Monday, March 12, 2012

Detox with Spring Greens

Spring Nettles

I'm spending all of my writing time finishing the new cookbook so today I have another guest post for you from a friend and acupuncturist here in Northwestern Washington. Nancy Moore runs a busy acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine practice. She can also be found on her oriental medicine blog. Today she talks about bitter spring greens and why, at this time of year, it is of utmost importance to support our detoxifying organs, the liver and gallbladder. ~Ali

Green is the color associated with springtime in Chinese medicine, which, in the Five Element cycle, is the Wood phase, a time to cleanse and nourish the Liver and Gallbladder systems.

The best remedies for stimulating and supporting the Liver-Gallbladder systems are colored green! Chlorophyll-rich leafy greens have the new, active, ascending nature of spring within them to help detoxify and de-stagnate our bodies in this season of renewal.

Some of these greens also have the bitter taste that is almost completely absent in our diet, which herbalist Jim McDonald feels is essential for health. In a great article entitled “Blessed Bitters” McDonald suggests that many of our modern-day health woes are the result of Bitter Deficiency Syndrome. He states that bitters stimulate all digestive secretions and stomach acid, help regulate the absorption of vitamin B12, normalize blood sugar, promote the production and release of pancreatic enzymes and bile, strengthen the tone of tissues throughout the digestive tract, heal damaged mucous membranes, soothe gastric reflux, aid intestinal peristalsis, and reduce cravings for sweets.

On an emotional level, dark green leafy vegetables and bitters have both a grounding quality and a “releasing” property—calming an edgy-irritable system and helping us let go of sluggish, stuck, negative energy. This makes sense when we remember that a large portion of our “feel-good” neurotransmitters—including serotonin and dopamine—are utilized in the gut, not the brain. Greens, especially those that are pungent (sour) or bitter, stimulate these!

Photo Credit: Nancy Moore

Greens for Liver-Gallbladder Stimulation and Health:
  • Arugula 
  • Radicchio
  • Collards 
  • Kale 
  • Endive 
  • Escarole 
  • Mizuna 
  • Sorrel 
  • Spinach
  • Parsley 
  • Watercress
  • Red or green mustard greens 
  • Dandelion greens
  • Nettles 
In other words, the same kind of greens you find in an expensive restaurant salad!

The last two—dandelion greens and nettles—are abundant and free greens in this area, both packed full of super nutrients. Dandelion greens (in our local food co-op salad section now, or in some backyards near you) have been used for centuries for general detoxification, liver, gallbladder, and kidney health, joint problems, blood purification, eczema, poor digestion, and breast health. Harvest them in less traveled areas away from animal contamination. Nettles are high in calcium, magnesium, potassium, boron, carotenoids, iron, and the flavonoid quercetin, which has been found to have anti-inflammatory and anti-histamine effects for seasonal allergies. Nettles can be collected all around the area—just wear gloves and cook or dehydrate them to eliminate the stinging properties.

If the bitter flavor of some greens is not appealing, try adding them slowly into the diet to allow the brain and digestive system time to adjust. You can add a little vinegar or lemon juice to mellow the bitter flavor which will also aid in the assimilation of minerals. Adding freshly grated ginger to a dressing “warms up” the flavor of salad greens.

Above all, open yourself to new tastes, ideas, and experiences in this amazing season of growth. Go green, baby!

by Nancy Moore, Licensed Acupuncturist & Herbalist

Spring Chives in my Garden

Some recipes using greens you might like:

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About the Author

Alissa Segersten holds a Bachelor's of Science in Nutrition from Bastyr University. She is the founder of Whole Life Nutrition, the mother of five children, a whole foods cooking instructor, professional recipe developer, and cookbook author. She is passionate about helping others find a diet that will truly nourish them, and offers elimination diet recipes, healthy gluten-free recipes, paleo and vegan recipes, as well as tips for feeding your family a nourishing, whole foods diet. Alissa is the author of two very popular gluten-free, whole foods cookbooks and guidebooks: The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook and Nourishing Meals. She is also the co-author of The Elimination Diet book. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram!


  1. Wonderful post.
    Greens are amazing and we are so blessed to have all that we need in nature.
    I just posted about a miracle tree, the Moringa. Now this is an amazing plant!! I shared a Moringa Mango green smoothie recipe. Hope you can check it out.
    Peace and Raw Health,

  2. The Spring Chives in your garden look really healthy! Well actually, I think everything in your garden's healthy. Spring Green Smoothie sounds delicious, I think I wanna try it. Thank you!


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