by Brooke Wagenheim
Minnesotans everywhere are rejoicing in the freshness of the season. Spring has made its presence with its distinctive scent; tender buds and blossoms emerge in this season of renewal. Scantily clad urban folk parade, just a bit prematurely, in short sleeves and short pants gleefully basking in the sun that peeks out of the dreary cold sky, thawing gently, any remains of the dirty city snowdrifts.
Times of seasonal change are important as reorganizational periods for increasing self-awareness and looking at life priorities. They can be stressful and thus potential illness and physical difficulty may occur. Your adaptability to these changes is vitally important to your continuing good health. Certain routines are beneficial to aid in the transition from a long cold winter to the colossal joys of restorative spring.
Our bodies begin to respond to the changing season by releasing foreign matter, toxins and mucous. By supporting our bodies with cleansing foods, we can accomplish very deep cleaning and come much closer to achieving optimum health. It is especially inspiring to cleanse and even fast, after a long winter of eating heavy comfort foods. The liver and gallbladder especially, are organs that can be stressed, not only by winter stagnation, but by sugar, honey, fried foods, alcohol, drugs, chocolate, coffee, and excessive amounts of dairy and red meats. Fresh organic fruits and vegetables are essential in stimulating the body to cleanse and eliminate toxins, not to mention getting rid of that bit of winter pudge.
There are many cleansing choices to incorporate into your daily menu. Some examples are kiwis, oranges, limes, lemons, grapefruit, apples, asparagus, beets, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, dandelion leaves, sprouts, parsley, ginger, garlic, olive oil, and lots of clean water and herbal teas.
Grains are also good to eat in spring, especially barley, quinoa, wheat, millet and rye. The live enzymes of the raw vegetables and fruits are needed for proper digestion. Aloe Vera is also great for stimulating and soothing digestion, offering so many benefits that it should find a way into the diet, regardless of the season. Native to Africa, it has been naturalized in most of the tropical zones, but in North America, it grows only as a houseplant. In Sanskrit, Aloe is called Kumari, which means Goddess. East Indian women use it every day to maintain beauty and counteract symptoms of aging. Aloe figures prominently in gynecology. Ayurvedic medicine considers Aloe gel to be estrogenic, which accounts for its vitalizing and tonic properties for women, regulating liver function, balancing hormones, and blissfully counteracting symptoms of PMS. In `the West, Aloe Vera gel is a highly effective agent for the treatment of burns or other skin injuries. When used in the diet, Aloe has excellent properties, especially when added to papaya juice, which is full of digestion enzymes, and a delicious drink.
Aloe also has the ability to kill unwelcome bacteria in the intestinal tract. However, once eradicated, the overuse of Aloe can cause the destruction and collapse of friendly bacteria. It should not be taken regularly for more than three months at a time, with an abstaining period of three months. By simply coordinating our diets with the cycles of the seasons, we naturally cleanse and build health.
The main elements in structuring an optimum diet consist of foods that are cleansing and foods that are builders. Fruits, vegetables, and herbs are the cleansers. The body builders are comprised mainly of protein foods, fats, and whole grains.
Make a large fruit salad and keep it in your fridge, a great way to snack healthfully and a great morning or anytime on-the-go meal.
Lightly steam some asparagus, broccoli or cauliflower, squeeze some lemon, olive oil, garlic and fresh ground pepper on it.
Add some sauerkraut to your stir-fry for a new zingy twist.
Boil, peel and slice up some beets to add to your salad.
Throw some sprouts on top of every meal.
Heal stomachaches with aloe vera juice, coconut milk, carrot juice or puree, goat milk, sweet potato, parsnip, flaxseed tea, slippery elm tea, chamomile tea or cabbage juice.
Raw cabbage juice has germicidal properties. It is known to soothe stomach ulcers with its Vitamin U. The juice can be mixed with honey for coughing or hoarseness. Cabbage glutamine has been used to treat alcoholism, anemia, fatigue, infections, intestinal parasites, stones and arthritis.
An old herbal remedy called feverfew, used for headaches 2,000 years ago, offers new help for migraine sufferers. A recent study says that the daisy-like plant may be just as effective as prescription drugs in preventing the headaches. Another study shows that feverfew users had a 70percent reduction in migraine frequency and severity. The herb must be taken daily for two to three months to have an effect. Feverfew is not for everyone. Consult your doctor first, because negative side effects and allergies may occur. Essential oils can be used as aromatherapy in baths and compresses for headaches and sinus pressure as well: try peppermint, lavender, rosemary, rose, eucalyptus, and lemon.
Peppermint is a wonderful and common household remedy and will grow prolifically in most any garden. Drinking peppermint tea is stimulating and great to use while cleansing as it freshens the breath and body odor. A small amount of Peppermint and Tangerine oil in a bath relieves itchy skin and is energizing.
Ginkgo Biloba Extract has been shown to improve blood flow through both major blood vessels and capillaries. Ginkgo is also a powerful antioxidant. It can be utilized for memory loss associated with aging, poor circulation, hearing loss, depression in the elderly, and the high flavonoid content is effective in treating asthma.
Milk Thistle Extract protects and rejuvenates the liver. It produces a powerful anti-oxidant effect. It protects your liver by interrupting recirculation of toxins and puts up an amazing protective shield against liver-harming substances like alcohol. It actually helps the liver to synthesize new proteins and ultimately regenerate.
Kava Kava is used to control anxiety, alleviate symptoms of both menopause and PMS, treat anxiety-based depression and insomnia, and as a muscle-relaxant.
Raw Garlic is simply an amazing and magical plant. It is one of the most valuable medicinal and cosmetic herbs, beneficial when eaten raw or applied externally, as it loses most of its potent qualities when cooked. Garlic juice mixed with water can be used for a runny nose, sinus pressure. It can also be used as a wash for the scalp to stimulate hair growth and clear up dandruff. A raw peeled clove placed in the ear can cure an earache, mashed up and applied externally, it can heal cuts, sores and even acne, as well as bring down swelling. It is truly indispensable.
Basil was used by old herbalists for its sedative effect. Steep one teaspoon of this dried herb in a cup of hot water. Sip it throughout the day for its calming effect. If you have a headache sip it to alleviate the pain. Your dentist may not even know that a leaf can be chewed or a tea taken to alleviate bad breath. The best news of all - basil is high in antioxidants.
For moms with colic infants there is the magic of Dill Not only will it bring restful sleep but this old stomach remedy has been used effectively for colic. A tea is prepared by steeping dill in hot milk or formula. Another bonus for moms - the leaves have been recommended to nursing mothers as milk stimulant.
Oregano may give pizza sauce its unique flavor but unlike today's use of the herb, its early uses were medicinal rather than culinary. Modern herbalists still use the leaves for indigestion, coughs, headaches and to promote menstruation. It also is useful for arthritis, body odor and emphysema.
Parsley is often used as a garnish at restaurants to clear the palate. Parsley is an excellent herb for women for disorders such as bladder infections, tender breasts when nursing and suppressed menses. Something to remember for the summer: Parsley is a natural antihistamine. It can be used directly on insect bites and hives as a tea or in crushed form.
The Benefits of Bananas:
This delightful yellow fruit is more than a delicious treat. Did you know that unlike other fruits the banana grows on the world's largest fruit-bearing herb? Everyone has heard the old adage an apple a day keeps the doctor away. If you are looking to add more fruits to your diet for more health benefits, take a look at what bananas have to offer. Nutritionally, bananas are a meal in themselves. They offer complex carbohydrates; they are low in fat and high in potassium. They're a source for vitamins B, B-1, B-2, B-6, B-12 and vitamin C. If that's not enough, bananas are filling and yet only have 120 calories - the perfect food in any weight loss plan. Being rich in potassium, the US Food and Drug Administration recently announced that bananas could keep blood pressure within healthy limits.
Bananas also have been proven to stimulate the production of mucous and cells in the stomach lining protecting the digestive system from acids that cause heartburn, indigestion and diarrhea. Filled with soluble fiber they are also ideal to promote regularity. Bananas are so rich in B vitamins that they help with the tingling pain and numbness of carpal tunnel syndrome. Vitamin B-6 helps reduce swelling and increases tendon flexibility. For the athlete, bananas ease the muscular cramps associated with sports and workouts. The potassium and minerals relax muscles and can prevent spasms that develop into painful knots. So for more health benefits than you even realized, make it an apple and a banana a day!