It’s fair to say that most people we talk to in January admit to having overindulged over the past few weeks and are ready for a refresh, and we’re no different. So to help us start the New Year on a healthy note, we consulted Sebastian Pole, Master Herbsmith at Pukka Herbs and author of the new book Cleanse Nourish & Restore with Herbal Tea , about what he considers to be the top five herbs for supporting cleansing and detox.
He told us: “Plants have been at the centre of human health forever and it feels like we are only just discovering how important they are to living well today. Helping to nourish, cleanse, rejuvenate and restore your whole system, herbs can be used for both optimising health as well as getting you better when you are unwell: in other words, they can be food as well as medicine. Their life-enhancing properties are simple to bring into your everyday life, and one of my favourite ways is to do this by making herbal blends and drinking their delicious infusions.
“ While we wash away and eliminate waste daily, modern life throws so much at us that not all of it goes down the plughole. If we don’t take time to cleanse the inside of our bodies, then we run the risk of a range of symptoms from bad breath to sluggish digestion.
“Feeling clogged up can also affect our emotional state – we might hold onto negative issues (the run-in at work last month, the break-up last year), instead of letting them go. Cleansing on all levels is central to being healthy. Toxins have damp, sticky and stagnant qualities. Ayurveda calls toxinsama, which refers to any undigested and unutilised wastes inside you. Toxins can cause inflammation and infection, and can lead to mucus congestion, poor immunity, loss of strength, water retention, tense muscles, bloating, itchiness, a thick tongue coating and depression, amongst other things. Remember the last time last time you had a cold and that ‘heavy’ feeling that you can’t get away from? Or the last time you were feeling depressed and stuck-in-the-mud? That’s a sure sign you need a cleanse.”
Nettle is more than just a weed with a nasty sting! It’s filled with nutrients and active compounds, and has been used as a medicinal herb since ancient times. One of its traditional uses is purifying and cleansing the blood – it’s known as a ‘blood tonic’. It’s rich in chlorophyll, which is traditionally thought to help cleanse and build the blood, and it has diuretic properties too, which may help flush out toxins from the body. Nettle is also rich in nutrients that support liver function and detoxification, including magnesium, iron and vitamin C.
Dandelion is a classic herb for supporting cleansing and detox. Both the root and leaves can be beneficial, but dandelion root is traditionally used for supporting the liver. One of its actions is to increase the flow of bile, which is the liver’s way of getting rid of fat-soluble toxins and wastes into the gut, to be excreted. Bile flow into the gut also helps digestion and supports normal bowel movements, and so dandelion root can also act as a digestive tonic, and can help if you’re a bit ‘bunged up’. This is vital, as we need good bowel movements when cleansing to properly excrete wastes and toxins from our body.
Fennel seeds are another ‘everyday’ herb with many hidden powers. They’re perhaps best known as a digestive tonic: in India, the seeds are chewed after a meal to aid digestion, and they can specifically help to relieve digestive symptoms such as wind and bloating. This makes fennel a fantastic addition to your cleansing regime if you’re suffering the consequences of overindulgence during the festive season.
And that’s not all. Like dandelion and nettle, fennel has also been found to have diuretic properties, helping to flush out toxins via the urine. And it has antibacterial and anti-fungal activity too, potentially helping to improve the balance of healthy flora in the gut – and get rid of any ‘nasties’!
You probably know of cardamom as an aromatic spice that’s used in Indian cooking. But it’s also a fantastic herb for a gentle winter cleanse, as it has warming as well as cleansing and digestion-soothing properties.
In herbal medicine, cardamom is known as a ‘carminative’, which means it can help to relieve wind and bloating. Like fennel, this can make cardamom especially helpful for a post-festive cleanse, when your digestive system as well as your liver is likely to need support. Cardamom also has antibacterial properties, including against common bacteria such as Helicobacter pylori – a harmful bacteria that can live in the stomach. And like many cleansing herbs, cardamom has mild diuretic effects too, helping to improve elimination of toxins via the urine.
Complementing the activity of all the other herbs is the amazing aloe vera. Aloe vera gel – from the inner leaf – has a cooling and soothing action, which can help calm the heat and inflammation associated with overindulgence. Aloe gel is used as a digestive tonic too, and may help to gently increase bowel movements (although it doesn’t have the strong laxative effect of aloe latex from the outer leaf). And it may also have a stimulating and cleansing effect on the liver. A great all-rounder.
If tea’s not thing then try the incredible shots of ginger that are the Zinger range from James White. These are tiny drinks with BIG kick; all-natural yet intense 7cl shots providing perfect on-the-go pick me ups, whether on your morning commute, before hitting the gym or for those mid-afternoon energy slumps. The Xtra Ginger really packs a punch with 40% crushed ginger juice, blended with pressed apple juice, and added fire coming from the chilli, while the Lime Chilli Zinger provides a powerful citric kick combining zesty lime with fiery chilli packing the intense flavours of Mexico into one small bottle. The Turmeric Juice Zinger is also a great option heading into the winter months, as it contains curcumin, which has anti-oxidant and anti-bacterial properties and has been found to assist in the rebuilding of the immune system – perfect for anyone trying to stave off a stubborn cold. All Zingers are made using 100% natural ingredients and no preservatives, artificial colours or flavours. They cost £1.49 per 7cl shot and you can buy them from Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Holland and Barrett.
- Pukka’s Clean Me Green 14 day well-being cleanse combines a blend teas and organic supergreens, including nettle, dandelion, celery seed, fennel, aloe vera, licorice root and peppermint leaf for a refreshing blend targeted towards soothing the liver and digestive health. It is available now priced at £19.99 from www.pukkaherbs.com