins, early spring is the best time to purge. What better way to start than to cleanse our bodies - our first and foremost of earthly temples? Perhaps it’s time for a liver detox!

The basis of traditional chinese medicine is a concept called Zàng-fu, which stipulates that the bodily organs are functional entities. The Huang Di Nei Jing (Esoteric Scripture of the Yellow Emperor) describes the Liver as “the general of an army” (source). As you can see, this is a very important organ. Signs of an unbalanced liver may include adrenal fatigue, irritability and depression, waking up between 1-3am and being unable to fall asleep again, menstrual irregularities, and more. Joyce Marley, an acupuncturist from New Hartford, NY explains:

“Emotionally, we feel irritable and depressed or have pronounced mood swings when the Liver Qi is stuck. The Liver channel also flows to the throat, so the feeling of a lump in the throat that is worse when stressed, called plum-pit qi in Chinese medicine, is attributed to Liver Qi stagnation.
Because of the Liver’s regulatory effect on the Qi of the Stomach and Spleen, digestive complaints are common. Acid reflux, irritable bowel syndrome, nausea and abdominal distention may be due to a Liver imbalance affecting the Stomach or Spleen.
Tendon problems may be due to the Liver failing to properly nourish them. Many of my patients with carpal tunnel and plantar fasciitis have other Liver issues. Stiff neck and muscle cramps may be related to the Liver.”
(read full article here)

Did any of those symptoms apply to you? I definitely put a mental check mark next to a few of them. So, what’s next? For me, the first step is to 1) remove that sweet, delicious, crutch-of-a-beverage called coffee from my diet and 2) replace it with a caffeine-free, liver-cleansing alternative, roasted dandelion root. 

Dandelion has been used for millennia across a wide array of cultures as a liver tonic (source). In the west, we have only just begun to see this plant as an ally and not as a pesky addition to manicured lawns. Perhaps they are so persistent because we are in such dire need of their potent medicines? Or maybe they just have a really clever form of seed dispersal. Who knows!

Roasted Dandelion Root Coffee Recipe:

  • 4 cups of water

  • 2 tablespoons dandelion root

  • 1 stick Ceylon cinnamon (optional)

Place herbs in a pot, cover and bring to a gentle boil.  Turn down heat and simmer about 5 minutes. Strain and serve in your favorite mug with honey and milk of choice.

Makes about 2-3 servings. I often give my herbs a second boil for a somewhat less robust cup. 

TIP: Want a little more heat? Try adding chai spices like ginger, cardamom, black pepper, and star anise.