What the heck is a seasonal cleanse?

From Prairie Star blogger, Lisa...

You might be like me.  I had heard enough about cleansing to know that I might benefit.  However, I was still confused.  There are many types of cleanses available, just google away in your spare time.  Liver cleanse, colon cleanse, detox, colonics… are they all the same?  I was very confused by these terms before I began to study herbalism.  My first cleanse (prescribed by an MD) was very restrictive, with only certain types of food allowed, along with various supplements, the best part was a cool calendar that I used as a journal of my experience.  While I was initially intrigued, the whole process exhausted me – I felt good for a period of time, but it wasn’t life-changing for me.  I began to do my own research and learned a whole new way of cleansing, led by my teacher, herbalist, and friend, Nicholas Schnell.  This was a method that didn’t stop at taking care of my physical body, but extended to my emotional and spiritual selves.  And even more interesting, there were different kinds of cleanses.  Mind-blowing! 

These cleanses were tied to the seasons.  Over several years, I’ve embraced the idea of using the seasonal cleanse as a way to bridge the transition between seasons.  In the Midwest, where I live, seasonal transitions are strongly defined.  We experience winters with subzero temperatures, rainy springs, humid and stifling summers, and dry windy autumns.  I often struggled with these changes, having difficulty with mood changes, including depression, fatigue, insomnia, and digestive issues. 

Seasonal cleansing uses core concepts from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), from Ayurveda, the medical system developed in India, and from an eclectic blend of European and Western traditions.

TCM’s five element theory states that each season relates to a different element, with its accompanying physical organ systems, and emotional and spiritual components.  At last!  Something that makes sense to me, and gave me guidance in understanding and dealing with seasonal change.  TCM says that spring belongs to the liver and gallbladder, “blood-cleansing”, summer is the heart and small intestine, late summer focuses on the spleen and stomach, fall is for care of the lung and large intestine, lymph system, and winter is for the kidney and bladder.

Cleanses are part of Ayurvedic tradition – the indigenous medical system of India that arose over 2,000 years ago and includes breathing, meditation, and yoga.  My favorite cleanse food – kitcharee, a cleansing and nourishing bean and rice dish comes from this tradition.   Ayurveda literally means “the science of life”, and is based on the concept of three doshas – pitta, kapha, vata.

In France, the “depurative cure” was an annual tradition practiced at the end of winter – to signify the end of cold-weather eating based on high protein and fats.  An ancestral herbalist tradition was passed on from mother to daughter, but gradually fell out of favor due to the influence of modern life – no time to be proactive, no seasonal rhythm.   It was a balance to the excesses of modern life, like out of season foods and cooking methods, overeating, and exposure to toxins.

Seasons represent times of physical and psychological change – central to indigenous traditions.  In our modern world, we are less aware of seasonal changes – partly due to our busy schedules that ignore seasons, partly due to technology and it’s ability to allow us to cross time-zones and geography, partly due to the availability of produce that is shipped to us even though it’s out of season for our location.  I find that it’s best to start 3 – 7 days before the official change of the season.  But I also use the cues of nature– in fall, when leaves start to turn colors, in spring when plant buds start to peek out of the soil, in summer when the first fruiting plants show flowers, in winter when most plants go dormant.  And, even with the best intentions, I find that seasonal cleansing is very forgiving for my lapses in schedule.  So, here I am doing a winter cleanse in January, when winter started in December. 

If you are intrigued, come and join me on Saturday, January 19, 2019 from 10 to noon.  We'll be talking about the winter cleanse.  More info on our facebook page.  I’ll get you started, answer your questions, expand your awareness, and even cook for you.  For me, cleanses are life-changing.  Maybe they are for you, too.


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