Years ago the term cleanse meant two things to me: skin-care regimens and restrictive diets. But as my perspective has expanded and my knowledge of Ayurveda has increased, I’ve learned that “to cleanse” can have a much deeper meaning. In Ayurveda, an ancient health science originating in India, cleansing is a practice that gives the digestive system an opportunity to rest, repair itself, and clear out waste and toxins—without fasting. It can be particularly meaningful this time of year as we transition from cold, dark months of hibernation to the warm, bright months of growth ahead. Ayurveda generally tailors treatments to the individual, but here are a few cleansing tips that should help all body types take on this next season with more energy, strength, immunity, and mental clarity.
Eat With the Seasons
Nature provides us with what we need during a particular season. As we transition into spring, choose produce such as leafy greens, radishes, and celery. Nettle and dandelion are astringent, cleansing herbs perfect for this moment—boil them in water to make a tea.
More Spices, Please
Cumin, coriander, and fennel are good at aiding digestion (find my recipe for CCF tea here), so work those into your diet regularly. And this time of year, I cook with a lot of pungent warming spices—specifically plenty of black pepper, ginger, and garam masala. They counter the cold wetness of the season, and are a balance to the elements we’re exposed to externally.
Ditch the Deep-Fry
Just as we leave behind the heavy dampness of winter, we want to leave behind heavy, greasy cooking. Rather than deep-fry food, I focus on roasting—being mindful of the quantity of oil—or steaming. Regardless of the season, during a cleanse you’ll want to prioritize cooked foods over raw—cooking helps break down foods, jump-starting the digestive process and leaving less for your body to do.
Choose Olive Oil
When you do use oil, olive oil is a good choice because it’s light (again, to counteract the season’s heaviness), meaning it’s easy for the body to digest. I use it not only to cook but also as part of a daily Abhyanga massage to help move toxins out of the body. If you’re in a rush, focus on a five-minute dry scalp massage and an oil foot massage. That’s where all your nerves start and end, so it’s most effective in relieving tension throughout the body.
Get Your Guggul On
Ayurvedic adaptogens (herbs and roots that help the body combat stress) like guggul and triphala have lymph-clearing and digestive properties. Mix the powder with water or fruit juice and sip it before bed.
Switch up Your Grains
Wheat flour, corn, and rye are heavy grains that can weigh you down. In this season of lightness, cook with quinoa, barley, and amaranth.